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Modi govt has many reasons to stay mum on China: Expert explains

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping

The Narendra Modi government has come under severe criticism from the opposition for being tight-lipped about India’s stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor at JNU’s Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament at the School of International Studies, told HuffPost India in a telephone interview that the Indian government may have chosen to stay mum on the situation because it would be a loss of face for Prime Minister Modi and may disrupt trade ties with China, which was India’s largest trading partner till 2017-18.  

According to a source-based report in The Hindu, the situation at the border had been building up since late April and there were clashes between the two sides at Pangong Tso and at Naku La in early May. But senior journalist Coomi Kapoor wrote in The Indian Express that alarm bells started ringing only on 17 May in India. 

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“This looks like a repeat of Kargil, when India was caught unawares during an intrusion. While it’s a huge border and difficult to man, what is concerning is that it looks like an intelligence failure,” said Jacob. 

The stand-off may have been triggered, analysts told Al-Jazeera, by infrastructure activities carried out by India along the LAC. Sources also told PTI that the trigger was China’s opposition to India laying a key road near the Pangong Tso Lake and the construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.

Both countries have been trying to resolve the situation through military and diplomatic level talks, which defence minister Rajnath Singh described as “positive”.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent remark at a virtual rally that “the world was made to realise that encroaching upon India’s borders is not a child’s play”, combined with his statement in Parliament last year on Aksai Chin, shows that he is taking a more hardline approach to China, Jacob said.