Beijing and New Delhi need to deescalate immediately if they want to keep this particular confrontation from creating problems for the whole region. The first skirmish, which was increasingly expected as India tried to talk tough without possessing the ability to back it up, finally broke out the other day with the Chinese killing three-odd Indian soldiers that crossed over into their lines and capturing a few dozen for good measure. The captured soldiers were later released even though news reports suggest that a few might still be missing. If ever there is the perfect moment to end a fight and go home, it is said, it is just after the first shot is fired. Now, either the escalation will jolt everybody back to their senses, or provoke the foolish game of one-upmanship which, everybody knows in this case, only China can really win no matter how long it lasts.
The Indians have been making the deadly mistake of really believing in their own image of themselves. It’s one thing to make up an image to sell at an election, it’s quite another to really take it as the absolute truth and gamble a country’s future over it. BJP bigwigs have been trying to appease their constituents by claiming that India has grown much more powerful than the last time China humiliated it in the 1960s, but now they are pushing themselves into a corner where they will have to eat their own words. Very soon, they would be forced to either try their luck with another attack, which of course risks losing yet more men and honour, or back down completely, which is also not going to be without humiliation and embarrassment but at least they will save some personnel.
Sooner or later the people of India will have to realise that these problems are in fact of their making. How they have allowed their country, once known for its ethnic/religious/political diversity and its secular values, to become a xenophobic, mob-infested, struggling nation by bringing the BJP to power twice in a row. Even international investment banks and giant hedge funds, who backed Modi’s idea of India Inc, have un-winded their bets. And they did so because of all the misfortunes brought about by the Modi government’s policies before the pandemic, so that excuse cannot be used. Just as Modi discovers the limits of his power by trying to flex his muscles regionally and failing every time, he could well find the people growing too sick of him and his policies to grant him anymore time at the top when the next election comes.