Escalation in standoffs due to territorial disputes among regional states has centuries old history in geo-strategic global affairs. Wrong assessment about the unmarked borders and its perceptional links have always been a source of friction among the neighboring states. Need not to scan far past, even in the recent history, a number of countries have settled their border disputes amicably and are coexisting with smooth neighborly relationships. Standing example is of age old Sino-Russian territorial dispute which has been wisely negotiated and settled. It has rather given a new dimension to their relationship by getting into a ‘geostrategic partnership’ for their mutual benefit. The two countries are now sharing a common global outlook. On the opposite end of the Asian spectrum, Sino-Indian territorial dispute has a long history of boiling nature and its vibrations are occasionally realized at global skylines. The recent confrontations between China and India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were not trivial skirmishes or isolated incidents, and they might not be the last of such encounters. The primary reason for these recent clashes were the infrastructure developments along the southern side of the undemarcatedLAC.

The scuffle reported in the media on the May 5 showed Chinese and Indian troops engaging in fistfights and stone-pelting at the Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh. This was followed by skirmishes on the eastern front of the LAC at the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim between Chinese troops and Indian patrolling parties. The following weeks saw a surge in Chinese and Indian troops camping along several disputed zones, mutually claimed by both sides and each accusing the other of trespassing. Indian media has asserted that there are new PLA encampments on Demchok, Galwan Valley, Nathu La pass and Pangong Tso Lake. The Indian COAS has already dropped in on Leh, the capital of Ladakh territory to assess the situation intimately.Long Xingchun, a Chinese analyst writing for Beijing’s Global Times newspaper has said, “India has illegally constructed defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory, thus mounting the risk of escalating standoffs”.

India’s construction of bridges, advance landing grounds (ALGs) and roads near the unmarked LAC is a point of concern for China and its authority in Tibet and Xinjiang. It is predicted that Beijing hopes to exert greater influence in the region and along the LAC. This will allow China to exert greater control over the Tashkurgan junction from where the China-Pak Economic corridor crosses into Gilgit-Baltitstan. One of India’s policy aims is to increase its proximity to, and leverage over CPEC. This could spell future troubles for Pakistan in the near future, with the repercussions of Pakistan becoming a party to their skirmishes. Darting through Gilgit-Baltistan and aspiring to reach out to Central Asia is perhaps one of the long-term goals of India’s strategic plan.

At present conciliatory dialogues between China and India are underway. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has already conceded that the PLA had disturbed India’s “normal patrolling patterns” in Ladakh, but referred to the “established mechanisms to resolve such situations peacefully through dialogue”. It would be in India’s best interest to resolve their border issues along the same lines as the Sino-Russian resolution.With nearly all nations in the region fighting the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, another full scale conflict is least desired by both Beijing and New Delhi.

 

– The writer is a Lahore-based freelance contributor on current global affairs and is a graduate from National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad.