India, China spar over Galwan clash ahead of Quad meet

India, China engaged in war of words over Galwan Valley clash hours before Quad summit

Beijing held the Indian Army responsible for the clash with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Galwan Valley

New Delhi has been maintaining that the stand-off in eastern Ladakh had started in April-May 2020 because China had deployed a large number of troops along its LAC with India. Credit: iStock Photo

Just hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian, Japanese and American counterparts held the first in-person summit of the Quad in Washington D.C., India and China had a war of words over the violent face-off at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on June 15, 2020.

Beijing held the Indian Army responsible for the clash with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Galwan Valley. The Indian Army had lost 20 of its soldiers in the violent face-off, which had taken place 15 months back. The Chinese PLA had also suffered casualties but revealed the identities of its four slain soldiers only on February 19 this year.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Chinese government, said in Beijing that the series of agreements signed by China and India on maintaining peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two nations had played an important role in maintaining the stability in the border region.

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“The Galwan River Valley incident occurred last year because India violated the agreement signed by the two countries and illegally crossed the LAC and encroached on the territory of China,” said Zhao. He said that China would expect India to strictly abide by the relevant agreements signed by the two countries and take concrete actions to maintain peace and stability in the border area.

The Modi government sharply reacted and dismissed Beijing’s bid to lay the blame on the Indian Army. “We reject such statements. Our position with regard to developments last year along the LAC in eastern Ladakh has been clear and consistent,” Zhao’s counterpart in New Delhi, Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of the MEA, said in a statement.

New Delhi has been maintaining that the stand-off in eastern Ladakh had started in April-May 2020 because China had deployed a large number of troops along its LAC with India, flouting its 1993 and 1996 border peace pacts with India.

The stand-off reached a flashpoint with the Galwan Valley clash. 

“It was the provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter the status quo in contravention of all our bilateral agreements that resulted in serious disturbance of peace and tranquillity. This has also impacted bilateral relations,” the MEA said in the statement issued in New Delhi. It referred to what External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar pointed out to the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting in Dushanbe on September 16. “As emphasized by the External Affairs Minister in his meeting with the Chinese FM earlier this month, it is our expectation that the Chinese side will work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols.”

The Indian Army and the Chinese PLA mutually withdrew frontline troops from the northern and the southern banks of Pangong Tso as well as from the face-off point at Gogra Post earlier this year. But the stand-off remained unresolved in other locations along the LAC, even as one-and-a-half years passed since it had started. 

New Delhi and Beijing had the latest round of war of words just hours before the Prime Minister joined the US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for the first in-person summit of the Quad – a coalition forged by India and the three other democratic nations to counter the hegemonic aspirations of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

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