Dispute seems frozen in place for the winter . . .
It was reported over the weekend that Chinese troops have effectively pushed Indian soldiers out of an area of nearly 300 square kilometres along the two countries’ disputed border region in the Himalayas. Since the summer, the two neighbours have engaged in deadly battles over disputed areas in the mountains, despite their foreign ministers engaging in multiple talks to negotiate a mutual settlement. Indian officials have revealed that Chinese soldiers are preventing Indian troops from patrolling the area. While neither India nor China has issued any formal comments on the matter, for the first time since the 1962 Indo-China war, these areas are now being reinforced with winter troop deployments.
A comfortable silence broken by unsettling activity . . .
For years after the 1962 war, India remained quiet along the border of Ladakh. However, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, India started building new infrastructure in the region, opened up tunnels to facilitate troop movements, refurbished airfields and landing strips, and connected a major regional city to the Karakoram Pass. The pass is a strategic outpost for both sides and played a significant role in trade on the Silk Route between Central Asia and India-China. The Silk Route today is crucial for the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. According to China’s Foreign Ministry, this sudden infrastructural development from the Indian side is at the root of the current border tensions. Meanwhile, the Chinese government disputes all claims that China has carried out massive infrastructural development on its side of the border.
An allied move on the border regions . . .
Besides parts of India’s Union Territory of Ladakh in the north, China has also laid claims to a piece of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. Meanwhile, China’s ally and India’s most contentious neighbour, Pakistan, claims part of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Even though Beijing and Islamabad have independent, ongoing border disputes with India, a China-Pakistan joint hold on the border regions could weaken India’s position and create a bigger security risk. Interestingly, there has been minimal discussion on international platforms around these border skirmishes, the disputes between the three nuclear-armed neighbours, or the potential impact on the people of the countries involved.
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: After the border clash, will China-India competition go nuclear?
- Mint: China spokesman blames India's border infrastructure upgrade for tensions
- South China Morning Post: India loses 300 square km to China after bloody summer in Himalayas, officials say