Behind new incidents, a changed dynamic along India-China border
A greater capability by India to patrol up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) coupled with an increasingly assertive Chinese posture is fuelling new tensions along the border.
- Indian and Chinese troops have been involved in as many as four incidents in recent weeks along the undefined LAC.
- On Monday, Chinese state media said the People’s Liberation Army was “tightening control” in one of the flashpoints in Galwan Valley in the western sector, after it accused India of “unilaterally” changing the status quo by “illegal construction”.
- A build-up has also been reported in Demchok in Ladakh.
- Separately, troops from both sides were involved in fisticuffs that led to injuries following stand-off incidents on May 5 near the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh and on May 9 in Naku La in North Sikkim.
- Army Chief General Manoj Naravane said on May 14 the two incidents were not related and there had been “aggressive behaviour and minor injuries on both sides”. Both sides had since disengaged at these two spots.
- India has been upgrading its infrastructure along the border, thereby allowing troops to patrol with greater depth and frequency into areas where the Chinese had, by virtue of favourable terrain and better infrastructure, established a more frequent presence. That is now being challenged.
- These incidents were more likely fuelled by the on-the-ground dynamic than other geopolitical factors or tensions, such as India’s tightening of FDI from China or the COVID-19 pandemic, said Gautam Bambawale, who was India’s Ambassador to China from 2017 to 2018.
- “I don’t see a link between FDI tightening and these incidents, it does not work that way,” he said.
- “What is happening is both sides are patrolling more aggressively. As a result of that, it is more than likely that you will run into each other, because of better connectivity and roads on both sides.”