This past Monday, China began pulling troops back from contested spots on the Sino-Indian border. This is a significant development given the incidents of last month. On June 15, a supposed withdrawal of troops from both sides turned into a clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers. The violent skirmish lasted for hours with troops using rods and clubs against each other. This incident marked the fourth serious border clash since 2013 and the first time the conflict has led to casualties in 45 years. After this flare up, the pulling back of troops is a promising step towards conflict resolution.
Following the June 15 skirmish, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi proclaimed a warning during a television interview: “India wants peace. But on provocation, India will give a benefitting reply.” With India angered by the death of their soldiers, it seemed unlikely that the conflict would cease. In recent weeks, however, both countries have demonstrated a greater desire to establish a resolution. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed that both China and India are “taking effective measures to disengage and ease the border situation.” Zhao is hopeful that India and China will continue to work together and communicate with diplomacy.
If both sides keep their promises regarding the ceasefire, an end to violence may be near. However, further steps are needed to ensure peace is kept along the 2,200-mile-long border. Prime Minister Modi’s statement regarding India’s willingness to strike back demonstrates that there is still tension between the two nations. Until a full retreat is executed, this tension can continue to build.
The Council on Foreign Relations predicts that in light of the COVID-19 outbreak the countries might opt for nonmilitary options (such as boycotting goods). This is certainly a better option than military combat. Even still, the only way to solve this conflict is to establish a formal treaty through which China and India can come to an official border agreement. A documental resolution will better ensure that no additional lives will be lost.
The Sino-Indian border has remained a point of violent contention between the two countries for decades. Because the border has never been officially demarcated, there is some confusion about which areas belong to which country. China has put a road through an area claimed by India. A piece of land ceded from Pakistan, formerly part of India, to China has also created a point of tension. Previous colonial interference has likewise jumbled the territories. These combined issues, along with India’s protection of the Dalai Lama following his political exile from Tibet, led to a brief war between China and India in 1962. Although the conflict has not again escalated to the point of war, the border continues to create tension.
The 1962 conflict is a reminder that China and India have deep-rooted issues. Although China’s retreat is a significant event, the conflict between the countries must be continuously monitored. It is important that further steps are taken in the upcoming months to establish conversation and a commitment to resolution between the countries. Only through continued efforts can China and India establish a peaceful coexistence.
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