Doklam belong to which country
In times of cyber attacks and nuclear armament, the exchange of blows along the Indian-Chinese borderline in the Himalayas seemed simple and archaic. Soldiers on both sides dealt with bare fists, and a few stones are said to have flown in the process. This tangible encounter in the heights of the Himalayas took place at the beginning of May. But the mass brawls did little to resolve the dispute over the Pangong Tso glacial lake. On the contrary, in the course of the month the tensions surrounding the newly sparked border conflict between Beijing and Delhi have increased and the unrest is growing.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gathered generals and his security advisor Ajit Doval for an emergency meeting on Tuesday. According to Indian media reports, the talks revolved around "India's military readiness," the PTI news agency quoted an anonymous government source as saying: "China's strategy of exerting military pressure on India , will not work." China's head of state Xi Jinping, in turn, said on the same day that his country would increase its willingness to take part in armed struggle, without, however, explicitly naming the tensions in the Himalayas. Shortly before, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry had stressed that the country had a "consistent and clear stance" on the border conflict and that it was the duty of the Chinese army to defend China's territories and national sovereignty.
The arena is located at an altitude of 4,000 meters in Ladakh, a high plateau that India claimed for a long time as part of Kashmir, but then converted into a so-called union territory in 2019, which has since been administered directly by Delhi. China controls the Aksai Chin area to the east of Ladakh. This area, on the western edge of Tibet, also belongs to India according to the Delhi reading. The course of the border is not only controversial here, but at many points in the Himalayas, which is mainly due to the fact that the former colonial power Great Britain left unclear conditions in the region. The course of the border that is currently tolerated by both sides is known as the Line of Actual Control.
Later on, India and China repeatedly accused each other of provoking the other side through allegedly inadmissible patrols and crossings of the controversial border line. However, over the past few decades, governments have always succeeded in preventing bloodshed. No soldier has been shot along the Indian-Chinese border since 1975. Nevertheless, the shame of the lost border war against China in 1962 is deep in India, and the Indian exile for the Dalai Lama from Tibet, which has been claimed by China, keeps Beijing suspicious.
Up to 250 soldiers are said to have been injured in the brawls on May 5. It is the worst border crisis since 2017, when Chinese and Indian troops faced each other in Doklam, near the Kingdom of Bhutan. The confrontation lasted for 73 days before Xi and Modi defused it through talks - they last took place in the Chinese city of Wuhan - before the virus raged there.
The conflict management did not seem to have been particularly sustainable at the time, because only three years later, in the middle of the Corona crisis, the two nuclear powers are now clashing again. The fistfights in May occurred when China classified an Indian patrol on the north side of the serpentine Pangong Lake as a provocation. The fact that it did not go beyond serious fights is thanks to agreements that also contain the promise of both sides to refrain from using armed force in order to settle the border conflicts.
Beijing is expanding its influence into regions that India has seen as its backyard
But now it is becoming increasingly clear: Neither side seems to want to give in, both the Chinese and Indian governments have stoked nationalist feelings for domestic political purposes in recent years, neither side now wants to give the impression in the mountains that they are collapsing. India Today reported on Wednesday about the alleged relocation of 5,000 Chinese soldiers to Ladakh. India will follow suit whenever China increases the number of its troops, press reports from Delhi said. Reuters quoted an Indian government spokesman as saying that defenses were being built in the region on both sides. Chinese trucks are also supposed to transport material to the region. An indication that Beijing could prepare for a longer conflict.
It is noticeable that China's state media have so far been much more cautious. Beijing is pursuing an aggressive foreign policy in the Corona crisis, threatening and sanctioning states that criticize the government for its crisis management. The government is at least verbally cautious about India. Only the state Global Times released a report that spoke of several "illegal defenses" that India had built and that reached into Chinese territory. The defense troops would have had no other option than to react with troop movements. India is responsible for the risk of escalation.
Indian military analysts raised the question of timing as early as mid-May: the retired Indian general Ajay Das spoke of "seemingly aggressive maneuvers" by the Chinese military in the Himalayas, reminiscent of the behavior of the Chinese fleet in the South China Sea. In view of the Corona crisis, China's leadership does not want to appear weak either at home or abroad, he says. The newspaper Financial Express quoted Indian security expert Ajey Lele as saying: "Why is this happening now, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis?" Lele believes China may want to test the Indian military's resolve now that Delhi is so preoccupied with the coronavirus. And the former Indian diplomat Phunchok Stobdan warns him Indian Express that China wanted to push the Indian armed forces further west, in order to get closer to the strategically important Siachen Glacier, on which Indian and Pakistani troops are watching.
Beijing, on the other hand, had previously criticized the construction of an Indian road near the lake and, for its part, tripled the number of patrol boats on the glacial lake. These projects - 66 new roads along the border by 2020 - are India's response to China's numerous infrastructure projects as part of its New Silk Road initiative. Beijing has been expanding its influence in South Asia and Southeast Asia for years. Often also in regions that India has long regarded as its sole backyard.
A road near the Galwan Valley also serves as a link to the Daulat Beg Oldi military airfield, which only opened in October. The route runs along the border and is said to have made Beijing particularly mad. "Today, as we are slowly expanding our infrastructure to include the Line of Actual Control, the Chinese impression of a threat is growing," said the former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. And Xi Jinping is a hardliner on all questions of territorial claims and sovereignty.
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