It looks likes one of the global flashpoints I mentioned earlier this year is heating up.
While Iraq descends rapidly into chaos, tensions may be building in another section of the Asian continent. India is poised to double its forces along the border with China.
The new BJP government is keen to send out a strong signal to Beijing regarding border disputes by nearly doubling the deployment of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel on the India-China frontier. Top government sources said the ITBP will very soon have more boots on the ground to effectively guard the border that has witnessed several Chinese incursions in the past few years. The previous UPA government was often criticised for being “soft” on the issue of Chinese incursions.
The Home Ministry has approved the construction of 54 new border outposts along the disputed frontier with China. A proposal in this regard was made by the ITBP before the polls but the previous government did not go ahead on it.
With the new outposts, the number of troops on the ground too will increase. Currently, there are close to 40 outposts and nearly 15,000 troops guard the sensitive zones. Sources said the number could now go up to 30,000. “There were critical gaps regarding security on the China border that need to be filled up,” said a senior Home Ministry official.
“The increase in deployment should not be construed as an aggressive approach on our part. We are only securing out territory,” a top government official said.
What is most interesting is the new prime minister’s inauguration is also sending another message to China — one I suspect it will not much like:
…[T]he Chinese government has issued stapled visas to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The issuance of stapled visas to Kashmiris questions not only India’s sovereignty over J&K, but also shows China’s support for Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. In effect, by using the stapled visa argument, the Chinese have not only kept up pressure on the Arunachal Pradesh border issue; they have also infringed on India’s internal matters related to Kashmir.
However, despite China’s intransigence on their shared border and Kashmir, India has leverage to pressure China on Tibet. By inviting Lobsang Sangay, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Exiled Government in Dharamsala, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing in ceremony, India has taken a decisive step in addressing the stapled visa issue. Quite notably, the invitation to Modi’s swearing in was not to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, but to the democratically elected leader of the entire Tibetan community. It is worth recalling that the worldwide Tibetan community participates in the election of the Tibetan prime minister.
Clearly, the recognition accorded to Sangay at Modi’s swearing in ceremony questions China’s sovereignty in Tibet.
These two countries have a history of hostility. They went to war in 1962, and Tibet was at the crux of the conflict.
[O]n October 20, 1962, with the world’s terrified gaze fixed firmly on the U.S.-Soviet nuclear standoff in Cuba, China attacked India. Provoked by a territorial dispute and tensions over Tibet, the war was brief and China emerged victorious. However, the war still casts a long shadow over Sino-Indian relations and, despite substantial improvement over the years, continues to influence the bilateral relationship in three principal ways.
First, the war of 1962 sealed the fate of the Tibet issue as an eternal source of tension in Sino-Indian relations. Long before the war Tibet began to plague Beijing and Delhi’s relationship as China accused India of trying to undermine its rule in Tibet while India charged China with suppressing Tibetan autonomy. The war served to solidify those suspicions. This has had both strategic and tactical consequences.
The after-effects of this war border includes deep mistrust and a strong sense of rivalry between these two nations. The following video is a summary of that event, dubbed “The Lost War”, because it is not very well known.
Interestingly, the comments in the Youtube video show the Indians and Chinese haven’t exactly warmed to each other in the past 50-years, either.
It may be time to brush up on that bit of history. It looks like we may be seeing a redo of that war, just as it looks like we may be, once again, responding to the disaster that has become Iraq.
(Featured image: www.history.map.com)