Ladakh alert: Deadly incident in the Galwan Valley region between the Asian superpowers has undermined Chinese attempts to woo India into closer economic ties
Paul Shinkman, Senior Writer, National Security
Chinese security personnel patrol outside the Indian embassy Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Beijing.(NG HAN GUAN/AP)
CHINA ON WEDNESDAY expressed an eagerness to de-escalate tensions with India after the two countries’ first deadly clash in decades threatened to lead to further violence and undermine Beijing’s ambitions for the region.
A day after China accused India of “arrogance and recklessness” for its involvement in the incident Monday in the mountainous Galwan Valley region that killed troops on both sides, and for cowing to U.S. influence, officials in China adopted a much more conciliatory tone. The Chinese foreign minister in a phone call urged his Indian counterpart to investigate the incident, punish those involved and “restrain its military forces in the region to prevent any provocative actions,” Chinese state mediaWednesday.
“China and India are in close communication on resolving the border issues through diplomatic and military channels,” according to another Chinese state media citing its foreign ministry. A spokesman for the ministry also told reporters Wednesday morning that China does not want to see any more clashes.
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China and India have expressed a commitment to resolving the standoff through diplomacy and to maintain peace in the contested border regions, Zhao Lijian said, according to state media. He added that the two countries have far more common interests than differences as the world’s two largest developing countries.
Much is at stake for China, which like the U.S. sees India as a key alliance for economic influence in the region.
U.S. intelligence believes that India now questions the extent to which Beijing operates in good faith in its international dealings and that any ambivalence the Indian government may have held previously for more closely cooperating with the U.S. will have now evaporated, according to a source familiar with that assessment. American officials have repeatedly warned their Indian counterparts about China upholding its commitments, and they continue to provide the Indian military with support, including for the ongoing standoff.
India confirmed Tuesday that 20 of its troops died US news reported at least 35 Chinese soldiers were believed to have perished – including one senior officer – in a violent confrontation in the contested region of northern India and southwestern China. China as of Wednesday confirmed casualties but did not specify how many among its own forces.
Both sides had disarmed for a meeting late Monday to discuss how the two militaries would safely withdraw their presences from the region. The meeting turned violent, with each side using spiked batons, knives, rocks and other improvised weapons to attack each other. Some of the casualties were caused by falls from the steep terrain.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was silent about the clash on Tuesday, said in a short televised speech early Wednesday that the soldiers’ deaths “will not be in vain” and pledged “a befitting reply” to China if it continues to provoke India.
India has experience losing forces along its contested border regions, particularly with Pakistan. But for China the incident marked a rare moment of embarrassment – and one it fears may embolden other adversaries along its border.
It also comes at a time of shifting influence in the region, including a desire by the Trump administration to bolster ties with India as a part of its own economic rivalry with China.
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