A welcome end
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The India-China face-off in Ladakh is over. Delhi has lessons to learn
New Delhi's threat to cancel External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's planned visit this week to Beijing appears to have persuaded the Chinese leadership to pull back the military platoon that intruded into Indian territory on April 15. The UPA government must blame itself for the prolonged stand-off in eastern Ladakh. Surprised by the Chinese move into an area claimed by India on the long and contested border, Delhi initially sought to underplay the issue in public and resolve it diplomatically. Beijing, however, cut the room for a compromise by flatly denying its troops were in disputed territory. They demanded major concessions from India, including dismantling of its border military infrastructure, in return for restoring status quo ante. In its eagerness to save Beijing's face, Delhi was losing its own. Delhi's soft-pedalling in the immediate wake of the crisis signalled political weakness amidst the Chinese military's decision to alter the ground reality in a sensitive region of the frontier.
Delhi's threat to call off Khurshid's trip was a risky but necessary move. Such a decision could have escalated the dispute and resulted in the cancellation of the planned visit to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang later this month. The visit, the first trip abroad by Li, was heralded in Delhi as one that underlined the new commitment in Beijing to elevate India's importance in China's international calculus. Deferment of that visit would have certainly set back Sino-Indian relations for a long time. But by taking that risk, Delhi has forced a resolution of the crisis.