Mahanth is Editor of usindiamonitor
Yet another violent clash occurred on December 9th between border soldiers of China and India near the uneasily policed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh, which represents a strongly disputed boundary region. Very little dependable information has come out on what happened that day, and how. It’s not clear exactly how many were injured on both sides, and what caused the casualties, though we have definitive news reports that both sides did suffer injuries.
Here are some relevant facts we can be sure of at this early stage before all of the details have come out.
Whatever the misunderstanding that caused the minor skirmish, the more powerful China was very likely the aggressor. China has for years now been using its military forces to persistently test the defenses of many of its neighbor countries, not just India, especially involving disputed air, sea, and land territory. Its air force has frequently overflown patrols into Taiwanese air defense territory, shot numerous missiles menacingly close to Taiwan, and buzzes the aircraft of foreign nations. All of these hostile acts are unambiguously meant to be viewed as threats, and a flex of China’s ever-increasing military prowess. For in international affairs, the only rules or laws that matter in the global system are those that can be backed up by raw force when push comes to shove.
India needs to figure out how to address this pattern of Chinese behavior, which we can expect will not only continue but also pick up in pace in the coming years as China’s armed forces continue to modernize and expand at a rapid clip.
Thankfully the opposing parties in this case managed to quickly de-escalate the situation and prevent a wider battle from breaking out. This risk is serious. Any escalation anywhere along that volatile LAC would be extremely dangerous and difficult to contain from getting out of hand if any skirmish spills into a second day or beyond. Both China and India are on high alert when it comes to the border formations as well as their readiness to deploy significant stockpiles of both conventional and nuclear weapons. A massive number of troops on both sides are trained and prepared to launch another Sino-Indian War on short notice, and no doubt top leadership on both sides of the border have the plans ready to go at all times.
I wish that China and India would just sit down and hammer out a negotiated agreement on what the border lines should exactly be using compromise, and common sense. They are not going to stop being neighbors after all. The decades-long territorial disputes are unproductive to both sides and predictably cause confusion for those tasked with maintaining the status quo. As we have seen time and again the uncertainty causes life-threatening incidents. It also makes healthy political, economic, and cultural normalization nearly impossible for the many people who live close to the disputed areas. The current policy of ambiguous real estate ownership serves the interests of none except defense industry contractors. I hope the two countries take the necessary and difficult steps to at least draw up a draft version of some sensible boundaries- which after all would not be that different from the LAC anyway.
You can learn more from this short WION segment here: