Chinese and India have recently been at a military stand-off in one of many disputed Himalayan border regions. This occurred as Chinese troops were accused of setting up tents within Indian territory, in the Depsang valley in Ladakh, in eastern Kashmir, on April 15th. Potential conflict was only avoided by talks between the two parties on May 5th, however no permanent agreements have been made surrounding the position of the disputed border. Although both sets of troops have now agreed to retreat to their pre-stand-off positions, this was an indicator of the historical, and possible future, tensions surrounding the Chinese-Indian border.
These border tensions between China and India are nothing new; in 1962, the Sino-Indian War was fought over the disputed Himalayan territory which resulted in the battle of land troops for the control of Ladakh. China gained control of Rezang La in Chushul and Tawang, though they agreed to a ceasefire on November 20th 1962 and withdrew troops from the captured regions. However the border dispute resulted in only a small war which did not include any deployment of naval or air forces by either side, though this conflict did show the potential violence which could potential result from this long-standing border dispute. In 1967, the Chola incident, also known as the 1967 Sino-Indian skirmish, was a day-long military conflict between Chinese and Indian forces after members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had infiltrated Sikkim, which at the time was a land-locked state in the Himalayas and a protectorate of India. This skirmish involved another conflict between, what is now, the Chinese-Indian border, with fighting occurring in the Himalayan Mountains, after China disputed the British-made border. The result of the skirmish was a Chinese withdrawal. Though the dispute was a lot smaller and concentrated than the previous border dispute, in did show the continuation of border tensions which were reduced when China recognised that part of the border in 2003, as a result of India agreeing to recognise Tibet as a Chinese administrative area. The 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish was the latest skirmish between Chinese and Indian forces along their border. This conflict took place in Sumdorong Chu Valley after a further border dispute occurred surrounding the statehood of Arunachal Pradesh which was granted by India but disputed as China claimed the region. However this skirmish did not result in any fighting, despite the deployment of Indian troops to the disputed region, and in fact led to a thaw in relations. Though, despite this, border contention as a whole remains present and has not been solved by any of the previous conflicts or the negotiations in their aftermath, but some agreements have lasted which have decreased the likelihood of war.
It has been argued that these border conflicts were a result of geopolitical aims rather than a genuine attempt for expansion. However, as these two nations continue to grow in power and, at least with India, in population, the disputed border region may feature more prominently as these future powers fight for control of land and global position. Although the disputed land is largely mountainous, Kashmir is renowned as a source of cashmere and is largely habitable with a largely agrarian economy, and this region may be to solution to India’s impending problem with over-population. However, it must be stated that Kashmir has been partitioned between India and Pakistan and has largely involved disputes between those nations in the region. Nevertheless, border tensions between all three parties have the potential to ignite conflict between two potential superpowers and Pakistan, which is made all the more threatening to China with the growing populations of India and Pakistan and the future fight for living space.
Raghavan V.R. (1998) India-China Relations: A Military Perspective. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts: New Delhi. Available from: http://ignca.nic.in/ks_41061.htm [Accessed May 6 2013]
Nalpathamkalam A. R. (2012) Cooperation without trust: India-China relations today. Available from: http://www.in.boell.org/downloads/India-China_Relations_-_Abhilash_10.10.pdf [Accessed May 6 2013]