Chinese Regime’s Aggression on Disputed Border With India Draws Concerns

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
May 31, 2020Updated: May 31, 2020

The Chinese regime’s acts of aggression on the disputed border with India have drawn concern, leaving analysts to question the timing of skirmishes between the patrols of the Asian neighbors at two locations in the past few weeks.

Multiple violent clashes have occurred recently along the 2,167 miles of a disputed border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the eastern Himalayan Indian territory of Ladakh and the central Himalayan Indian territory of Sikkim, which also shares a border with Bhutan.

The recent conflict started on May 5 and May 6, between Chinese and Indian patrols in the area of the lake of Pangong Tso, where Ladakh meets the region of Tibet, according to Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh, a former Indian deputy chief of army staff who retired after 40 years of service.

“So on May 5, there was a faceoff that was ugly. They were jostling. On May 9, there was another faceoff in the north Sikkim area between two patrols, they were jostling with each other. Seven Chinese soldiers and four Indian soldiers were injured,” Singh told The Epoch Times over the phone from New Delhi.

“Since then, the activity level went up in the area of Galwan valley, which is north of the Pangong Tso lake area and also in the area of eastern Ladakh,” he said, adding that the dispute exists between India and China because each country has a different perception about the LAC.

Since the conflict began, the Chinese have erected 80 to 100 tents, brought in heavy vehicles and heavy weapons, and have started building bunkers in the Galwan valley.

Meanwhile, India has deployed soldiers in the area. A hotline remains open between the local Chinese and Indian army commanders in east Ladakh, along with other diplomatic channels, Singh said.

He also said that the Indian army has been put on alert: “They are prepared.”

The Chinese side is blaming India for the tension, saying that the Indian side trespassed into Chinese territory, which the Indians have denied, according to the Press Trust of India.

Epoch Times Photo
File image of a Chinese soldier (L) and an Indian soldier standing guard at the Chinese side of the ancient Nathula pass border crossing between India and China in Sikkim. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Argue Over Territory, Keep Pushing and Pushing’

The Chinese regime’s act of building bunkers along the disputed territory with India in Ladakh is a tactic it has used with other countries it shares borders with, Aparna Pande, a research fellow and director of Hudson Institute’s Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia in Washington, told The Epoch Times.

“This is their tactic: Argue over territory, keep pushing and pushing and testing the other side, then when you can build permanent bunkers and then sit there. Then again, after a little while, creep forward,” said Pande, who added that the Chinese regime has been similarly aggressive with Japan, Russia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

“Remember, China does it on the land-sea, creates islands, and claims territory. [The regime] creates fictitious claims.”

Singh says the building of bunkers by the People’s Liberation Army is significant because it’s happening on the LAC and not on a resolved border, and also due to other incidents of strategic importance in the larger region around the same time.

He cites as examples a road that India inaugurated on May 5 in the state of Uttaranchal, in the border region of Nepal and China, that the Nepalese protested, and a dam that Pakistan is building in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area under Pakistan’s occupation of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region.

The dam, inaugurated on May 2, is located in the same region where China and Pakistan are building the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, a part of the Chinese regime’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from Xinjiang to Pakistan’s southern shores. The dam is a joint venture of the lead firm, China Gezhouba Group of Cos. (CGGC), and a Pakistani firm, Descon Engineering.

While Singh said “all these dots need to be connected” to analyze the situation, Pande said the Chinese regime is using Pakistan and Nepal to put pressure on India.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese soldiers are seen at the Nathula Pass area at the India-China border in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

US Willing to Mediate Border Dispute

Pande said the Chinese regime is trying to deviate the world’s attention from the pandemic by such aggression on its disputed border with India.

“China has built a lot of infrastructure on its side of the border over the years. India has been slow to do that but in the last few years, India has done a lot” of airstrips, all-weather roads, and so on, she said.

“China’s belligerent actions are an attempt to prevent India from bolstering its side of the border. Beijing is hoping the world’s attention will be diverted by COVID.”

President Donald Trump said on May 27 that the United States is willing to mediate between India and China to help them resolve their ongoing border dispute.

“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing, and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!” said Trump in a message on Twitter.

While neither India nor China has sought any intervention from the United States or the international community, Trump’s offer will upset China, Pande said.

“Beijing will be more upset about this offer by President Trump than Delhi because in effect the U.S. is treating India and China as equals and that is something Beijing has never accepted,” she said.

Singh says there could be many reasons behind the recent Chinese aggression on the border—it could be the internal political situation inside China, the global pressure on the Chinese regime to answer questions about the pandemic, or it could be a fallout of the U.S.–China cold war.

He said it could also be because India took a leadership role as the chair of the World Health Organization’s executive board on May 22, or because of many nations wanting Taiwan to be given an observer’s status in the World Health Assembly.