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C3S – SMC Virtual Musings: Sino – India China Border Standoff

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Article 13/2020

The following text is of a ‘Virtual Dialogue’ conducted with C3S among Interns from Stella Maris College, Chennai as a part of ‘their C3S Virtual Internship Programme’. The theme was based on current developments viz. the status of India–China relations and the prevailing border dispute. The views expressed are of the Interns and does not reflect the views of C3S.


The India-China border has been witnessing tensions since May 2020, with incidents reported in at least four different locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The nature of LAC being undemarcated, India and China have overlapping claims along LAC which leading clashes. Major Chinese border aggression was seen in The Pangong Lake, Galwan valley and Demchok in Ladakh, Naku La in Sikkim. The northern bank of Pangong Lake has always been a point of contention where there are differing perceptions of the LAC. The stand-off in Galwan valley which has not seen such incidents in past as it was thought LAC to be settled here was triggered by China moving in troops & equipment to stop construction activity by India. The broader context for the tensions in Sikkim (which is settled and accepted by China and Sikkim being an integral part of India) appears to be a changing dynamic along the LAC, as India plays catch-up in improving infrastructure there. In light of these Interns in C3S have analysed and presented the readers a virtual dialogue.

Rachna – The recent issue between India and China is the dispute at LAC due to overlapping claim lines. The disputes were caused by aggressive behaviour by China during times of CoVID. There have been border incursions by China at various points on the LAC including Sikkim and near the Pangong Lake. The importance of the lake lies in its strategic significance to India’s security. A reason for these border issues is that there are no clear demarcations as to the territory of India and China at the LAC due to which they intrude into Indian Territory leading to the border dispute.

Sameera – Since May 2020, China has been entering India due to differential perceptions in LAC. India has as of late stepped up infrastructure activities in bordering areas. This is the principal reason for on-going China contesting this. These occurrences have prompted the expanded armed force nearness of both the nations in the outskirts.

Vijay Sai – Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a tense stand-off in Eastern Ladakh, where Chinese Soldiers have moved into Indian borders across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which had raised many questions regarding Chinese motives. People’s Liberation Army of China is positioned at north-bank of Pangong Tso Lake.  China’s actions appear to be a response to India’s construction of roads and airstrips adjacent to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which will improve connectivity and enable easier mobility for Indian troops in the area.

Anoushka Nair – The current intrusion in Ladakh by the Chinese army is a reaffirmation of China’s claim over the entire area of Aksai Chin. China resented and was alarmed over India’s move to abrogate  Article 370. The bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate administrative units.  If the Chinese Army manages to enter the Shatok Valley either through Galwan or through Pangong – Tangtse axis then India’s access to Karakoram Pass would be completely cut off. This tension at Line of Actual Control is unlikely to move past like other issues such as the Doklam crises in 2017 that only momentarily impacted India – China ties.

Madhumitha – The relations of India China in 2019 saw an upside tick with both the countries moving their relationship to an upwards trajectory as a part of their geostrategic development under the idea of a “Wuhan spirit”. This was a ploy by China to, deter the close relationship that was made between the US and India and this translated in the meet in Mamallapuram summit, where the heads of China and India showed a commitment to improving relations post the Wuhan summit. In May 2020, while India is trying its best to handle the CoVID 19 pandemic Chinese troops have been clashing with the Indian army along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Though India has been resolute in its stance of disengaging the limited skirmish through diplomacy the question lies in the fact if China will walk away.

While diplomacy might be the best way to go about the current situation, India shouldn’t completely rely on diplomacy and have an effective presence in the LAC and also, mentally and physically prepare the military in the anticipation of an escalation.

Ayesha Siddiqua – Since the Doklam crises in 2017, the present face-off between Indian and Chinese troops at the Nakula area near Sikkim and the Galwan Valley region in Ladakh is the biggest face-off between two Major Powers India and China and it looks like the tension could trigger a military conflict.

Moriah – The border dispute between India and China began in the 1960s. The most recent one is the People’s Liberation Army invasion in India (almost 1-3 km) in Ladakh and this is not the first time Chinese troops have invaded India it has been recorded that around 1025 times between the year 2016 – 2018 Chinese military have invaded India.

The reason for the invasion can be viewed in different ways: China is concerned when India began to build the roads in the border where China has infrastructure projects in the territory. It is also said that the US is siding with India and the recent Trump’s tweet that ‘The US is willing to mediate their border dispute’ have left many questions.

President Xi Jinping (China) recently asked the PLA to be prepared for war, but is it with India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the US? As all these countries have been engaging disputes with China lately the question remained unanswered, but it is said all these countries are strengthening their military.

Andrea – While the whole world is fighting against the COVID 19, China showed it’s aggressiveness at Pangong Lake and in Galwan valley which are located in Ladakh. It shows that China goes to any extent to sustain its position. India’s infrastructure work on our LAC, China always has a serious objection to it. The reason behind China’s aggressive posture along the line of actual control is, India is building border- roads faster than it was until a few years ago and India’s improving infrastructure. India should continue working on the construction of the road and it should be ready for the stand-off with China. It should be ready physically by strengthening its military troops and psychologically to fight against China. This stand offs during the time of pandemic would strain the relationship between China and India, create disruptions in the Asian region.

Angela – Although there is a border issue between India and China, the tension along the Indo-China border is not as volatile as the tension along with India- Pakistan border. But recently tensions along the Indo-China border has flared up and experts believe that the ongoing Indo-China border tensions may be the worst border tensions since the Doklam standoff in 2017 which lasted for 73 days. It is believed that construction of a road that will connect Galwan valley and the Daulat Beg Oldi in eastern Ladakh by the Indian government may have triggered the Chinese to increase deployment of troops and enhance the patrolling along with the Pangong Tso and Galwan valley. Tensions between the two started following a scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops at the Pangong Tso Lake, which is located 14,000 feet above the sea level in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. In the scuffle that broke out, 11 soldiers on both sides sustained injuries. Three days later, a fight erupted in Nathula Pass, Sikkim after the Indian army stopped a patrol team of the People’s Liberation Area. According to Ashok K Kanta, a former ambassador to China, the recent tensions between the two powers is very serious with Chinese’s behaviour being more aggressive and is backed up by a large number of troops. It can either be a territorial claim or part of a wider message to India that they need to be more careful of China on sensitive geopolitical issues. Both powers have been accusing each other of the on-going tensions and with the US offering to intermediate between the two powers, we can only sit back and watch how the issues are going to unfold.

Fiza – India-China relations dates back to more than 2000 years. India and China are the two most populous countries and China and India are the two most populous countries and fastest-growing major economies in the world. The current issue that is happening between India-China in the skirmishes in Ladakh. The simplest explanation is that China is responding to India’s efforts to bolster the border-area infrastructure in Ladakh. China is especially sensitive to Indian activities along the borders. People say we ‘may’ go to war. The situation is tense. Both leaders from countries are discussing strategies. There are some major changes from the usual patterns concerning Chinese behaviour on the border dispute. One, they have come in large groups into a new area; Two, incursions are hailing in various locations; three, they have become more assertive and aggressive. UN is calling for peace. America said it’ll meditate. According to Ashley J Tellis, Donald Trump and his actions cannot be believed unless it’s put to action. They believe that the current issue of global pandemic will affect the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

(Compiled by C. Balasubramanian, Research Officer, C3S.)  

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