China is furious at India for moving troops into a disputed territory in the Himalayas at the triangular intersection of the borders between China, India and Bhutan.
The current stand-off is the most serious since the 1962 border war fought between China and India in which China scored a decisive victory.
China has recently conducted live-fire military drills in the region in a move that is clearly intended to demonstrate China’s seriousness over the issue.
Today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang issued the following statement to India,
“We have stated many times that we hope the Indian side will get a clear understanding of the situation (and) immediately take measures to withdraw the troops that illegally crossed the border back to the Indian side of the border”.
The proximate cause of the tensions originate from China building a road in the region. The construction started in June of 2017.
In a broader sense however, the tensions over the territory are related to a wider geo-political game that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been playing a great deal lately. India is currently positioning itself as both a buyer of expensive US military hardware, a friend of the US and its Israeli ally, as well as a recent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which includes both Russia (a long time ally) and China (a 20th century adversary).
While India is one of the first stops along China’s proposed One Belt–One Road world commerce initiative, India more frequently acts as though it’s China’s regional rival than a partner in either the SCO or One Belt–One Road.
The background to this development was recently discussed in The Duran,
“Any remaining hopes that the US could cause a rift between Moscow and Beijing ultimately failed to understand that whereas the Nixon administration exploited an existing, substantial split between the two communist super-powers, Russia and China are now allies and no amount of sweet-talking (however patronising) from Washington could create a new Sino-Russian split in 2017.
The proximate timing of America’s sale of weapons to Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) and Chinese President Xi’s visit to Moscow is of course the final blow in any attempt by Washington to seriously ‘restart’ relations with China. Of course, America’s economic dependence on China will continue into the foreseeable future and Beijing is well aware of this.
Of equal importance to America’s distancing itself from China was India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States. The visit was filled with positive platitudes about the healthy state of US-Indian relations. Trump and Modi of course have something in common as two major world leaders with an almost visceral dislike of Islam, an inconvenient truth that far too many in the press have ignored. However, a common hatred of a major world religion may not be enough to create a meaningful alliance, not least because ultimately the US and India have a very different idea of what a war on “radical Islamic terror” would look like. India and specially Modi’s war with Islam is an internal matter, NATO’s war with various Islamic powers is all about geo-politics and global economics–just ask the leaders in Doha and Riyadh.
Ever since India achieved independence from Britain in the 1947 (with full republican independence arriving in 1950), China and India’s relationship has been fraught to say the least.
After initially hopeful signs in the 1950s, things deteriorated so badly by the 1960s that in 1962, China and India countries fought a short but worrying war over a border dispute centred around Aksai Chin.
India’s support of Tibetan separatists throughout this period served to exacerbate these tensions.
As the Sino-Soviet split became ever more pronounced, the USSR became ever closer to India. As a result, China began cultivating a closer relationship with Pakistan. To this end, China actively backed Pakistan in the war against India in 1965 and was also generally supportive of Pakistan in the war between the two Asian powers in 1971.
Things began to slowly improve in the 1980s although China and India nearly went to war again over border disputes in 1987. Both sides eventually stood down before any fighting could commence”.
China has warned India that peace-talks on the disputed Himalayan territory will not be able to continue until New Delhi withdraws its troops.
India is testing the United States as much as it is China, in some ways more. China’s position on the matter is clear and has been stated clearly multiple times. China maintains its territorial claims in the region and any further discussions must be done only after India acts on promises to de-militarise the region.
By contrast, while the United States is de-facto eager to disrupt progress on China’s New Silk Road (One Belt–One Road), India is not one of the hot-spots of disruption for the US at this time. Beyond selling India weapons, the US does not have troops in the contested region.
It has become apparent that when it comes to Asia and moreover South Asia, the US is concentrating on eliciting a response from China through provocations in the South China Sea region rather than in or around India.
Assuming this trend continues and it likely will do, India may find that it does not have any substantial support in its dispute with China. Unlike during the Cold War, Russia is manifestly closer to Beijing vis-a-vis New Delhi in 2017. This puts Russia in the position as a potential mediator in the dispute, but if Modi continues to play games of cat and mouse with China expecting to rely on Moscow for help, it means he is clearly mistaken.
In this sense, India’s position is out of date in respect of Russia and out of sync in respect of the United States which remains squarely focused on the South China Sea as well as fomenting conflicts in other areas along the New Silk Road that are far to the west of India. America will not jump when Modi says so, no matter how positive his meeting with Donald Trump appeared to be.
It remains in India’s interests to view China as a complimentary economic partner rather than a territorial let alone economic rival. If India tries to ‘beat’ China in either of these two spheres it will clearly lose a great deal, including Moscow’s patience.
By contrast, if India embraces the cooperative spirit of both the BRICS organisation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, India could find itself in a key position as a major producer and manifold transit point along China’s New Silk Road.
This is not only the most realistic option for India but by far the most practical and economically sound.
As I previously wrote,
“At a time when Pakistan is becoming ever more tired of its relationship with the US which earns Pakistan little in material terms and even less in terms of dignity and with Russia and China leading by example as two former Cold War adversaries who now form the 21st century’s most important geo-political alliance, India under Modi is playing side-games when it ought to focus on the bigger picture which means reconciliation with both China and Pakistan for the long-term economic prosperity of all Indian people.
Modi seems to be a man guided by a lust for outsmarting the world. One often wonders if he is really only outsmarting himself. His anti-Muslim rhetoric which is now having violent consequences on the streets of India, combined by his public displays of political affection for both the United States and Israel is not in the interests of the Indian people, not even the Hindutva base he represents and riles up.
India’s future is with a combination of long time friends (Russia) and former adversaries (China and Pakistan). Her future never was in the west or its allies like Israel, although nothing is precluding India from trading with such countries minus the geo-political overtones that Modi tends to revel in and which countries like the US and Israel are all too willing and able to exploit. Nixon talked about being “suckered” by Indira Gandhi. By extrapolation, can we now say that Narendra Modi is suckering himself?”