In mid-June, Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in a deadly skirmish in a disputed area along the Himalayan border between the two countries. As journalist Finian Cunningham described it:
At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed earlier this week in hand-to-hand fighting with Chinese forces. It was the deadliest incident in more than half a century since the two Asian powers fought a brief war in 1962 over similar border dispute. There are dozens of casualties also reported on the Chinese side, but Beijing has not officially confirmed numbers…
….Reports say hundreds of soldiers were engaged in a pitched battle using rocks, clubs and knives after opposing units became involved in a brawl in the high-altitude Galwan Valley. Many soldiers were thrown to their deaths from treacherous slopes.
Indian and Chinese forces patrol the disputed 3,500-km Line of Actual Control between the two countries with competing territorial claims. A bilateral agreement stipulates that the rival units are unarmed in order to reduce risk of conflict.
Confrontations have increased in recent years with both sides accusing the other of encroachment. Following a border skirmish in May, Indian and Chinese army commanders negotiated a de-escalation deal earlier this month. Now both sides are accusing each other of bad faith.
Russia, which has had good relations with both countries for years now, was already scheduled to hold a summit with India and China on June 22nd. The foreign ministers of all three countries met by video conference. According to an article in the Economic Times of India, Russia “quietly” took steps to help reduce tensions between the world’s two most populous nations, facilitating the release of 10 Indian soldiers that had been taken prisoner by China:
The capture of the army men had cast a shadow on the RIC [Russia-India-China] meet, with India finding it difficult to attend the meet under those circumstances.
Moscow used its good offices in various capitals to convey a message to China to show gestures to reduce tensions, sources indicated. “All three sides had stakes in reducing tensions. Based on Russia’s relations with India and China, it tried to create a situation that does not derail the RIC meet. But the idea was not to intervene in a bilateral dispute, rather it was to use quiet diplomacy,” a source quipped.
Publicly, the Kremlin, Russian foreign minister and the Russian envoy to India gave statements after June 15, mentioning that Moscow is watching with great attention what is happening along LAC and urged for restoring predictability and stability in the region.
It may be recalled that ahead of the RIC meet on June 23, intense negotiations through diplomatic and military channels led to the release of 10 Indian soldiers.
And now for a sharp counterpoint in how not to do foreign policy. The Trump administration has managed to push Iran even deeper into China’s embrace. Apparently Trump doesn’t understand that tearing up diplomatic agreements – partly on behalf of Israel’s interests – followed by ham-fisted attempts to bully the other nation into total submission is likely to blow up in his face, Wiley Coyote style.
As analyst Tom Luongo reminds us:
Trump was warned by both Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that Iran would ‘rather eat dirt’ than submit to him on nuclear weapons, support for Hezbollah, Iraq and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The blowback came recently in the form of a 25-year economic and security agreement that Iran signed with China. The agreement provides for China investing hundreds of billions of dollars to develop Iran’s oil and gas sector, transportation and manufacturing. Additionally, the deal allows for both Russia and China to sell upgrades to Iran’s air force and anti-air defenses. As Luongo sums it up:
The bottom line is that this deal cements the Russian/Chinese/Iranian axis as an unbreakable thing. For nearly four years Trump’s team has pushed him to try and break this alliance up, but did so with tactics which only pushed them closer together.
All stick and no carrot after decades of the same treatment while showing no capability of abiding by any deal struck was never a recipe for driving a wedge between these people.
Good job, guys!