In the past few weeks, we have witnessed numerous clashes between the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army along their widely disputed border, Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, China and India have agreed to defuse tensions after frequent clashes in the Himalayas throughout May. Tensions were heightened earlier in the month, after Chinese troops invaded several border areas that New Delhi claims as Indian territory. On Saturday, June 6th, both countries sent their top commanders in Ladakh to a meeting aimed at ensuring both sides’ continuous military and diplomatic engagement, in order to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner. The meeting came after several failed attempts by the local military to defuse the tension.
Almost 3,488 km long (2,167 miles) of the Sino-Indian border is disputed and constitutes no boundaries between the two countries. Retired Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda described the high-level talks as ‘‘unprecedented,’’ since meetings conducted by such high-rank military officials are rare.
Experts claim that new political climates have ceased to only elevate tension, and that the border dispute is an example of the India-China power-play. Both countries are unable to come to a consensus on how long the border is, and each side makes use of different boundary proposals, by Britain to China, dated from the 19th century to back their claims. The two nations were engaged in the Sino-Indian War of 1962 in the same territory, and have clashed multiple times since. For example, in 2017 there was an intense 73-day showdown in the Doklan plateau between their armies.
Political experts have noted a rise on the intensity of the conflicts in recent years, with four taking place since China’s President, Xi Jinping, took power in 2012. The Trump Administration has been vocal about the matter, and describe the incidents as a reflection of China’s growing military assertiveness. In addition, India has sought to tighten security after the nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, took office in 2014.
Both countries have displayed restraint at both a strategic and operational level. Many argue the true source of the face-offs is due to the obscure nature of the border and its surrounding regions. The vast majority of the face-offs are settled locally, however those of which involve the construction of infrastructure are often hazy and require lengthy military and diplomatic means.
As a result of these geopolitical forces, political experts have advocated for a mutual deterrence between the two nations. At the moment, China faces several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have stated that engaging in conflict with India will impede China’s ability to fast-track its journey of becoming a global superpower by 2050. On the other hand, India has increased its use of military force in recent years, widely attributed to its current leadership under Modi.
India is urged to develop its military capability to promote the deterrence of aggression. Both countries are encouraged to continue to use diplomatic meetings as a way to resolve conflicts across the border. These peaceful resolutions will seek to alleviate tensions between the countries and discourage conflict. Moreover, the maintenance of peace will allow for both of the Asian giants to continue to grow both geostrategically and economically.