“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

– Field Marshal Cariappa

Three years ago on this very day, India lost 20 brave hearts . Just like Field Marshal Cariappa always said – these gallant sons of India made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the sovereignty of the country and the safety of all us Indians, without a thought for their own comfort. And we cannot thank them and their families enough for it. 

Before we discuss the impact of this incident on India and China relations, here’s a quick look at the clash that rocked Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in 2020. 

Galwan Valley Clash – Quick Recap

The Galwan Valley incident is the name given to a violent clash between Indian Army and China’s PLA (People’s Liberation Army) troops in the Galwan Valley which is situated on the disputed border between India and China. The incident on 15th June was a result of the ongoing skirmish between the countries due to the historical argument about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and China’s hidden intentions of seizing additional land from India.

What is the Importance of Galwan Valley to India & China? 

Primarily due to the region’s proximity to Siachen Glacier and Shyok River Valley. Gaining control of the valley benefits the military’s presence and access to adjacent places. 

What happened on June 15, 2020?

The violent face-off that took place near Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake is one of the worst clashes between the two countries till date.

Twenty Indian soldiers along with the Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar Regiment, Colonel Santosh Babu died in the conflict. The violence was caused when the Chinese PLA troops ambushed and attacked the patrolling party of Indian Army with iron rods wrapped in barbed wire and clubs embedded with nails. As per the agreements signed between the governments in 1993 and 1996, neither side was allowed to use firearms and explosives within 2 Km of the LAC. However, China’s use of fatal weapons on 15th June 2020 was not only against the spirit and intensions of these agreements but was much against the ethics and ethos of conduct of any professional force.

One has to commend the valour of Indian Army – in spite of being forced to fight with no weapons, their ‘josh’ led them to win against the better-armed PLA and also win the hearts of all armies everywhere. 

“Neither side shall open fire or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometers from the line of actual control.”

Article VI, Agreement signed between India and China in 1996

Result of the Galwan Valley Incident

The incident on 15th June 2020, heightened tensions between India and China. This incident in the Galwan Valley once again brought to light the decades-old boundary dispute and the futility of following peace agreements with China, the country that was accustomed to betrayal and treachery. 

Indians everywhere were of one mind – the sacrifice of the soldiers should not go waste. To prove this, every region of the country had begun conducting massive demonstrations calling out for boycott of Chinese products. Indians wanted China out immediately and nothing short of that. Disengagement with China was the only demand of India.  

Impact of the Galwan Valley Clash on India-China Relationship

Several things about the Indo-China relationship have changed drastically due to the Galwan Valley incident. 

Increased hostilities along the border – The violence of 2020 revealed the dangers and vulnerabilities of the disputed areas and protracted war. This led to increase in tensions with both nations strengthening their military posture along the border.

Since the 2020 incident both nations have held various discussions to reduce hostilities and settle the border conflict. However, the issue still remains unresolved, and the negotiations have made little headway. Future discussions became more difficult due to the episode, which strained diplomatic relations. Needless to say, the Galwan Valley incident and India’s reaction to it should be a warning and a lesson for China’s leaders – India will no longer tolerate bullies.

Complete loss of trust – The deaths during this conflict and the violation of code of conduct by the China’s PLA army became the turning point for India’s diplomatic engagement and cooperation with China. The incident clarified how crucial national security is and how urgently better border administration is required.

Economic decoupling – Today the popular mood in India to shun Chinese products and lessen the country’s economic reliance on them. This attitude has prompted proposals for more stringent trade laws and decreased bilateral trade between the two nations. Increased scrutiny has also been placed on Chinese investments in India. Reading the mood of the country, the government not only banned various Chinese businesses/firms but also restricted various applications that had investment from Chinese companies. This incident also became a catalyst in accelerating and promoting ‘Make in India’ or ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ technology to promote self-reliance and boost indigenous industries among international partners.

Recalibrating the significance of International Alliances & Multinational Forums – The incident additionally forced India to reconsider its strategy toward China. 

  • India relooked at Quad Alliance with renewed vigour. With increased high-level meetings the US, Japan, Australia and India started creating alternate channels to advance various military and non-military projects. This strategic change aimed to strengthen India’s standing as a counterbalance to Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • India started creating alternate supply chains and collaborating with new partners like South Korea, Taiwan, UK etc on technology sharing projects.

What’s next for India & China?

The conduct of the Indian armed forces during the Galwan Valley clash, coupled with their humanitarian missions to provide aid during Covid 19, earned a lot of praise for India and her armed forces. India naturally garnered a lot of support from all nations. 

For China however, year 2020 and the following years have been a major diplomatic failure. The country’s lack of transparency in dealing with Covid 19 pandemic had already earned it a bad reputation. The timing of the violence against India and also against many other Indo-Pacific nations, had caused the Xi Jinping government to be labelled as a transmitter of chaos and deceit. As a result, most nations started decoupling and boycotting Chinese businesses. Additionally, China’s forceful imposition of 2021’s National Security Law in Hong Kong has further isolated the country from the world and re-raised the issue of lack of human rights violation in the country. 

Will the world go back to pre-2020 relations with China? Only time will tell…however, till Xi Jinping is in power, it does look difficult.