Tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) continue to be on the rise despite incessant military and diplomatic talks between the two countries. Both parties have wasted no time in mobilizing their troops along the LAC that runs from Arunachal Pradesh in the North-East, to Ladakh on the Northern end. As stated by India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, this is the most serious situation between the two neighbors, after 1962.
An interesting question that arises here is how the 2020 Indo-Sino standoff is similar to the one that took place some 60 years back. In late 1950s, the then PM, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru viewed China as an extremely important ally. He saw both countries as victims of imperialism and natural leaders of Asia. Consequently, Pandit Nehru continuously extended his support to China in the International forum. It is said he refused US offer to take a seat in the UNSC. Moreover, much to our abomination today, he proposed that the seat should instead be offered to Beijing. Even in 1959, when the first signs of tensions were visible after the Longju incident, the PM was pretty confident that China would not attack India.
In August 1959, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) took an Indian patrol team in their custody for allegedly crossing the McMahon line. The rising tensions led to a bloody battle where 9 Indian Frontier Policemen were martyred. Recognizing that it was not in a shape to enter into a war with the Chinese, the Indian army pulled back patrols from the disputed regions. This episode was followed by many rounds of discussions between the bureaucrats of the two disputing countries, which didn’t bear any fruit ultimately. In 1961, Pandit Nehru ordered his Forward Policy, which allowed the Indian Army to set up patrol posts along the LAC. This was seen a provocation by Beijing. Chairman Mao, in October 1962, ordered the invasion.
In May 2020, tensions between the two countries again began to mount due to China’s pushback against India’s recent infrastructural upgradations. India inaugurated the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road last year. This road holds significant strategic importance for the Indian side as it links Leh to Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), reducing the travel time from 2 days to merely 6 hours, and thus allowing the Indian forces to mobilize with rapidity. This initial standoff was followed by various skirmishes, mostly in the Galwan valley, where both sides faced heavy casualties. This further led to both armies moving extremely close to each other. Towards the second half of August, both countries began mobilizing their troops and other heavy machinery like artillery near the LAC.
The tensions escalated to such an extent that US President Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to mediate between the neighbors. The United Nations broke its silence on the issue in late July. UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed concerns over the violent standoffs and requested both countries to exercise maximum restraint.
In recent days, Indian soldiers have heroically gone on to secure the Kailash Range which holds great height advantage for the occupants. This move, in fact, seems more or less similar to Nehru’s Forward Policy of 1961. Now despite the experience of 1962, Indian commanders seem to be taking calculated risks with such forward movements. It's not wrong to assume that the Indian Armed Forces are in a better shape(physically, psychologically and in terms of weaponries) to handle any event of conflict, than they were in 1962. In my opinion, the circumstances look exactly the same as they were in 1962. The outcome, however, might turn out to be a little different this time.