China-India conflict and chance of a war

China and India, two emerging economic superpowers, were locked in a military skirmish recently after 58 years since they fought a battle in 1962, at Ladakh border point in the Himalayan Galwan Valley. 

The present world order does not permit any war. Going for a war is never a wise decision.  Conscious people around the world are worried over the China-India conflict as the world is going through the worst recession in living memory because of coronavirus, which has claimed more lives than the World War II did. 

The latest Sino-India conflict has created an extra tension at a time when the global community is facing devastation due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It is worth mentioning that the two countries are among the worst sufferers of the ongoing pandemic. 

It was reported that at least 20 Indian soldiers died in the Himalayas in Ladakh in a brutal, hand-to-hand border clash with Chinese troops fought with clubs and rods studded with nails. The incident instantly raised tensions to a high pitch between India and China.

For the past several weeks, after a series of brawls along their disputed border, China and India have been building up their forces in the remote Galwan Valley, high up in the Himalayas. Actually China cannot afford fighting with any country as it has expanded its business in almost all the countries of the world. All the major cities of the world have outlet of Chinese food. Billions of people are habituated with cheapest Chinese dishes. 

From dusk to dawn, billions of people use Chinese products. The Chinese economy thrives as a manufacturing powerhouse and the nation's products, from small essential items to heavy machineries, seem to be everywhere. 

It needs no emphasising that China has become indispensable to the global community because of its products and human resources. China has trade surplus with the US. In 2019, the figure was $345.6 billion while US imports from China were $452.2 billion.

On the other hand, the Indian service sector is dominating the US, World Bank and IMF. Indian doctors, engineers, IT professionals are also playing a crucial role in global service sectors. Indian conglomerates have huge global establishments in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities of China. 

However, anger was surging in India over the loss of 20 soldiers and there had been angry calls to shut down Chinese restaurants and tear up contracts with Chinese companies. Crowds have smashed Chinese-made televisions in the street in India.

Generals from the two countries met again on Thursday to discuss de-escalation in the Himalayan border zone where the skirmish erupted, but satellite images suggest that Chinese troops are yet to pull back.

Some Indian Army officers want to change the rules of engagement and abandon the border code that does not allow the use of guns during confrontations.

Despite long-standing border tensions, none of these two countries had been engaged in war since 1962. China and India restrained themselves from any sort of conflict and at present both the nations are in a race for becoming superpower.

After staying in the pipeline for a long time, India has become a member of the United Nations Security Council, though China achieved a permanent membership much earlier.

US President Barack Obama during his India visit in 2010 had extended US support for the inclusion of India in the Security Council but it was shelved for an indefinite period. For India, it would not be wise to get involved in any war as it has a very promising path of economic development. There is no denying that the present world order does not allow any country even any superpower to be engaged in war as the battle would certainly be culminated in nuclear war.

It is obvious that if the stock pilled nuclear arsenal is used, it would destroy the planet and no one will survive. There is a good hope regarding avoidance of a war as the nuclear weapons are not a monopoly of any individual state and there is no rouge man in power with nuclear arsenal.

Recent news reports after the incident in Ladakh said that China and India, with their growing ambitions and growing militaries, are increasingly bumping up against each other along their 2,100-mile border.

The spark for the recent tensions seemed to have been a road to a remote air force base that the Indian Army is building through the Galwan Valley. Military analysts say that the road is fully within Indian territory but the Chinese are determined to frustrate India’s efforts to upgrade its military positions. And the wider backdrop is that India and China have been competing for influence on many fronts across South Asia.

Several countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka that were once reliable Indian allies have recently tilted toward China, wooed by Chinese investment. And Pakistan, India’s archenemy, is now fully aligned with China and working hand in hand with the Chinese military.    

But that does not necessarily mean that the China-India relationship will worsen. Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. Xi Jinping have held several friendly summit meetings.

On the matter of US hegemony over the South Asian region, especially in the case of South China Sea, US has built an anti-China defence comprising Australia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and India. 

In immediate defence of China, India has a major role to play.

In terms of military power in the region, Indian air defence has significantly been increased over the decades. Still it would be a big challenge for India to face China and Pakistan. In that case, the interventions of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines coalitions with US support from its pacific command would be needed. 

And that will certainly lead to another world war. In that case Russia will be in difficulties in choosing the side as it has become a strong ally of China against the US but cannot ignore India as its tested ally. So because of the present global situation, there is no chance of war, even between China and India.  

Sharif Shahab Uddin is the editor-in-chief of  Bangladesh Post