In the absence of a clearly demarcated boundary between India and China, border patrols of the two countries frequently stray into territories the other side claims as its own from time to time. When the going is relatively smooth between New Delhi and Beijing, the governments of the two countries discourage their respective media from whipping up jingoistic emotions, if not they quietly feed nationalistic fervour, raising the pitch.
Keeping this in mind, we urge both countries to quit wrangling about the May 5 Galwan Valley incident in eastern Ladakh in which apparently hundreds of troops of the two countries jostled. It was ugly. Later, Chinese military helicopters were spotted over the area. India responded with a pair of Sukhoi-30s taking to the skies. Chinese official media claimed this was the worst blow-up since the Doklam crisis of 2017.
The Indians have tried to play down the matter. But the Chinese appear to be stretching things out a bit. The Global Times, the English-language external propaganda arm of the communist state, has accused India of building “defence fortifications” on its side. The facts are difficult to establish in such cases, but let good sense prevail. For a start, the language of threats must be eschewed followed by talks through the normal protocols. It is clear that local commanders have failed to sort things out. This may suggest that higher level military intervention is needed. We hope it doesn’t have to go any higher.
India and China are two of the world’s most populous and important countries. It is possible that one of several issues may be on China’s mind — Nepal, for one. The Chinese may be making things just a bit more difficult for India when Nepal is revving up a territorial dispute with it. Or, China may be miffed with India for asking questions, along with the US, on the origin of the new coronavirus. A third possibility is Indian ministers talking publicly about hosting American companies if they pull out of China. Whatever the cause, it must be finessed soon.