Once again, the battle over the India-China border is heating up. The border region is a highly disputed place with violations on both sides and decades of tumultuous history. The causes of this new round of fighting are centered in Ladakh, the eastern part of Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir, a region with a long history of trouble. On June 15 at night about 20 Indian soldiers were killed, including their commanding officer, in clashes in the Galwan Valley (north of Pangong Tso) with Chinese soldiers. Losses on the Chinese side were not disclosed and most of the deaths on the Indian side seem to be caused by hypothermia due to the extreme cold of the region. The Indian Army stated that no bullets were fired raising questions as to what exactly happened. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry blamed India for crossing into Chinese territory, thus their soldiers were defending themselves. It is one of the largest death tolls in decades between the nations and has caused serious tensions between the two nuclear powers.
The first instance of fighting took place at Pangong Tso (a lake in Ladakh) in early May which was more of a brawl than a military engagement. Numerous soldiers were injured although it wasn’t as serious as what would happen later. Thousands of Chinese soldiers had advanced kilometers into the Gawlawn Valley in, “Chumar, Demchok, Pangong and two places near DBO.” These areas are in the north and the south of Ladakh. The problem is that it is past the official border between the countries which means it is similar to an invasion. Chinese and Indian helicopters began circling the area after the engagement. In addition, there were fistfights at Muguthang in Sikkim, an Indian state between the countries of Bhutan and Nepal in the mountainous Himalayas. Both of these areas are very mountainous but the reasons are more political than anything else. Near the end of the month President Trump of the United States offered to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the conflict however the Indian Foreign Ministry denied the request.
Causes for the renewed conflict have been debated but tie into the past with modern developments causing strain. Originally, China was uninvolved in the Kashmir Region however the 1959 Tibetan uprising, India’s asylum to the Dalai Lama, construction of a Xinjiang-Tibet road, Indian patrols and other issues led China to invade Aksai Chin in the east of the Ladakh region of Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir in 1962. This war was called the Sino-Indian War which also involved the east of India however Aksai Chin was annexed by China. The war led to a renewed patriotism in India and an end to their normally peaceful relations with China. Plenty of border clashes followed however the epicenter of these clashes revolved around Sikkim with only occasional deaths in Ladakh. In 1967 there were serious clashes in Sikkim (a kingdom and protectorate of India) which led to at least over a hundred deaths in total. In 1975 Sikkim joined India and the border became less of a problem. A more recent confrontation was in 2017 in the Doklam region of Bhutan when China invaded them to extend their roads through the region and India was invited by the country to help them against China. There was a two month standoff but no casualties and both sides retreated. These were some of the foundational reasons for the conflict as they were never fully resolved to the satisfaction of the two states. However, modern problems present brand new challenges.
Experts believe the change in the status of Jammu-Kashmir, construction projects in the area and the Chinese expansion across the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and expansion with foreign investments were the main causes of the skirmish. In 2019 the BJP dominated Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Constitution of India which caused Jammu and Kashmir to lose its autonomy and pushed through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 in order to convert the region into two union territories called Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The region had previously been a state of India with its own parliament and constitution and was religiously divided between Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. BJP is a very nationalist Hindu party with allegations of ignoring violence against Muslims which has led to concerns over their plans in the region. The change in Jammu and Kashmir’s status was very controversial and it caused problems with China because union territories in India are under the control of the federal government and more troops are present in the region too. China at the time declared the law null and void, refusing to recognize it. India has also been working on the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road which will be a major road running near the border which would allow them to transport military forces more easily. Another issue has been China’s form of expansion into the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean through investments in infrastructure projects which surround India. Some examples include the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Sri Lanka, the Gwadar Special Economic Zone around the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, numerous projects in Bangladesh, projects in the Maldives and the Kyaukphyu Port & Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in Myanmar. This makes India very nervous because they feel China is politically surrounding them.
New updates will be posted here as this is a developing story.
Partition of India and Subsequent Conflicts
June 15 Border Clash
Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/c8da1c8a-2a19-11e9-88a4-c32129756dd8
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