With the seventh round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders failing to yield a breakthrough, yet again, over the impasse in Ladakh, it is now clear that the confrontation in the region will persist through the winter, and perhaps, even beyond. The standoff — caused entirely by Chinese aggression across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and its violation of border pacts — has posed the most serious national security challenge to India in recent years.
New Delhi has deployed a range of diplomatic, economic, and military tools to enhance the pressure on China to pull back. This has involved dialogue; deepening international partnerships, particularly through Quad; announcing economic measures against Chinese companies; keeping the eligibility of Huawei for 5G trials hanging in balance; boosting Indian counter-mobilisation at the border; and taking pre-emptive steps, including occupying the heights on the southern banks of Pangong Tso. All of this has ruffled Beijing — but not enough to withdraw, for China now sees this as a battle of prestige symbolically and an attempt to gain a strategic advantage in a key geopolitically significant location substantively.
This means that Beijing is not going to behave responsibly. This also means that just like Galwan, the possibility of a military standoff escalating into a clash is alive. Citing past standoffs which went on for years, Indian officials believe that the challenge is not to blink first and signal determination. This, indeed, must be the case and India must not let its guard down. But do remember that the China of 2020 is different from the China of the late 1980s and early 1990s. India will have to come up with more creative ways than just wait for a solution to present itself.