Speaking Of Asia

Asia doesn't need an October Surprise

The multiple sources of friction - from the Himalayas to the Pacific - are now like straws in the wind. But they could easily combust in the month before the US presidential election.

This week, as the United States aircraft carriers Nimitz and Ronald Reagan conducted war games in the South China Sea to strong protests from Beijing, Indian newspapers were reporting what appears to be a limited pullback by Chinese troops who had entered the disputed Galwan Valley in the Ladakh Himalayas, leading to a fierce clash that saw the first loss of lives on the Sino-Indian border in more than three decades.

The relief that Asia's two most powerful militaries seem to be de-escalating was mixed with an uneasy sense of deja vu: On July 15, 1962, headlines in the Indian media had similarly proclaimed a Chinese withdrawal from Galwan Valley. Reams of newsprint were exhausted on praising the valour of Indian soldiers and some thought that then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's "forward policy" of moving up Indian border posts had paid dividends.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2020, with the headline 'Asia doesn't need an October Surprise'. Print Edition | Subscribe