The disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating India and China was the scene of a flare over the weekend and into today. The area of contention is Pangong Tso Lake, which has traditionally been considered to be inside of Indian territory. On Saturday night the Chinese attempted to land troops on the southern bank of the lake, prompting a buildup of Indian troops, and a standoff. So far, the confrontation has not turned physical. Troops from both sides stood in close proximity and yelling at each other. There have been no reports of injuries. The Indian Defense Ministry described the incident in a statement released earlier today, saying the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had “violated the previous consensus” and “carried out provocative military movements” near Pangong Tso Lake, in the remote Ladakh region.
China claims it has done nothing wrong. A representative from the PLA’s Western Theater Command accused the Indian military of a “blatant provocation” and wrecking the agreement both sides had reached over illegal incursions in the area. The officer demanded that India withdraw its forces and maintain control of its frontline troops.
Although this incident was nowhere near as deadly clash that occurred in June between Indian and Chinese troops along the same area of the LAC, it is disconcerting. A considerable amount of diplomatic effort has gone into calming tensions and establishing a sincere dialogue between the Indian and Chinese militaries. However, this latest flareup shows us that the LAC area remains a point of contention. It also leads to questions about how much influence China’s internal troubles are having on Beijing’s recent moves abroad.
That is a subject worth exploring more later this week. 😊
COVID-19 is affecting the Kashmir region just as it is practically everywhere else. The difference here is that Kashmir is already one of the most dangerous places on the planet, rife with religious, and national tensions. Actions over the last year, specifically the ambush of Indian security forces by Pakistani-backed militants and the subsequent clash between Indian and Pakistani military forces last February, as well as India’s move to incorporate its Kashmir territories into the greater union have heightened tensions even further.
Over this past weekend, the situation in Kashmir escalated once more when Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged artillery fire across the Line of Control. Civilian areas were apparently targeted by both armies, a violation of the 2003 ceasefire accord. There were civilian casualties on the Pakistani side of the LoC at least. The Pakistani military has accused India with violating the frontier repeatedly since last Friday. Flareups in Kashmir occur from time to time, but with the world’s attention presently focused on the pandemic, and both countries reeling from COVID-19 the chances of a major military confrontation rise considerably with each passing day.
In other conflict zones around the world, attempts to bring about ceasefires during the pandemic have met with some level of success. Syria, and Yemen have quieted down with the respective combatants now more focused on fighting the virus instead of each other. In Kashmir, however, it has been business as usual, so to speak.
Author’s Note: Short update today, apologies. I’ll post again tomorrow and then over the weekend. I hope everyone is staying safe, and sane. 😊 –Mike
The Sri Lankan government formally handed over control of the strategic port of Hambantota to China last week. The two nations signed a 99 year lease that gives the Chinese almost-complete control of the port as partial payment on the $8.8 Billion debt Sri Lanka owes to the PRC. China’s presence in Sri Lanka has grown over the last five years and the relationship between the two has flourished as a result. Chinese firms have invested billions of dollars to modernize Sri Lankan port facilities as part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ drive to expand Chinese market reach.
Concern is expanding across South Asia over China’s investment in Sri Lanka and the level of Chinese involvement in the region overall. Instinctively, New Delhi is alarmed, and suspicious of further Chinese encroachment upon its sphere of influence. The Indians are wary of the growing Chinese challenge to its regional hegemony. Consequently situation in Sri Lanka is hitting close to home both literally and figuratively. The island nation is situated just off India’s southeastern coast and it has been firmly inside of India’s orbit for years. India has invested large sums of treasure, and material to stabilize the island. To address the Chinese presence and influence, India has partnered with Japan to develop Sir Lanka’s eastern coastline, and improve the existing infrastructure there. Beyond India, pushback over Chinese investments and influence has occurred in Nepal, Pakistan, and Myanmar.
India-China relations are still on the mend following the Doklam standoff earlier this year. Both nations appear sincere in their desires to see ties continue improving. However, the potential for an economic proxy war in Sri Lanka is quite real. This situation, along with other rising economic and security challenges in the region threaten to disrupt those relations indefinitely. China is aggressively using its economic power to extend its geopolitical influence far beyond its own borders.
With that influence now butting up against Indian shores, the ball is in New Delhi’s court. India’s response could very well define India-China relations for some time to come.