India-China Standoff: ‘War’ is Always an Option says Former Army Chief General Shankar Roychowdhury

The tension along the world longest land border between India and China since 1962 is nothing new, but last few weeks witnessed sudden increase in the gruesome incidents of clashes on both sides of the border, as China tried to overstep the LAC (Line of Actual Control), which separates the two nuclear-armed neighbours. 

In the clash with Chinese forces, 20 Indian soldiers were martyred on 15th June 2020 in the Galwan Valley close to Aksai Chin, an area claimed by both the countries. Though, it is still unclear how many Chinese soldiers were killed in the clash. It is said to be the first combat fatalities in last 45 years along the LAC, where both the countries suffered such huge causalities. 

Speaking to News Sense, former Chief of Army Staff, General Shankar Roychowdhury said, “there is a war-like situation, where our boundary in Ladakh has been attacked by Chinese soldiers, there has been a clash, we have had causalities but we will have to maintain our national boundary, nothing can be taken from us by force”.

He further adds, “War is always the last option and it should be an option, which should be kept ready, talks generally are used to see that the situation doesn’t flare up or get worse but conflict is always an option and country should always be prepared for it”. 

Indo China Border in Arunachal | Photo: Prem Bahadur Sonar

The territory has long been considered disputed, with numerous minor conflicts and diplomatic spats since the war between the two countries in 1962. Though the borderline was the result of the India China border dispute of 1962, but neither side agrees exactly where it is or how long it is. Aksai Chin is controlled by the Indian government as part of Ladakh, but is also claimed China as part of Xinjiang.

General Roy Chowdhury also says, “there are talks with China regarding we are boundary and Line of Control runs, once those talks are certified, some conclusions may be come to, but China has its own interest to maintain and India will certainly not let it fell in any way, harm diminish or attacked by China’s demand and India will defend its rights in that area”.

Indo China Border in Arunachal | Photo: Prem Bahadur Sonar

British historian Neville Maxwell in his book “India’s China War,” writes sovereignty over the Aksai Chin region has always been somewhat confused. For much of the 1800s, the Himalayas was a focus of the military and political rivalry between the three empires of Russia, Britain and China, with all three claiming various parts of the region. Decolonization only brought with it further confusion and antipathy, particularly after Pakistan split with India in the wake of independence. 

Aksai Chin is part of greater Kashmir, and after the bloody war between Pakistan and India in 1947 resulted in the partition of that region, the border between China and India was left ill defined. India claims the region as part of Ladakh, a remote, mountainous territory east of the Kashmir Valley. 

Indo China Border in Arunachal | Photo: Prem Bahadur Sonar

In a US Military report, analyst Larry Wortzel writes, “While India recognized the so-called McMahon line, a holdover of the British colonial era China never formally accepted it, opting instead for the ‘borders of habit’ that had existed between adjoining peoples for decades previous.”

This created an uneasy status quo between both the countries which persists even today, where neither side quite agrees on the border, both regularly accuse the other of overstepping it or seeking to expand their territory by China. For now, talks seem the only way to a solution but it cannot be the long-standing solution for both the countries.