Modi's visit to Ladakh and his address to the Indian troops stationed there was a clear signal to China that India will not step back from the confrontation. With India not backing down, Beijing runs a serious risk of losing face before the world unless it finds a way of de-escalating the crisis.
By making an announced visit to Ladakh and addressing Indian troops there, the Indian Prime Minister has indicated that India will not step back from the confrontation with China at Galwan Valley and elsewhere. Without mentioning China by name, he pointedly said the age of expansionism was over and that “history is witness that such forces have been wiped out or have been forced to turn around”.
In the Asian cultural context, “face” is very important and “losing face” is the equivalent to defeat. By unilaterally escalating the border dispute with India, Chinese President Xi Jinping was signalling to the world that China had arrived on the world stage as the new hegemon and expected every other Asian country to acknowledge its supremacy. If China cannot come out of the Galwan Valley skirmish as the decisive victor, it will lose face before the rest of Asia. Even an honourable draw will be interpreted in Asian capitals as China's inability to enforce its will on India and, hence, be seen as a defeat.
Modi has cleverly turned a challenge into an opportunity by creating a Catch-22 dilemma for Beijing. At such high altitudes, China cannot bring its conventional military superiority to bear against the battle-hardened Indian army which is proficient at fighting at such heights and in sub-zero temperatures thanks to its experience in Siachen, the world's highest battlefield. Yet, to quietly withdraw will be admitting to the world that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) cannot win such a war.