International

Causes of Tensions on India-China Border

Tensions on the India-China border are escalating among the armies of the two most populous states high up in the Himalayas, which can lead to full-fledge war in order to deter the strategic interests of both states.

Indian media confirmed that the tensions among the two neighbors China and India begin in early May when thousands of Chinese troops made their way forcefully in Galwan valley, Ladakh, from three different points with heavy equipment. Indian officials claim that several verbal warnings were ignored by Chinese troops resulting in a face-off of both the armies at the line of actual control (LAC).

A map showing the disputed area
Source: BBC News

China and India share an overlapping border of 34400km approximately which often results into a scuffle between the two armies at the border, although they stick to no bullet policy since the last four decades, this time the situation gets serious as the armies are not only facing off at Ladakh but also in Naku La, the border between China and the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim, While Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the border situation was “generally stable and controllable.”

What are the causes of rising tensions?

Although India blames China for escalating the tensions between the two states, in reality there are several factors that serve as fuel to fire. One of the major reasons is the new infrastructure made by India near LAC which creates the vexing situation and infuriated Beijing.

According to the Chinese military, India is the one that has forced its way into the Galwan valley. So, India is changing the status quo along the LAC – that has angered the Chinese,” says Dr. Long Xingchun, president of the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs (CIWA), a think tank

The road made by India serves as a quick link in transporting arms and weapons in the time of conflict, while many controversial changes are also made by Delhi on the map over the past year such as considering Jammu and Kashmir as the part of India. Similarly, the new federally-administered Ladakh included Aksai Chin, an area which is claimed by India but controlled by China.

Another major reason is the statement by BJP officials regarding the recapturing of Azad Kashmir, which is part of Pakistan a long term ally of China. According to the foreign policy of China; any attack over its ally or the Chinese infrastructure results in direct conflict with China. Azad Kashmir is a vital part of CPEC, a strategic road; Karakoram highway passes through this region which plays a key role in transporting goods to Gwadar port and provides China easy access to the Arabian Sea, it is mainly a link between China and the Arabian Sea via Gwadar. Thus these reasons result in bringing the two militaries in direct conflict at Ladakh.

map
Source: BBC News

Comparison between India and China:

In order to understand the intensity of the China-India border clash it is necessary to know which state is on greater side:

Comparison between China-India Military
 ChinaIndia
Military Budget228 billion $55,9 billion $
Active Military personnel2 300 0002 140 000
No of Tanks7 7604 426
Armored fighting vehicles:6 0005 681
Total artillery9 7265 067
Rocket artillery1 770292
Fighter aircraft1 150323
Total naval780214
Submarines7615

China is the second-largest military power after the USA; it has around 2million active military troops while India has 1.3 million active troops, its defense budget is 4 times greater than India. China is far better in technology and infrastructure than India and can divert its resources into military means in order to achieve its strategic interests while India on the other hand has a struggling economy as compared to China, which has further exacerbated by Covid-19. Thus it will be necessary for India to consider its position before taking any step against China which may result in a further increase in tensions, as India had faced humiliating defeat from China in 1962 during similar border conflict which can be serve as a lesson for it.

To sum-up the ongoing India-China clash over the border, for India it as serious as it has made the militaries of both the states in direct conflict at three different locations resulting in high-level tension and physical violence which is unlikely seen in past three decades. China being the follower of Mahan’s theory is not only increasing its naval power but also moving towards expansion by showing keen interest in South Asia, while India on the weaker end should offer dialogues in order to resolve the conflict peacefully and minimize the tensions. Although the US has offered mediation, it was rejected by Indian President Mr. Modi which seems like an alarming condition for both the states and can affect trade relations between them.

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