As hundreds of Chinese and Indian troops remain huddled along a Himalayan ridge, analysts believe the two sides haven’t been closer to a clash since the 1960s. Back door negotiations have failed to solve the latest border dispute between the two nuclear-armed nations, and neither is keeping force off the table.
On Tuesday, Indian and Chinese patrols exchanged blows on Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, local reports indicate. Even though both countries have long held territorial disputes along their 2200-mile border, the latest episode began when Chinese soldiers set off to build a road that would bring it closer to the Doklam area. This region is claimed by China and Indian ally Bhutan. India argues the road would have given Chinese troops an unfair amount of access to its strategically important Siliguri Corridor.
Both sides have expressed bringing an end to the matter through dialogue, but no solution has been carried out in the past two months. So far, Chinese state-run media has assured its people that the Communist nation is ready to defend its interests with force. But the Indian army is not taking any chances either.
China’s The Global Times reported that the government is moving its blood collection centers closer to the region. Shashank Joshi, an analyst with the Royal United Services Institute in London, tells the Washington Post that India is bumping the operational alert status of several units by two months. Two of its mountain divisions are being moved toward the region and troops are beginning to acclimatize higher altitudes.
But China’s attempted move into Doklam is only part of its ongoing expansion in Asia. Beijing continues to anger its neighbors by expanding its footprint and military presence in the South China Sea where it comes into territorial disputes with multiple neighbors. Its massive Belt and Road project is also pushing Chinese influence along the continent much to the dismay of neighboring countries. Some analysts say India may pose the only real roadblock.
“It would be very complacent to rule out escalation,” said Joshi. “It’s the most serious crisis in India-China relations for 30 years.”
“The most significant challenge to India comes from the rise of China, and there is no doubt in my mind that China will seek to narrow India’s strategic space by penetrating India’s own neighborhood,” said former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran said recently at an event in New Delhi. “This is what we see happening.”