ADDS THE LOCATION DETAILS - This satellite photo provided by Planet Labs shows the Galwan Valley area in the Ladakh region near the Line of Actual Control between India and China Tuesday, June 16, 2020. A clash high in the Himalayas between the world’s two most populated countries claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers in a border region that the two nuclear armed neighbors have disputed for decades, Indian officials said Tuesday. (Planet Labs via AP)
China and India should not wait any longer to sit together for talks to reduce hostility and return to peace.
There is a real reason to worry for Nepal and the countries in Asia and beyond: China and India look headed toward military confrontation along the Line of Actual Control region in the Himalayas. In the worst ever "skirmishes" in LAC in Ladakh on Monday night, as many as 20 Indian soldiers, including a top officer, have been killed. The number of casualties in the Chinese side has yet to be revealed by the Chinese authorities but Chinese side too is said to have suffered a considerable loss.
Since Monday, tensions between the two largest and most powerful countries in Asia are escalating. There have been calls for revenge and retaliation. There is a fear in the region that this tragic incident could trigger an all out war between the two Asian giants with huge military capabilities and nuclear weapons.
China and India have been in border conflict since the 1950s. And owing to claims and counterclaims on large areas of land in India's northern frontier, the two countries have not been able to demarcate the boundaries. Over this matter they went on war in 1962. Ever since, China and India have been on inimical relations though they cooperate on a multiple fronts in trade and commerce.
Prolonged conflict between China and India will have unimagined consequences for not only India and China but for the whole of South Asia. And it will take years to repair the damages done by the war. Nepal will be directly affected for thousands of Gorkha soldiers—most of them from Nepal—will likely be mobilized in the frontline as was in 1962 and they could be killed too. Besides, the economic and political fallout will be huge.
In this situation, the two countries need to tone down their rhetoric and further intensify negotiations to deescalate the tensions. India and China themselves have set the precedents of preventing tensions from escalating further through diplomatic means on multiple occasions in the past. In 2017, for example, it almost seemed like there would be an all-out war in Doklam plateau. But the sense prevailed, negotiations took place and the two countries returned to status and quo. This spirit of pacification should be revived. Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishanker is reported to have spoken to his Chinese counterpart on Wednesday and both have agreed to "ensure peace and tranquillity." That's a welcome start.
On its part, Nepal may officially make an appeal to China and India for de-escalation. No country has gained from war. But this common wisdom might get lost at the face of aggression, call for retaliation and revenge. China and India should not wait any longer to sit together for talks to reduce hostility and return to peace. These two powerful countries should remain in friendly terms for their sake, and for the sake of this region as well.