India China Border: The Galwan Clash Impact

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Assessing Impact on India China Border Standoff by The Galwan Clash


On June 16, 2020, a violent clash erupted at the India China border in the Galwan Valley, leading to significant casualties on both sides along the tense India China border. This confrontation marked the deadliest encounter between the two nations in decades and has profoundly affected their bilateral relations, highlighting ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The incident, which saw the use of crude, improvised weapons and resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops, has brought to light the fragile nature of Indo-Chinese relations and the complexities of their border disputes.

This blog post, part of our Wednesday series on ‘Dharma and Ethics’ at HinduInfoPedia.org, delves into the moral and ethical dimensions of international relations and conflict. As we reflect on the violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops on June 16, 2020, this analysis not only explores the strategic and political ramifications but also considers the ethical implications of such conflicts. Posted on June 12, 2020, during the week of the anniversary of the Galwan Valley incident, this discussion aims to foster a deeper understanding of the duties and responsibilities nations hold towards peace and ethical conduct in times of crisis.

Historical Context

Background of the Border Dispute

The border dispute between China and India along the India China border has deep historical roots, primarily stemming from the 1962 Sino-Indian War. The India China border, marked by the Line of Actual Control (LAC), remains heavily contested, with both countries having differing perceptions of its alignment. This ambiguity has led to numerous confrontations and skirmishes over the decades.

Post-1962 Territorial Changes

Since the 1962 war, China has occupied approximately 38,000 square kilometers of Indian territory in the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh. This area remains a significant point of contention, contributing to ongoing tensions. Furthermore, in 1963, Pakistan ceded 5,180 square kilometers of territory in the Shaksgam Valley to China, further complicating the boundary issues and adding another layer of geopolitical tension between India and China.

China’s Encroachment Strategies

China has employed a variety of strategies to assert its claims and expand its influence over neighboring territories. These include the “salami-slicing” or “silkworm-eating” tactics, where gradual and incremental encroachments are made to change the status quo without provoking a full-scale conflict. These tactics are evident in various regions including:

    1. South China Sea: China has built artificial islands and militarized them, asserting its dominance over vital sea lanes and intimidating neighboring countries. This strategy disrupts freedom of navigation and challenges the territorial claims of other nations in the region (Hoover Institution, Hudson Institute).
    2. Tibet: China has maintained a tight grip over Tibet since its invasion in 1950, systematically eroding the region’s cultural and political autonomy while suppressing dissent (Al Jazeera).
    3. Taiwan: Through continuous military drills and airspace incursions, China exerts pressure on Taiwan, aiming to force the island into unification under Beijing’s terms. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) frequently conducts exercises in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), straining Taiwan’s military resources and readiness (The Diplomat, Reuters).
    4. Doklam Standoff (2017): In June 2017, Chinese troops attempted to construct a road in the disputed Doklam region, leading to a tense standoff with Indian forces. This incident highlighted China’s strategy of infrastructure development in disputed areas to strengthen its territorial claims (India Today).
    5. Arunachal Pradesh: In recent years, the India China border has seen multiple clashes and incursions in Arunachal Pradesh, emphasizing China’s persistent efforts to challenge India’s territorial integrity at the India China border.

Implications of Chinese Encroachments

China’s strategic encroachments have significant implications for regional stability and international relations. By gradually expanding its territorial control and strengthening its military presence, China aims to assert its dominance and influence over its neighbors. These actions have led to increased military tensions, strained diplomatic relations, and a recalibration of alliances and defense strategies among affected countries.

Build-up to the Clash

The tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley began escalating significantly in early May 2020. Chinese troops started establishing forward positions in the area, notably enhancing their infrastructure with heavy construction activities. They set up camps, brought in large road-building equipment, and constructed new roads and bridges to improve their logistical and strategic advantage. These actions along the India China border were carried out swiftly and largely unnoticed by India initially, during the nighttime at the India China border, when Indian surveillance was less active.

By the end of May, the Chinese had positioned themselves in key areas along the LAC, fortifying their presence and increasing their patrols. Despite multiple rounds of diplomatic and military talks aimed at de-escalation along the India China border, the situation along the India China border continued to deteriorate. The agreements reached during these talks were not honored by the Chinese side, as they further entrenched their positions and refused to withdraw.

The tensions reached a boiling point on the night of June 15-16, 2020. As Indian troops, led by Colonel Santosh Babu, attempted to verify the agreed-upon disengagement, they were met with violent resistance. The Chinese troops, armed with improvised weapons like spiked clubs and iron rods wrapped with barbed wire, ambushed the Indian soldiers, leading to a brutal hand-to-hand clash. This violent encounter resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops, marking the deadliest clash between the two nations in decades.

The Clash in Galwan Valley

Events of June 15-16, 2020

On the night of June 15, 2020, a deadly clash occurred between Chinese and Indian troops in the Galwan Valley, marking the most violent confrontation between the two nations in decades. The incident at the India China border began as Indian soldiers from the 16th Bihar Regiment went to verify the agreed-upon disengagement at Patrol Point 14 along the India China border. However, they encountered Chinese troops who had not only re-erected the structures but were also prepared for conflict.

Chinese Nighttime Ambush

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Chinese Nighttime Ambush: Under the cover of darkness, hundreds of Chinese soldiers equipped with improvised weaponry such as iron rods, spiked clubs, and stones initiated a sudden attack on the Indian patrol. The intensity and scale of the assault took the Indian forces by surprise, leading to severe hand-to-hand combat. Reports later suggested that the Chinese forces, while initially successful, faced robust resistance and incurred unexpected casualties.

Indian Forces’ Response

Despite being outnumbered and initially unarmed, the Indian troops retaliated fiercely. The confrontation was marked by intense physical combat, with Indian soldiers using whatever they could find to defend themselves. Reports indicate that the Chinese suffered significant casualties, with estimates of up to 38 Chinese soldiers killed, although China has never officially confirmed these numbers and has downplayed its losses.

Disproportionate Casualties and Aftermath

The violent encounter resulted in the tragic deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, including Colonel Santosh Babu. Despite the initial advantage and surprise of the Chinese forces, the Indian troops managed to inflict substantial casualties. Estimates suggest that the Chinese losses were significant, with some reports indicating up to 38 fatalities, although official figures remain unconfirmed by China. This encounter at the India China border not only demonstrated the combat readiness of Indian forces but also highlighted the heavy losses suffered by Chinese troops along the India China border, which may have influenced their subsequent strategic withdrawals from certain positions along the LAC.

The bodies of the fallen Indian soldiers were recovered from the Galwan River, and the Indian side ensured that the Chinese troops were pushed back across the LAC. The clash has since led to increased militarization and heightened tensions along the border, with both nations reinforcing their positions and continuing to engage in diplomatic and military negotiations.

Colonel Bikkumalla Santosh Babu: A Legacy of Valor

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Accompanying this section is a portrait of Colonel Bikkumalla Santosh Babu, the commanding officer of the 16th Bihar Regiment. Under his leadership, Indian troops displayed exemplary courage during the violent clash in the Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020. His strategic acumen and brave conduct were pivotal on that fateful night, though it ultimately cost him his life. Colonel Babu’s sacrifice is emblematic of the unyielding spirit and heroism that the Indian Armed Forces stand for, leaving a lasting impact on the nation and its military ethos.

Immediate Aftermath

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Following the deadly clash in the Galwan Valley on the night of June 15-16, 2020, both India and China significantly ramped up their military presence in the region, leading to heightened tensions and a massive buildup of forces along the border.

Indian Forces’ Tactical Response

In the immediate aftermath, the Indian Army quickly moved to secure strategic high points in the area, catching Chinese forces by surprise. This maneuver was critical in gaining a tactical advantage, allowing Indian troops to monitor Chinese movements and prevent further encroachments. The high-altitude positions provided India with a significant edge in the standoff, ensuring better surveillance and control over the disputed areas.

Infrastructure Development

Recognizing the need for improved logistics and quicker mobilization, the Indian government accelerated infrastructure development along the LAC. This included building roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure to ensure swift movement of troops and supplies to the border areas. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) played a crucial role in this rapid development, enhancing connectivity to remote and strategically important locations in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

Defense Budget and Indigenous Development

The Galwan clash had a profound impact on India’s defense strategy and budget. The Indian government significantly increased its defense spending to strengthen its military capabilities and infrastructure. There was a renewed focus on the indigenous development of defense equipment to reduce dependency on foreign suppliers. Key initiatives included the expedited delivery of Rafale fighter jets from France and the deployment of advanced missile systems like the BrahMos and Akash, enhancing India’s defensive and offensive capabilities.

Emphasis on Indigenous Defense Production

In the wake of the Galwan clash, India’s defense strategy emphasized self-reliance in defense production. The “Make in India” initiative gained momentum, with increased investment in domestic defense manufacturing. Projects included the production of advanced fighter jets, tanks, and artillery systems, aiming to bolster India’s military readiness and reduce dependence on imports.

Diplomatic and Strategic Measures

The incident at the India China border also led to intensified diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff along the India China border. Multiple rounds of talks were held between Indian and Chinese military and diplomatic officials, though with limited success in achieving a lasting de-escalation. Both nations maintained a high level of combat readiness, with periodic skirmishes reported even after the initial clash.

Implications for Indo-Chinese Relations

Military and Strategic Implications:

The Galwan Valley clash along the India China border has led to increased militarization along the India China border, with both countries deploying additional troops and heavy weaponry in response to the tensions at the India China border. This has strained military resources and heightened the risk of further conflicts. The Indian government accelerated infrastructure development along the LAC to enhance military logistics and response capabilities. High-altitude positions secured by Indian forces provided a significant tactical advantage.

Diplomatic and Political Repercussions:

Diplomatically, the clash strained relations and led to a reevaluation of alliances. India sought closer ties with the United States and other members of the Quad (Japan and Australia) as a counterbalance to Chinese aggression. Multiple rounds of talks occurred, but significant distrust remains between the two nations. The incident also underscored the need for robust diplomatic mechanisms to manage such conflicts.

Economic and Trade Impacts of the Galwan Clash

The clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley on June 16, 2020, not only intensified military tensions but also had profound repercussions on economic and trade relations between the two countries. This section explores the multifaceted economic impacts of the conflict, highlighting shifts in trade policies, strategies for economic decoupling, and the broader implications for global trade dynamics.

1. Reassessment of Economic Ties:

Following the clash, there was a significant reevaluation of economic dependencies between India and China. India, seeking to reduce its reliance on Chinese goods and technology, implemented a series of measures aimed at tightening the scrutiny of Chinese investments and reducing the influx of Chinese products. This included increased tariffs, stricter investment rules, and bans on numerous Chinese apps deemed a threat to national security.

2. Shift Towards Self-Reliance:

In response to the vulnerabilities exposed by the clash and subsequent trade challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, India accelerated its ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-Reliant India) initiative. This policy shift aimed to bolster domestic industries, particularly in sectors like electronics and pharmaceuticals, where dependency on Chinese imports was notably high. The initiative not only focused on enhancing domestic manufacturing capabilities but also aimed to attract foreign direct investment into Indian manufacturing sectors to diversify supply chains away from China.

3. Impact on Bilateral Trade:

Despite the political tensions and calls for reducing economic ties, the trade volume between India and China reached record highs in the years following the clash. This paradox underscores the complexity of decoupling economies that are deeply integrated. While India imposed restrictions, the demand for Chinese products in sectors where alternatives were not readily available continued to drive trade volumes.

4. Global Supply Chain Reconfigurations:

The clash and the ongoing geopolitical uncertainties have prompted both countries and global corporations to rethink their supply chain strategies. There is a growing trend towards diversification away from Chinese-centric supply chains, with India positioning itself as a viable alternative manufacturing hub. This shift is supported by India’s improved policy framework aimed at attracting foreign investments in manufacturing.

5. International Trade Relations:

The economic standoff between India and China has had ripple effects on global trade policies. It has influenced other nations to reconsider their economic policies regarding China. The Quad, consisting of the USA, India, Japan, and Australia, has strengthened not only in terms of security but also in economic collaboration, aiming to present a united front in the Indo-Pacific region to counterbalance China’s economic and military expansionism.

6. Long-Term Strategic Realignment:

The economic implications of the Galwan clash are likely to have long-lasting effects on India-China trade relations. India’s push towards reducing economic dependence on China could see a gradual but definitive restructuring of trade relations, potentially influencing broader geopolitical alignments in the region. This realignment includes strengthening ties with Southeast Asian countries and other global powers to enhance economic security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

The Galwan clash thus serves as a significant turning point, highlighting the interconnectedness of security and trade, and underscoring the need for robust economic strategies to safeguard national interests in a rapidly changing global environment.

Other Significant Clashes

2017 Doklam Standoff:

In June 2017, a military standoff occurred between India and China in the Doklam region near the Doka La pass. The conflict began when Chinese troops attempted to construct a road in the disputed territory, leading to a standoff that lasted until August. This incident highlighted China’s strategy of infrastructure development in disputed areas to strengthen its territorial claims, significantly influencing subsequent border policies and strategies.

Clashes in Arunachal Pradesh (2018-19):

In 2018 and 2019, tensions flared between India and China in Arunachal Pradesh, another contentious region along the LAC. These clashes, though less deadly than the Galwan Valley incident, underscored ongoing disputes and the fragile peace between the two nations. The border infrastructure developments by both countries and strategic military deployments reflect the broader competition for regional dominance.

Long-term Consequences

Shift in Regional Dynamics

Revival of the Quad and Enhanced Cooperation:

The Galwan Valley clash acted as a catalyst, significantly altering India’s foreign policy and strategic outlook. Prior to the incident, the Quad—comprising the United States, Japan, Australia, and India—had seen limited activity, often hampered by India’s cautious approach. However, the aggression displayed by China in the Galwan Valley revived the Quad’s relevance. India, now more proactive, has engaged in extensive military and strategic cooperation with these nations to counter China’s growing assertiveness.

    • Joint Military Exercises and Strategic Partnerships: The revival of the Quad has been marked by several joint military exercises and strategic engagements. For instance, the Malabar Naval Exercise, which includes the navies of the US, Japan, Australia, and India, has been intensified. These exercises focus on enhancing interoperability, conducting complex maritime operations, and ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar exercise for the first time in 2020 underscored the Quad’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
    • Defensive and Surveillance Collaborations: Additionally, the Quad nations have increased their defense and surveillance cooperation. The US and India have conducted joint naval patrols in the Indian Ocean, enhancing their maritime security posture. The US has also shared advanced military technology and intelligence with India, including satellite surveillance and drone technologies, to bolster India’s defense capabilities against potential Chinese aggression.
    • Infrastructure and Development Projects: The Quad nations have also collaborated on various infrastructure projects aimed at strengthening regional connectivity and economic resilience. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), promoted by the US, focuses on infrastructure development, trade, and economic ties to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This framework aims to enhance economic stability and reduce dependency on Chinese supply chains.

Expansion of India’s Defense Capabilities:

In response to the Galwan clash, India significantly ramped up its defense capabilities:

    • Increased Defense Budget and Indigenous Production: India’s defense budget saw a substantial increase, with a focus on indigenous defense production. The government has accelerated the “Make in India” initiative, promoting the development of indigenous defense technologies and reducing reliance on foreign arms imports. This includes the production of advanced fighter jets, submarines, and missile systems, enhancing India’s strategic deterrence and operational readiness.
    • Deployment of Advanced Weaponry and Systems: The deployment of advanced weaponry, such as the Rafale fighter jets, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, and the Akash surface-to-air missiles, has been expedited. These systems significantly enhance India’s strike capabilities and air defense, ensuring a more balanced military power dynamic with China.

Global Geopolitical Impact

Recalibration of Global Alliances:

The clash has profoundly influenced global geopolitical alignments, prompting countries worldwide to reassess their strategies in the Indo-Pacific region. The incident highlighted the urgency for robust diplomatic mechanisms to manage such conflicts and maintain regional stability.

    • Strengthening Ties with Major Powers: India has deepened its strategic ties with major powers beyond the Quad. The bilateral relations with the US have strengthened, with increased defense cooperation, joint military exercises, and technology sharing. The US has committed to supporting India’s defense modernization efforts, reinforcing its stance against Chinese expansionism.
    • Enhanced Engagement with Southeast Asian Nations: India has also intensified its engagement with Southeast Asian nations, promoting security cooperation and economic partnerships. Initiatives such as the ASEAN-India strategic partnership have gained momentum, focusing on maritime security, counter-terrorism, and economic integration. This regional cooperation is crucial in countering China’s influence in the South China Sea and promoting a rules-based international order.

Diplomatic and Economic Measures:

The Galwan clash has led to significant shifts in diplomatic and economic policies:

    • Reducing Dependence on Chinese Imports: India has implemented measures to decrease its economic dependence on China. This includes banning numerous Chinese apps, scrutinizing Chinese investments, and promoting local manufacturing through initiatives like “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self-Reliant India). These measures aim to enhance India’s economic sovereignty and reduce vulnerabilities to Chinese economic pressure.
    • Bolstering Global Diplomatic Support: Internationally, India has garnered support for its stance against Chinese aggression. The incident has reinforced the strategic partnerships with countries in the Western bloc, including the EU and UK, who have shown solidarity with India in the face of Chinese provocations. This diplomatic backing is crucial for maintaining pressure on China to adhere to international norms and agreements.


The deadly clash in the Galwan Valley on June 16, 2020, serves as a stark reminder of the fragile nature of Indo-Chinese relations. As both nations navigate the aftermath, the world watches closely, understanding that peace and stability in this region require careful diplomacy and mutual respect for territorial boundaries. The incident has led to a significant shift in India’s strategic and economic policies, emphasizing self-reliance and stronger alliances. The revival of the Quad, coupled with increased defense cooperation with global powers, highlights a concerted effort to balance China’s influence. The Galwan Valley clash has not only affected bilateral relations but has also had broader implications for regional and global geopolitics, highlighting the need for continued vigilance and proactive measures to manage and resolve such conflicts. The strengthening of international partnerships and the push for indigenous defense capabilities are crucial steps in ensuring a stable and secure region, especially in light of the tensions at the India China border.

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#IndiaChinaBorder #GalwanClash #IndoChineseRelations #BorderDispute #MilitaryConflict


  1. Observer Research Foundation
  2. Hindustan Times
  3. The Diplomat
  4. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  6. India Today
  7. India Today
  8. Byjus
  9. Observer Research Foundation
  10. The Diplomat
  11. Hoover Institution
  12. Hudson Institute
  13. Al Jazeera
  14. Hindustan Times
  15. Business Today
  16. Zittara



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