By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-04 13:18:14
That Prime Minister Modi's sudden visit to Ladakh has served the purpose is clear from the way the Chinese have reacted. Although the Prime Minister did not visit any "forward" areas as claimed by Home Minister Amit Shah in his tweet, the very fact that he visited Ladakh at this time and chose to refer to the "expansionist" policies followed by some countries marked a significant change in the way the government was handling the crisis until now. Again, although the Prime Minister did not name China, the statements issued by the Chinese embassy in New Delhi and by the Chinese foreign ministry show that the nail has been hit squarely on the head.
Modi visited the soldiers who were injured in the Galwan Valley clash and praised their courage ("your fire and fury have been seen") in repelling the enemy. He then took on China and without naming the country, said that "the age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development. History is witness that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back." This represented a marked shift in the government's stand. Modi had said a few weeks ago that there was no intrusion in India and had been roundly criticized for misinforming the nation and treating China with kid gloves. But this time he took the fight to the enemy.
It was clear that China was flustered. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that "at present, China and India are engaged in dialogue and communication on easing the current situation through military and diplomatic channels. Under such circumstances, neither party should take any action that could complicate the situation at the border." Later, Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong tweeted that it was "China has demarcated boundary with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation. It's groundless to view China as "expansionist", exaggerate & fabricate its disputes with neighbours."
What Modi's remark about expansionist forces has done is to expose China and its claims over the Galwan Valley. It has also sent the signal that India is not going to just negotiate with it on the issue but also draw the world's attention to its nefarious designs. China's claim of amicably settling border disputes with 12 of its 14 neighbours is not true as recently, heads of countries comprising Asean (a bloc that includes many of China's neighbours) had called upon it to respect the UN Oceans Treat of 1982. India has to keep up the pressure on China on all fronts and the Prime Minister's remark in Leh was one a step in that direction.