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The Galwan Valley One Year on: What's Changed with China and the PLA?

This month marks the first anniversary of the Galwan Valley clash between China and India, which resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian and at least four PLA soldiers. It also marks the first fatalities on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in over 45 years resulting from China’s attempts to change the status quo forcefully in Ladakh. The initial Chinese incursion was located at four points — Pangong Tso, the approach roads to the Depsang Plain, Gogra and Hotspring areas and Galwan Valley — which both China and India consider to be on their side of the LAC but were previously controlled by New Delhi. The Galwan Valley clash on the night of 15 June 2020 shattered three decades of trust and confidence established by five pacts signed between 1993 and 2012. In the days that followed, both sides deployed over two army divisions, battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers and surface to air missiles to Ladakh. Both sides also deployed fighter, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and drones at forward bases near the border. In August 2020, India carried out a “pre-emptive” operation on Pangong Tso’s south bank to strengthen its on-ground position and create leverage while negotiating a Chinese withdrawal.

Today, after thirteen months of friction, eleven rounds of Corps Commander-level meetings, seven Work Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) meetings and at least two known interactions between India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the two sides have only disengaged at Galwan and Pangong Tso. The stand-off in Ladakh continues at other friction points. In his recent interview, India’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen MM. Naravane highlighted that India continues to maintain a significant troop presence along the entire border. Heightened tensions and a forward Sino-Indian military presence on the LAC seem to be the new status quo. But four specific developments on the Chinese side since the Galwan incident could further impact the LAC dispute in the future. Some are a direct result of the ongoing military stand-off, while others are a part of the broader PLA restructuring and China’s evolving military strategy.


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