Sino-Indian Update: 18 June, 2020

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On the surface at least, China and India appear committed to rely upon diplomatic channels to ease back tensions after Monday night’s bloody clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers. It remains unclear, however, if the desire to let diplomacy lead is sincere or simply a case of Beijing and New Delhi going through the motions. At this point both sides must tread carefully. India has announced its intention to take part in a trilateral meeting with China and Russia next week. The move has sparked optimism from outside observers and analysts that direct talks between India and China, with Russia serving as a mediator of sorts, may resolve the current crisis. Since Monday, India and China have been engaged in several rounds of talks aimed at deescalating tensions. Today, possibly as a result of these talks, China released 10 Indian soldiers it had captured during the battle.

The Indian people have reacted vehemently to the border engagement, and the current nationalist temperament of its leaders could tip the populace beyond the boiling point. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is walking a tightrope of sorts right now. India’s leader is under tremendous pressure to respond. Now, following years of nationalistic chest thumping, and moves aimed at expanding Indian influence and territory, a weak response by the Modi government might spell its downfall. On the flip side, an overly aggressive response runs the risk of escalating the crisis even further, running the risk of a wider Sino-Indian conflict.

In simple terms Modi has little room to give, but he could very well find himself forced to avenge the honor of India’s 20 fallen soldiers.

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