• Rukmini Ravishankar

The India-China Border Conflict – What A 20-Year-Old Can Do About It

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

On 16th June 2020, as if the year didn’t already yearn for a skip button, a military conflict between India and China cost the lives of at least 20 personnel. Apart from being the two most populated countries in the world, India and China are also two countries that are most powerful in terms of nuclear weapons. Years and years of border conflict has led them to be deemed as enemies and along the way, there have been tonnes of conflicts along the border, but few as serious as the one on 16th. So, what exactly happened?

I found it a bit overwhelming – there are so many sources saying so many different things, and there’s no way of knowing anything for sure, but here’s my understanding. This is a very watered-down version of the incident. You can check out this link for the whole story. It started in 1962. Actually, it started way before that, but let us start at 1962. At the end of the Sino-Indian war or the Sino-Indian border conflict, India lost and China took over a 3,700 km2 area of land in the northern most state, and named it the Aksai Chin. This takeover is claimed to be illegal. It is technically still Indian land, but it is controlled by the Chinese, and they are the ones that patrol the area. After that portion was taken over, the border became ambiguous. The area itself actually still isn’t clearly demarcated. But a “Line of Actual Control” or an LAC was drawn between the two countries to avoid conflicts. How we all wish that had worked…

The Aksai Chin

Image taken from Google Maps

Within this ambiguous region is the Galwan Valley, an area that was agreed upon by both countries to be under Indian control. But tensions had been brewing among the troops stationed there because of encroachment. The allegation is that the Chinese have suddenly decided that the Galwan Valley is their territory and that Indian troops should withdraw. The Indian government has built roads and expanded the infrastructure within the area so as to make the Aksai Chin more accessible, and the Chinese have built their own unexplained ‘structures’ in the Galwan Valley.

The tension broke out into a full-fledged military-scale physical broil at the end of which India lost 20 personnel, and China is yet to reveal how many casualties there have been on its end.

So, as a generation that is going to be instrumental in the country’s growth, what can we do about this? The one thing I’ve come to realise is that boycotting Chinese goods is nearly impossible.

China is home to 150 million internal migrant workers. 36% of the whole country’s population survives on less than $2 a day. Virtually everything is manufactured in China because of how cheap the labour is. And the labour is cheap because of systematic exploitation and the ever-widening class gap. So, if you boycott Chinese products, you’d be helping two causes.

A) Reducing the economic dependency of India on China

B) Reducing your contribution towards the continued exploitation of the labourers in China.

Some might argue that those workers would be rendered poorer still if we were to take away their one single source of income, but the way I see it, if the whole world openly condemns the inhuman labour policies, they’d have no choice but to stop – not out of emotional pressure or whatever, but simply because they’d lose their market if they didn’t.

But before we actually consider any of that, it’s important to realise that it’s nearly impossible to boycott Chinese goods. A Tweet that I read a couple of days ago got me thinking.

Take a smartphone for example. One single device is composed of more than 300 parts, each of which is manufactured in different parts of the world. Even if by some miracle, you get to use a phone in which none of these parts come from China, the raw materials that go into manufacturing each individual part probably come from China. There is hence no way that you could absolutely boycott products, unless you’re prepared to live without a phone and without any other electrical appliances and most importantly, without clothes.

So, if we cannot boycott Chinese products, what are some other things we can do? Remember, the objective here is simply to be a part of the battle, engage in dialogues and become responsible citizens of the country. I spent some time thinking about it and here are some of the things I came up with:

1. #swadeshi:

One important reason why we are so heavily dependent on China is because India itself doesn’t have its own manufacturing units – at least, not as many as China. The Indian government in 2014 released the Make in India campaign, but it is far from total fruition. And if we cannot boycott the products now, we should enable ourselves to boycott them in the future – by supporting Indian industries. Here is a link to some Indian clothing and apparel brands that you could try:

In this age of the hustle culture, it is far from absurd to talk to young adults about investments. If you’re one of those people who has already started to earn regularly, consider investing in smaller, promising Indian brands. Granted, it may take a little longer to pay off, but it supports our cause and promotes the growth of the nation as a whole.

2. Keep the Social Media Activism Going:

Although it doesn’t seem like much, social media activism creates quite an impact on young minds. Yes, it is unlikely that a person of power sees an Instagram story and amends his policies, but what social media does is create an atmosphere where its users actually talk about issues that plague the world. Anyone in my age-group would agree when I say that every time something major happens in the country, every second Insta story/post is talking about it – expressing opinions, bouncing ideas off of one another or simply admitting that they’d like to learn more. This, in my opinion, is a very healthy thing to do, even if it doesn’t produce what one may consider a definite change. Although, one thing that you must do before a story/post goes up is to verify your sources. The internet is plagued with fake news, whose presence is itself worrying – we really don’t need its spread. Here’s an article that talks about how you can identify fake news:

3. Be Informed:

This might sound derivative, given the previous point but simply knowing and caring about an issue of this magnitude makes a difference. Read up about it, learn, talk to experts about it. To know what is happening is a vital step in changing it. Make use of apps like Inshorts for bite-sized news, follow the right pages and hashtags on Instagram and Twitter, take in all you can get and use it to build an opinion of your own.

4. Be Open in Your Support or Condemnation:

If someone says something with which you disagree, call them out on it. You don’t have to invite a spat. Instead, hold healthy discussions with them. The same goes with people who live around you – if they seem misinformed, try engaging in dialogues and debates with them. If they don’t encourage conversations of this kind, try understanding what their reasons and perspectives are. Remember, it doesn’t make you a bad person to keep your own interests at heart and refuse to retaliate. If such a retaliation threatens to cause physical, mental or emotional harm to you, then take a step back. You can use safer platforms to talk about it.

5. Connect with Students from the Other Side:

While the country’s representatives are busy trying to secure strong international relations, each one of us must also try building an international network. Having contacts across the world is something of which you can be proud. Such a network can help you understand a multitude of perspectives. This is not to say that you should swap sides. Instead, if you actually do observe a problem on our side, talk about it and explore solutions. We are the clichéd “future of this country”. If we don’t give ourselves constructive criticism then who will? China itself is very strict in its media policies, as you probably already know. So, actually building relationships with them could sound out of the question. But here’s a link to a list of Chinese social networking platforms that you could explore:

Instead, you could also try learning about the country’s history, its culture and traditions and try communicating with Chinese immigrants in the United States and other countries.

If you are an active social media user, you would have noticed how India’s students and young adults mobilized in such large numbers against the government’s anti-secular policies. But now, it is time to step up the game. India’s population is the youngest in the world. It is the need of the hour to use this to our advantage.


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