India-China Standoff 2.0: What’s Going On At The Border?

India-China Standoff 2.0: What's Going On At The Border?

After a brief cool down, tensions soared again at the borders as India and China engaged in a standoff again, with the strain of past months in their relationship manifesting again.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Developments
29-30 August, 2020: India blocked China’s attempts to change the status quo at the south of Pangong Tso lake in Chushul (Ladakh). China engaged India in a standoff at the spot for the first time, with the Chushul sub-sector being strategically important due to having an airstrip as well as a pathway to Leh.

4 September: Rajnath Singh and Wei Fenghe, Defence Ministers of India and China respectively, had a meeting in Moscow as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). While Singh labelled the Chinese“attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo” as “violation of the bilateral agreements”, Fenghe blamed India for the clashes and urged to “refrain from provoking the current line of actual control”. However, both sides expressed a desire to resolve matters solely through discussions.

First Firing In Decades
8 September: China claimed India “crossed” the border and “fired threats” to Chinese patrols, which the Indian Army refuted in its official statement.

It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress…We are committed to maintaining peace & tranquility, however are also determined to protect national integrity & sovereignty at all costs.

Official Statement of the Indian Army

On the same day, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju claimed that 5 Indian youth had accidentally crossed into the Chinese border. He later confirmed that China responded to a hotline message from the Indian Army regarding the 5 missing people and that details of their return are being worked out currently.

Dr. S Jaishankar and Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of India and China respectively, would meet in Moscow on 10 September as part of the SCO. Jaishankar recently told The Indian Express that the LAC situation is “very serious” and requires “very, very deep conversations…at political level”.

What Had Happened Before?

  • India and China have been engaged in standoff since months.
  • 15 June: Clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers occurred in Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
  • 20 Indian soldiers were martyred while the Chinese casualties remain undeclared.
  • Disengagement of troops was initiated by 30th June.

Amidst ‘demand’ from China for peace talks, Global Times, funded and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (ruling party) released an incendiary statement against India.

  • Free Tibet is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, founded in 1987 and based in London. Free Tibet campaigns for an end to China’s occupation of Tibet and for international recognition of Tibetans’ right to freedom. 
  • The Anti-Copying Act, 1992 was the Indian legislation enacted by the Government of UP which made copying a Non-bailable Offence. Rajnath Singh, the minister for education in the government during the time, is credited with the controversial idea. 
  • Bharat Ke Veer is a fund-raising initiative by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India on behalf of members of the Indian paramilitary Forces. The initiative was launched by Akshay Kumar and Rajnath Singh in 2018.

India China Face-off Sees Casualties

India China Standoff

Several casualties were observed in the latest face-off between India and China, with the incident coming after weeks of standoff between the two.

Crux of the Matter

LAC Casualties
On 15 June, 2020, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent face-off with China in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh. The physical confrontation included the use of stones and rods. The incident came after 6 weeks of the standoff at the border, with China invoking aggression at different places along the LAC.

Sequence Of Events

  • Troop disengagement agreed on 6 June
  • 15 June: Indian Patrol went to verify withdrawal in evening
  • Found no withdrawal from Chinese side
  • Fight ensued, with soldiers using stones and rods
  • Initially the fight was between the first patrol troops. However, it ended with a mass altercation of 200-300 soldiers as more troops arrived for support
  • Indian casualties chiefly by soldiers falling into ravine of sub-zero temperatures
  • 40-50 Chinese casualties mainly because of the breakdown of ridge and landslide

Timeline Of LAC Conflict
Conflicts between India and China in recent times started after the former began infrastructure development at the LAC, for which the latter expressed disapproval.

  • 10 May 2020: Skirmish near Nathu La, Sikkim
  • 10-11 May: Chinese jets spotted near LAC Ladakh
  • 20 May: Chinese army deployed in excess at Pangong Lake
  • 21-24 May: Chinese troops reportedly enter Indian territory
  • 15 June: Violent standoff inflicting casualties
  • The 2014 film PK, made Amir Khan as one of the most famous personalities from Bollywood in China. It was then that China’s legendary adulation for ‘Mishu’, as Aamir is fondly known here, (mi short for Aamir and shu short for shu-hu or uncle in Chinese) really began. Mishu soon became synonymous with Bollywood across the greater Chinese-speaking region.
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China and of its founding and ruling political party, the Communist Party of China. The PLA is the world’s largest military force and constitutes the second-largest defence budget in the world.
  • The Brahmaputra is a trans-boundary river that flows through China, India, and Bangladesh. It is the ninth largest river in the world by discharge and the 15th longest. It is also called the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet.

Standoffs At LAC

Standoffs at LAC

After recent standoffs at the Indo-China LAC border, delegates have declared success in initiating peace talks. The incident comes at a time when several countries are tightly observing China for its role in Coronavirus spread as well as its dealings with other nations.

Crux of the Matter

Peace Talks
After recent standoffs at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, both sides went into negotiation. In an official statement, the Indian government declared having a successful discussion that would seek to resolve the conflict with peaceful talks.

Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreement between the leaders that peace and tranquility in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations.

Ministry of External Affairs, India

What Happened?
Recent weeks saw an increase in standoffs between the 2 countries at the LAC. After a physical confrontation involving fistfight at Sikkim border, several fighter airplanes were spotted near the LAC in Ladakh after which India rushed its army and aircrafts to monitor the situation. Further tension occurred when India enhanced its infrastructure construction near the LAC which drew criticism from China.

Critics have labelled China’s actions as diversion from its actions regarding Coronavirus spread and its interference in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

History of LAC
Even the length of LAC is disputed between the 2 countries. India claims its length as 3,488 km while China claims it to be only 2,000 km long. While minor conflicts keep occurring in the eastern and middle part, the western part is a source of major conflict. After an informal agreement of LAC in 1962 after Sino-India war, agreements were reached in 1993 and 1996 for formal recognition. The blurring of LAC is most prominent in the western side, where the territorial claims overlap while a lack of clear demarcation fuels the conflicts.

Cutting The Lake
The case of the Pangong lake is interesting for the borders as the claimed LAC passes through it. It is divided into 8 areas, called fingers. While India claims that the border passes through finger 8 and patrols till the 4th, China claims the passing of LAC through finger 2 and patrols till the 4th; occasionally it ventures into the 2nd. Recent physical battles occurred in fingers 2 and 5.

Source: India Today

History of LAC Standoffs

  • 2013: 3 week standoff as China built camps in Daulat Beg Oldi inside the Indian border
  • 2014: Standoff as India attempted to build canal in Demchok
  • 2015: Standoff as Indian troops dismantled Chinese watchtower inside the Indian LAC
  • 2017: Doklam standoff for more than 2 months
  • 2020: Unarmed fight at Sikkim border and increased aircraft patrolling at Ladakh LAC

  • A Mexican standoff is a confrontation in which no strategy exists that allows any party to achieve victory. Any party initiating aggression might trigger their own demise. At the same time, the parties are unable to extricate themselves from the situation without suffering a loss. The term Mexican standoff was originally used in the context of using firearms and today still commonly implies a situation in which the parties face some form of threat from the other parties. The term is made popular due to usage of it in Movies and Video games.
  • Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350m. It is 134km long and extends from India to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention.
  • A bargaining impasse occurs when the two sides negotiating an agreement are unable to reach an agreement and become deadlocked. Some theorists contend that impasses are used by negotiating parties in situations of imperfect information as a method of signaling to the other side the seriousness of their position. An impasse is a type of standoff.

India’s Infra Development On LAC Spooks China

As India maintained its stance on infrastructure development on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), China displayed aggressive reaction which is a culmination of stand-off continuing since several weeks.

Crux of the Matter

India Ramps Up Development
India and China have been engaged in a stand-off for several weeks. However, India has maintained a strong stance of keeping the Army established near the borders and has continued its development project along the borders. Indian Army has maintained emphasis on “peaceful talks” but has rejected the possibility of revising the plans of construction on the Indian side of LAC.

The project is a part of the plan of the Indian government to develop strong infrastructure on its borders to facilitate rapid action in case of invasion/intrusion.

China To Prepare For War?
On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered his army to prepare for “worst-case scenarios”. Without taking India’s name directly, Jinping directed his army to prepare for situations where they may be forced to defend “national sovereignty”.

All Indian activities are entirely on the Indian side of the LAC. In fact, it is the Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns. The Indian side has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management.

Ministry Of External Affairs, India

China In World Spotlight

Consequently, several analysts have pointed to China’s actions on Indian border as attempts to divert attention from its role in Coronavirus spread as well as hostilities in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

  • The McMahon Line is the demarcation line between the Tibetan region of China and the North-east region of India proposed by British colonial administrator Henry McMahon at the 1914 Simla Convention signed between British and Tibetan representatives. It is currently an effective boundary between China and India.
  • Chinese scholars claim that the Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai first used the phrase ‘Line of Actual Control’ in a letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dated 24 October 1959.
  • The slogan of “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” was used to declare brotherhood between India and the People’s Republic of China between 1954—1962, under the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” or called the “Pancha Shila” agreement.