India and China are testing each other at the Ladakh border— but it won’t be another war like in 1962, according to experts

<p>Man holds up India and China flags ahead Chinese President Xi Jinping's with to India in 2019<br></p>BCCL

  • Experts believe that the India-China border dispute is unlikely to turn into another war like the one in 1962.
  • The is the longest faceoff between the troops of the two nations since the 73-day bout of skirmishes at Dokhlam in 2017.
  • “China doesn’t want to overthrow the US-led global order, it just wants to capture the existing one and rule over it,” former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said an online seminar hosted by the Chennai International Centre.
India and China both seem firm in their resolve and have told the press that they will not be compromising on their respective national security and sovereignty. Meanwhile, numerous unauthenticated leaked videos and images show incidents of violence and altercations between the troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“If you look at the past few years, you have two sides building infrastructure next to ache other. They are testing each other’s boundaries. And such stand-offs are becoming a pattern in their relations,” said James Crabtree from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy during an online seminar organised by the Chennai International Centre.

The central issue is that the India-China border is not demarcated and not defined. “I was there in 1959, 60, 61, 62. The two sides try to play chess at the border but to use the term ‘military stand-off’ is too much,” added former National Security Agency (NSA) advisor, MK Narayanan at the same seminar.

A Chinese soldier shares light moment with an Indian officer at Nathu La on the India-China border<br />BCCL

A larger strategic shift in the works
Instead, Narayanan and policy expert P Stobdan, believe that the India-China border dispute could be indicative of a larger strategic shift — a hint at China’s foreign policy set to become more assertive in the future. “China doesn’t want to overthrow the US-led global order, it just wants to capture the existing one and rule over it,” former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said during the seminar on Friday, May 29.

They opine that it’s not only about the LAC. This time the incursions are occurring in the aftermath of the Indian government revoking Jammu and Kashmir special status under Article 370 and 35A, which China described as ‘unacceptable’ and undermining the regions ‘sovereignty’ and consequently also raised the issue at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).


Gautam Chikermane, the Vice President of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), adds that this many just be a ploy for China to distract from other issues on the national front. “This time around, China’s incursions may be another episodic distraction from it territorial ambitions in Hong Kong and Taiwan.”

Build up of troops amid India-China border dispute
The standoff between India and China has been ongoing for nearly 25 days now since the first reports of violence in Galwan Valley on May 5. India’s Defence Minister, Rajnath Nath Singh, told the press that both countries are engaged in dialogue at military and diplomatic levels.

Citing the example of the 73-day standoff at Doklam in 2017, Singh said that even at that tie India had held firm but the issue was eventually resolved through dialogue.


Brahma Chellaney, a professor for strategic studies at the Center for Policy Reserach in New Delhi, believes that Singh’s words are an admission that China is changing the status quo along the border. “China moved troops to occupy areas where not only Indian and Chinese claim lines overlapped but also where there was no dispute. In other others, through swift aggression planned months in advance, China has changed the status quo in both disputed and undisputed borderlands,” he said.

Both sides are continuing to call up more armaments on the border in Ladakh. The Chinese troops have reportedly been deploying more artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment. And, the Indian side has been matching their build-up with its own guns and tanks, sources told TOI.

The Galwan Valley is not the only area where these face-to-face altercations are taking place. Sources say that the ramp-up is also happening at Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie, two areas known for being the sites of skirmishes in the past.

Planet Labs Images disclosed by detresfa, an analyst with intelligence consultancy ShadowBreak Intl, show ‘possible’ boat patrols along the southernmost point at Finger 4 in Pangong Tso Lake. Images also show India and China building up their troops at pre-existing positions at Pangong Tso and Gogra.

According to experts, the trigger for the standoff was China’s stiff opposition to India’s infrastructure development in the ‘Finger Area’ around Pangong Tso Lake in addition to revamping the Darbuk-Shayok-Dault Beg Oldie Road. Sources told TOI that China was also laying its own inroads in the ‘Finger Area’ which is not acceptable to India.

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