GP Insights

GP Insights # 360, 30 May 2020

India-China border: Military tensions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC)
Ashna Joy

What happened?
Top military brass reviewed the situation at the three-day Army commander's conference on 28 May. India and China have entered into a standoff in Pangong Tso Lake, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulet Beg Oldie of Ladakh sector on 5 May. 

Amid the border skirmishes, Prime Minister Modi along with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Chiefs of Defence forces in a closed meeting reiterated India's defence modernization policy in LAC and emphasized on diplomatic routes to de-escalate the crises. Since then, commanders of both the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) have met several times to normalize the crisis.

It all started in early May. The standoff ensued into a fistfight with several soldiers injured from both sides. On 9 May, another standoff erupted over Nathu La in the Indian state of Sikkim when the Indian soldiers stopped the Chinese patrol army from crossing the disputed boundary line. 

What is the background?
First is the road construction by India, that is central to the border standoff. The reason for current tension is over the completion of a road by India which connects the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road in Galwan Valley. The Galwan valley was the focal point of the 1962 war and is close to the LAC. This triggered the transgression by Chinese PLA into Indian territory with setting up of a large number of tents and aggressive patrolling in Daulat Beg Oldie, Demchok, Galwan valley and Pangong Tso. However, India's construction and defence facilities at LAC is within the border management protocol, according to BDCA, 1999 and Wuhan Summit, 2018. 

Second is the unresolved territorial claims that lead to repeated border transgressions. The settlement of the India-China boundary is an uphill task where both countries have an overlapping claim on the territories. The series of border incursions between India-China has now become an annual affair with a repeated invocation of the historical memory from the 1962 war. The current standoff follows a similar incident of incursion in Ladakh during the visit of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping to India in 2014. 

Third is the border modernization as a power play. The tool of border road construction and modernization for territorial control has been frequently used by China for strategic counterbalance. China's infrastructural prowess was evident in Doklam, Bhutan where it constructed a road along with Tibet to Doklam plateau which is a disputed territory between Bhutan and China. The tri-junction became a serious concern for India because of its proximity to the strategically important Siliguri corridor connecting Northeast India and the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is equally claimed by China. The 73-day standoff came to an end through diplomatic negotiation wherein both sides agreed to withdraw its armed forces. Even though the dispute has been resolved after every incursion, the more significant territorial concerns remain contested. 

What does it mean?
First, the present border crisis brings out a repeated pattern of Chinese strategy based on 'fang' and 'shou,' which means 'squeezing' and 'relaxing' which was also witnessed in the Doklam incident. After squeezing the Indian militarily through constructing infrastructure and increasing the defence personnel in the border, China subsequently relaxes its military presence to offset its aggressive attitude. As India goes on to construct a road along the border, the present impasse is a reflection of China's attempt to change the status quo on the border.

Second, the border impasse comes as a corollary to India's recent position towards Ladakh.  In 2019, the Indian government changed the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by splitting it into two Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. This policy was criticized by China accusing it of changing the status of Ladakh unilaterally. And with the present completion of the road in the region, China seems to be leveraging India's border modernization policy to once again reassert its historical dominance in the Aksai Chin region.

December 2020 | GP Insights # 451
Brexit: The trade deal may not come through
November 2020 | GP Insights # 432
India and the US sign crucial defence agreements
October 2020 | GP Insights # 421
France: New bill to prevent Islamic Separatism
October 2020 | GP Insights # 420
The US: The First Presidential Debate
September 2020 | GP Insights # 419
South Asia: Finally, a SAARC meeting
September 2020 | GP Insights # 413
California: Wildfire continues to rage
September 2020 | GP Insights # 411
BREXIT: UK's new bill renews the tensions with the EU
August 2020 | GP Insights # 407
Japan: Shinzo Abe announces resignation
August 2020 | GP Insights # 403
Greenland: The ice sheet melts at a record rate
August 2020 | GP Insights # 402
Coup in Mali: Plunging further into chaos

August 2020 | GP Insights # 394
Vietnam: The second wave

July 2020 | GP Insights # 391
Global Nuclear Security progress has slowed
May 2020 | GP Insights # 346
Europe shows the way, but with a warning
April 2020 | GP Insights # 336
Afghanistan: 300 Taliban prisoners released
April 2020 | GP Insights # 332
The US accuses the WHO of being China-centric
April 2020 | GP Insights # 328
Syria: New UN Report on Idlib
April 2020 | GP Insights # 325
A lethal impact on the Refugee/Migrant Camps

March 2020 | GP Insights # 311
US: $2.2 trillion to stimulate the economy
March 2020 | GP Insights # 304
CoronaVirus: The US-China blame game
March 2020 | GP Insights # 302
Afghanistan: 30 killed in two days
March 2020 | GP Insights # 299
China: Fall in numbers
March 2020 | GP Insights # 292
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban deal under stress
March 2020 | GP Insights # 287
Two Presidents in Afghanistan
March 2020 | GP Insights # 285
'Aurat March': A New beginning across Pakistan

March 2020 | GP Insights # 281
Coronavirus cases cross 100,000

March 2020 | GP Insights # 276
Sri Lanka withdraws from 30/1 Geneva Resolution
February 2020 | GP Insights # 272
Trump in India: Optics, Substance and Rhetoric
February 2020 | GP Insights # 269
US and Taliban sign the long-awaited peace deal

February 2020 | GP Insights # 268
Thailand: The Court dissolves the opposition party
February 2020 | GP Insights # 260
Pakistan: Court convicts LeT founder Hafiz Saeed
February 2020 | GP Insights # 259
Pakistan: Suicide terrorism returns to haunt Quetta
February 2020 | GP Insights # 258
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban Seven Day Deal
February 2020 | GP Insights # 254
General Election: Ireland turns Left, after decades
February 2020 | GP Insights # 253
Coronavirus: Seven Weeks After

February 2020 | GP Insights # 252
Israel: Violence in the post-Trump deal
February 2020 | GP Insights # 248
The US Senate acquits Donald Trump

February 2020 | GP Insights # 246
Trump's Middle East plan gains mixed responses
February 2020 | GP Insights # 245
New Delhi: Shooting in an anti-CAA rally
February 2020 | GP Insights # 243
Afghanistan: Continuing Violence
February 2020 | GP Insights # 242
Finally, the BREXIT: The “UK Dream” comes true
February 2020 | GP Insights # 240
UK and EU on 5G and Huawei
February 2020 | GP Insights # 238
Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan
January 2020 | GP Insights # 237
Libya: Peace Summit in Berlin
January 2020 | GP Insights # 236
Lebanon: A new government but crisis is worsening
January 2020 | GP Insights # 232
Lebanon: A new cabinet assisted by the Hezbollah
January 2020 | GP Insights # 229
World Economic Forum: The 50th meeting at Davos
January 2020 | GP Insights # 225
Afghanistan: Taliban's Proposal to Reduce Violence
January 2020 | GP Insights # 222
Tehran: Protests follow the Airplane shooting
January 2020 | GP Insights # 219
Taiwan: DPP returns to power with a large mandate

January 2020 | GP Insights # 217
Russia: Putin's New Democratic experiment
January 2020 | GP Insights # 216
Myanmar welcomes Xi Jinping
January 2020 | GP Insights # 210
6G Technology: China is an Early Bird
December 2019 | GP Insights # 204
The US plan against Mexican Cartels
December 2019 | GP Insights # 202
Greta Thunberg is TIME's person of the year
December 2019 | GP Insights # 201
UK: Boris Johnson wins big, gets the BREXIT mandate
December 2019 | GP Insights # 200
ICJ: Suu Kyi defends the indefensible
December 2019 | GP Insights # 199
Spain: COP 25 begins in Madrid

December 2019 | GP Insights # 198
Iran: The protests continue
December 2019 | GP Insights # 197
NATO at 70: Brain Dead and Jaws Dropped
November 2019 | GP Insights # 196
London attacks: A reality check on radicalisation
November 2019 | GP Insights # 195
Iran protests: Thousands arrested

November 2019 | GP Insights # 193
Russia Releases Ukrainian Vessels
November 2019 | GP Insights # 191
Mass Protests in Iran

November 2019 | GP Insights # 189
Protest in Georgia over constitutional reform
November 2019 | GP Insights # 188
Sri Lanka: Return of the Rajapaksas
November 2019 | GP Insights # 187
Hong Kong: Violence reaches a new high

November 2019 | GP Insights # 185
Brazil: Leaders meet for the 11th BRICS Summit
November 2019 | GP Insights # 184
Bolivia: Political crisis over elections
November 2019 | GP Insights # 183
US-China Tariff Rollback: Yes, sorry no…  

November 2019 | GP Insights # 181
India refuses to sign the RCEP 
November 2019 | GP Insights # 178
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue
November 2019 | GP Insights # 177
ISIS after Baghdadi
November 2019 | GP Insights # 176
UK Elections: A delayed Brexit; divided Parliament
October 2019 | GP Insights # 173
Brazil’s mysterious oil spill 
October 2019 | GP Insights # 170
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within
October 2019 | GP Insights # 168
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | GP Insights # 167
Turkey's Offensive in Syria

October 2019 | GP Insights # 161
UK: Boris Johnson announces a Brexit roadmap
October 2019 | GP Insights # 160
Iraq: The Protests Now
October 2019 | GP Insights # 158
China: Celebrating 70 years
September 2019 | GP Insights # 157
UK: Parliament uproar over Boris Johnson’s language
September 2019 | GP Insights # 156
US and Japan: A limited trade agreement
September 2019 | GP Insights # 154
The UN Climate Action Summit: No Action Plan yet
September 2019 | GP Insights # 151
Climate Change protests ahead of the UN Summit

September 2019 | GP Insights # 149
Afghanistan: Taliban’s deadly strikes
September 2019 | GP Insights # 148
Israel: No clear winners in the elections
September 2019 | GP Insights # 147
An Amazon in the East: The Forest Fires in Indonesia

September 2019 | GP Insights # 144
"Glory to Hong Kong": Protesters' New Anthem
September 2019 | GP Insights # 142
Suspension of the British Parliament
August 2019 | GP Insights # 140
Italy: Experiments with a new coalition
August 2019 | GP Insights # 139
Huawei vs Google: The Saga Continues

August 2019 | GP Insights # 136
G7 Summit: Cold responses and little outcomes
August 2019 | GP Insights # 133
Italy: Political turmoil as the PM resigns
August 2019 | GP Insights # 132
Brexit: No backing out on backstop deal
August 2019 | GP Insights # 130
Brazil: The fires in Amazon goes global
August 2019 | GP Insights # 128
Jammu and Kashmir: The UNSC meeting
August 2019 | GP Insights # 127
Israel: US Congresswomen's visit denied 

August 2019 | GP Insights # 121
North Korea: Cyber theft of  $ 2 billion
August 2019 | GP Insights # 120
Hong Kong: China issues a strong warning
August 2019 | GP Insights # 118
J&K: India revokes Kashmir’s special status
August 2019 | GP Insights # 116
US Withdraws from the INF Treaty
August 2019 | GP Insights # 115
The Netherlands ban Burqa

August 2019 | GP Insights # 113
Trump imposes new tariffs on China
July 2019 | GP Insights # 106
Pakistan Airspace Reopens after five months
July 2019 | GP Insights # 105
US excludes Turkey from the F-35 program
July 2019 | GP Insights # 103
US House blocks Trump's Saudi arms deal

July 2019 | GP Insights # 101
Myanmar: US-led  sanctions will not go far
July 2019 | GP Insights # 100
Iran to breach nuclear stockpile threshold
July 2019 | GP Insights # 96
Libya: Attack on Migration Centre kills 60
June 2019 | GP Insights # 93
G20 Summit 2019 in Japan: Early takeaways
June 2019 | GP Insights # 89
Hong Kong Protests: Expanding the Goals?
June 2019 | GP Insights # 87
Protests in Georgia

June 2019 | GP Insights # 85
Xi visits North Korea
June 2019 | GP Insights # 84
Hong Kong: The Protests Escalates Further
June 2019 | GP Insights # 82
Nigeria: The Triple Suicide Bombing
June 2019 | GP Insights # 78
Xi's Visit to North Korea
June 2019 | GP Insights # 75
Sudan: African Union suspends membership

June 2019 | GP Insights # 73
The Gulf of Oman: Attack on Oil tankers
June 2019 | GP Insights # 72
Sudan: The Military orders crackdown
June 2019 | GP Insights # 70
Japan and Iran: Abe’s Peace Mission
June 2019 | GP Insights # 69
India: Two Days, Two Neighbors
June 2019 | GP Insights # 67
India's New Priority: BIMSTEC, not SAARC?

June 2019 | GP Insights # 66
China's First Orbital Sea Launch
June 2019 | GP Insights # 65
China and Russia: Xi Jinping's Moscow Visit
June 2019 | GP Insights # 63
Hong Kong: China's Game Plan

June 2019 | GP Insights # 62
India, US and the S-400: Threat of Sanctions
June 2019 | GP Insights # 61
Sudan: Clampdown on Protestors
June 2019 | GP Insights # 59
Trump's UK Visit

May 2019 | GP Insights # 48
Indonesia: Post-election violence
May 2019 | GP Insights # 44
1500 American troops to the Middle East
May 2019 | GP Insights # 36
US-China Trade Talks

May 2019 | GP Insights # 34
Sri Lanka Attacks: Deepening fault lines
May 2019 | GP Insights # 33
The Huawei Controversy in the UK
November 2018 | GP Insights # 188
Sri Lanka: Return of the Rajapaksas
Click here for old Short Notes