Confrontation in Himalayas
In more than four decades for the first time tensions sparked in the world’s most difficult terrain, Himalayas when China and India stumbled in a bloody military confrontation. In early June, clashes resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers. The clashes are a result of competing claims of China and India on the demarcation of the border called Line of Actual Control. Neither state has agreed on the exact position of the border that is 3,500 km long. The dispute over Ladakh, that has cultural ties with Tibet, remains unresolved and highly dangerous as the tensions can aggravate between the two nuclear powers, China and India. Since the abrogation of Article 370, putting an end to Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Indian government has been taking measures which are provocative to the neighboring countries. The Chinese authorities were already suspicious of India trying to restore the status quo pre 1962 Sino-India War, in which India faced a humiliating defeat. Thus, when India started constructing a road network in the Union Territory of Ladakh, Chinese suspicions grew, giving rise to tension between both countries.
Indian authorities began constructing roads and bridges in the area of Galwan Valley that lies near to the India China border, Line of Actual Control (LAC). India is building a bridge, in Galwan valley that will give access to another strategically important area Aksai Chin. China is skeptical that Indian construction of bridge are meant to facilitate the fast movement of troops in order to make the recapturing of Aksai Chin easier. China captured Aksai Chin in 1962 and holds great importance because it is required for a national highway between Tibet and Xinjiang NH219.Despite the clashes between two nuclear powers, India has signaled that it will not stop the construction of new infrastructure. India aims to neutralize China’s logistical advantage. The Indian government is planning to improve the rail lines in border area with China. On the other hand, China started modernizing the infrastructure in early 1950s and has now developed a fully functional vast road and railway network in Tibet and Yunnan Province. The poor infrastructure of India means it will face difficulties in defending the areas it claims against China. The developed Chinese infrastructure is seen as a threat, because in the latest clashes China was able to move a huge number of troops with few hours along the LAC.
The wariness of China strengthened with the aggressive stance of Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir and her claims on Gilgit Baltistan. Apart from that India has given asylum to Tibetan government in their country and is closely aligned with the US. New Delhi’s defense technology cooperation with Washington might play a role in helping India change the geopolitical landscape of Indo-Pacific region. Presently, Indian economy is facing a downturn, while the cases of corona virus are growing. Options for India to direct the territorial shift in her favor remain limited, because China is does not only have a stronger military but also a stronger economy. India has restored to nonmilitary options such as boycotting Chinese products, banning 118 Chinese applications. The economic relationship between China and India came under highlight after 15th June and the Prime Minister launched a campaign of self-reliance encouraging the citizens to buy local products. Apart from this Indian government has also announced to review procedure of investment from the neighboring countries. India has also been engaged in stepping up her partnerships with the like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
As a result of the growing tensions, both countries have deployed thousands of troops on the border along with a heavy supply of weapons- artillery, tanks, fighter jets and helicopters. The Chinese run state media agency, Global Times said that the country’s security forces would “quickly deal a heavy blow to Indian troops, and they will be all annihilated” if a war is provoked from New Delhi. Alternatively, the Indian Defense Minister, Rajnath Singh warned that Chinese should have no doubts about the resolve of India’s determination to fight back if the country’s territorial sovereignty is challenged. In the aftermath of India unilaterally declaring Ladakh a federal territory, the relations with China became adversarial. These clashes can further exacerbate the relations between China and India, putting the ailing peace at a much greater risk. Consequently, both states will not only look to increase the competition militarily and economically but will also look towards influencing their maritime spheres. The Asian waters can face Sino-Indian rivalry.
On 10th September, a meeting was held in Moscow, between Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar where both states agreed to move toward de-escalation on the border and continue through dialogues to ease the tensions. However, the tensions flared up again when India blamed China for the violence on the border by labelling Chinese President Xi Jinping as the “architect” of the hostilities on the border. Five rounds of military level talks have failed to reach a peaceful conclusion between both countries. Tens of thousands of troops from both countries are still deployed on the disputed border of Himalayas. To defeat each other, states can rely on hard military tactics and increasing their economic dependence in the neighboring countries. To turn events in her favor against China’s superiority, India will seek multilateral diplomacy and form alliances with the countries that have a similar agenda. The tensions can become more volatile in future if India does not give up her aggressive stance in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and does not surrender to the fact that the problem is not a matter of internal affairs, but external. The clashes between China and India can have grave consequences for the neighboring countries, especially Pakistan.