The Line of Control and India-China conflict: Explainer

The 13th round of Corps Commander talks ended on Sunday, 10 October, at Moldo in eastern Ladakh with the countries failing to reach a  resolution to ease tensions along the Actual Line of Control (LAC) and ended up blaming each other for it.

India claimed that China did not have forward-looking proposals and neither agreed to constructive suggestions by the other country. China accused India of making unreasonable demands and making negotiations difficult. China stated that it does not want to indulge in a war but it will not back out if the opposition wants to do so and will ensure that India does not get its way at the border.

Tensions have been on the rise at India and China’s disputed border at the Himalayas, a 3,440 km long stretch for the past 17 months. The border is ill-defined with rivers, lakes, snow-covered mountains, a shift in which can bring soldiers face to face. The only war fought between the countries was at the Himalayan border with India’s humiliating defeat in 1962 where China managed to claim a larger portion of the disputed land, Aksai Chin. 

MS Education Academy

The Line of Actual Control (LAC) lies between Aksai Chin and Ladakh. It is the area where the Indians and Chinese had agreed to share control but China has accused India of repeatedly trying to change the status quo in the region by increasing infrastructure and army in the area.

China aims at spreading Beijing’s control all over the globe by improving ties with India’s rivals, including Pakistan with its massive infrastructure project the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.

The People’s Republic of China was formed in the late 1940s overthrowing the ruling government and received support from India. But shortly after the government took control of Tibet which had been semi-autonomously governed by Buddhist Monk Dalai Lama who sought refuge in India after the RoC took control.

The areas of contention include Ladakh, Doklam Plateau and Arunachal Pradesh since Beijing never formally accepted Tibet’s land resolutions with India. There have been a number of disputes over the decades. The major ones include disputes at the Demchok Valley near Ladakh, dispute of 2015 where Indian soldiers destroyed a Chinese built structure in an area viewed as their territory.

The India-China-Bhutan trijunction near Doklam was in the spotlight in 2017 when the Indian Army challenged the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China when it started constructing a road in the Doklam region. Bhutan with the help of India pushed back China that unilaterally tried to take control over the land that belonged to Bhutan. The road would give China a direct connection to the Siliguri corridor or chicken’s neck where all based military and commercial traffic travelled between India’s northeastern provinces and the rest of the country. Bhutan and China recently came to a resolution with a three-step road map to release conflicts in the trijunction and the shared border.

India-Bhutan and China’s standoff at the trijunction came to an end in 2019 with no casualties reported from either side. Soon after India and China established economic ties with China becoming India’s largest trading partner and investing in India in a significant way. The country had plans to seep into India’s telecommunications network with 5G. 

In May 2020 China deployed troops in Ladakh and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) claiming that by building roads, tunnels and renovating airfields in the area along the border, India had changed the status quo and have forced the Chinese to respond. The Skirmish led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and 4 Chinese soldiers, soon after which the confrontation ended.

When the pandemic hit India in 2020, it realized its dependency on China in certain sectors and noticed the lack of transparency of Chinese companies and their links with the state. The country was concerned about how China would use its ties for economic influence.

The growing economic ties were in peril as a result of this clash and the pandemic, causing India to ban a number of Chinese apps and brands, including TikTok and Huawei, claiming security threat to the country and to maintain financial control.

India collaborated with 3 democracies: Australia, the USA and Japan, in an attempt to prevent the Indo pacific from becoming Beijing’s geopolitical territory.

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