The over five-week standoff between India and China in Eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley has brought into question China's renewed interest in taking back control of the area.
The late Monday night violent face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers is the biggest military confrontation in over five decades that has further heightened tensions along the already volatile situation in the region.
At least 20 Indian troops have been martyred in a scuffle that took place in Galwan valley. Senior military officials from both sides are holding meetings to defuse tensions between the two countries. The incident comes days after Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane said that both sides had begun disengaging from the Valley.
The recent confrontation between India and China in the region is the first since 1962. Although the LAC (line of actual control) is clearly defined, this is the first time that tensions have heightened in Eastern Ladakh, which otherwise is usually a non-skirmish area.
In 1962, China launched an attack on India across its Eastern and Northern borders. Amongst several factors, one of the main reasons that triggered the war between the two sides was the construction of a road between Xinjiang and Tibet. This highway today is known as G219 with around 179 km of this road passing through Aksai Chin, which is an Indian territory and also claimed by China.
Galwan river valley is considered a point of great strategic importance for both countries. It is named after Ghulam Rasool Galwan, an explorer from Leh. He had first discovered a path leading to the Galwan river while leading a British expedition along the north of Chang Chenmo valley.
The river is the highest ridgeline allowing China to control the Shyok route passes, which are close to the river.
The country wants to control the area as it fears that India could end up threatening its position in Aksai Chin by using Galwan river valley to its advantage.
India is trying to build a feeder road here emerging from Darbuk-Shyok village-Daulat Beg Oldi road. This road runs along the Shyok River and is crucial for communication close to LAC. It comes up at Patrol Point 14 (PP14) and is a crucial connect between Leh and Daulat Bed Oldie. This has irked the Chinese.
India has also set up army posts with its flag on top to make it known to the Chinese side that it owns the area.
Galwan Valley's ridgeline gives India a strategic boost over the road. The valley is also an important connecting link with the disputed Aksai Chin region (which houses the crucial Xinjiang-Tibet highway pass) through the river valley.
China had constructed a road halfway through the Galwan Valley by 2016 and since then, the country has managed to expand it closer to the LAC in the sector.
India and China have been locked in a stand-off situation since May 5 in the area with the Chinese troops reportedly crossing the LAC from their bases in the Galwan River sector.
The face-off took place at Patrol Point 14 (PP14) as the area is not only on the Indian side but is also near the LAC.
According to media reports, India has decided to stick to its infrastructure building exercise in the entire Ladakh region comprising the Galwan River area.