India and China exchange their first border gunfire in 45 years

  • Political Ambassador
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A somewhat worrying development between the two Asian giants.
That being said, i am somewhat dubious it could ever escalate too much (at least in this area) due to the inherent inability to actually deploy armies up in the mountains - that isnt to say they wont continue fighting with big rocks and taking pot shots at each other though.
Either way, something to watch, especially with the Xi trying to restore the Celestial kingdom to being the godly realm.

NDIA’S CONDUCT was as reckless as “doing a handstand on the edge of a cliff”, fulminated the Global Times, a state-run tabloid in China, on September 8th. “We must warn India seriously: you have crossed the line!” In India’s telling, it was Chinese troops who crossed the line, approaching an Indian position near Mukhpari peak on September 7th and firing “a few rounds” into the air. In China’s version, it was Indian troops who crossed the undefined and disputed border and fired the warning shots, forcing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “to take an emergency response”. Whoever pulled the trigger—Indian sources suggest that both sides did—the bullets were the first to fly along the vast Himalayan frontier between the nuclear-armed neighbours in 45 years.

Since the spring, India and China have been locked in a tense standoff in Ladakh, a plateau to the west of Tibet (see map). India has accused the PLA of massing forces, building outposts and nibbling territory at several points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the disputed and hazy demarcation line that serves as a frontier in the absence of an agreed international border. In June the two sides agreed to disengage. Days later a deadly but gun-less brawl took place at the Galwan river valley. At least 20 Indian troops were killed and many injured in hand-to-hand fighting with makeshift weapons, with some falling down a ravine into the river (the number of Chinese casualties is unknown). The encounter dissipated what little trust was left between the two rivals.With talks over the summer going nowhere, both sides reportedly gathered tanks and other forces at the south bank of Pangong lake, where the overlap between Indian and Chinese claims—and therefore the scope for disagreement—is particularly large. In late August troops “yelled at each other and surged to within a yard or two”, according to the New York Times.On August 30th India appears to have taken the initiative, sending special forces on a six-hour trek to capture peaks in the Chushul sector, immediately south of Pangong lake, supposedly to pre-empt a Chinese move. That gave it a commanding view of PLA positions and key passes below, as well as a potential bargaining chip in future talks (Indian officials contend that, since April or so, China has occupied 1,000 square kilometres of territory on what India believes to be its side of the LAC).The raid at Chushul was notable because India used its Special Frontier Force (SFF), a Tibetan-manned unit originally established in 1962, after a war between India and China, with help from America’s CIA. China invaded Tibet in 1950 and crushed an uprising there in 1959, which led to the flight to India of tens of thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama. Their presence in India has been an irritant to bilateral relations ever since.If there was any doubt that India’s use of a Tibetan force was intended as a message to China, it was dispelled on September 7th when Ram Madhav, the secretary-general of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, attended and laid a wreath at the funeral of an SFF member believed to have been killed during the operation, reportedly by a landmine. Mr Madhav then tweaked China’s nose by tweeting praise for “a Tibetan who laid down his life protecting our borders in Ladakh” and pointedly called it the “Indo-Tibetan” rather than Indo-Chinese border (the tweet was later deleted).The pair also appear to be locking horns well beyond Ladakh. On September 2nd India banned 118 Chinese apps, including a hugely popular video game, China’s leading search engine and its most widely used digital-payments system. It had already banned 59 others, including TikTok and WeChat, after the June clashes. A day later, India’s chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, said that he wanted the bloc known as the Quad (comprising America, Australia, India and Japan) to “ensure freedom of navigation operations” in Asia, referring to naval shows of force in Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea. Though America routinely conducts such operations, India has trodden more cautiously. Were it to expand its naval presence in disputed waters in the Pacific, that would mark a significant widening of its confrontation with China.The scramble for territory in the mountains is particularly dangerous because old rules seem to be crumbling. Over decades, India and China had agreed on various protocols at the border: firearms were forbidden, patrols that bumped into one another should not follow one another and heavy weapons should be kept to a minimum. The deadly clash at Galwan in June dealt a heavy blow to these understandings; the use of guns, if only in warning, at Mukhpari on September 7th struck another. “All past agreements have broken down,” says General D.S. Hooda, who retired as head of the Indian Army’s Northern Command in 2016. “With the Chinese intrusions in areas that were not considered disputed [such as Galwan] the LAC has lost a lot of its sanctity.” S. Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, acknowledges that the situation is “very serious”.Indian and Chinese troops remain in close proximity to one another, though it will get harder to maintain their new outposts over the coming months. “In winter this is not a good place for humans to live,” noted Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign-ministry spokesman, on September 8th. “So we hope, through diplomatic and military channels...we can achieve disengagement as soon as possible.” That does not look likely. “All this points to the likelihood of future military escalation,” says General Hooda, “unless the Chinese change their obdurate attitude on disengagement.”
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