“The headline risk, at the moment, is greater than the actual risk of war.”
While the American Press has been navel-gazing after the Charlottesville violence, there has perhaps been a more significant clash on the other side of the world that seems…under-reported.
This weekend, I noted that India’s military has increased operational readiness along the eastern Indian border with China, as the nations have been embroiled in a two-month confrontation on the Doklam plateau (claimed by both China and India’s ally, Bhutan).
It seems that tensions have increased even more, and troops lobbed rocks at each other.
Chinese troops threw stones at Indian soldiers near Pangong Lake, a major tourist attraction in the picturesque mountain region of Ladakh on Tuesday, an Indian defence official said.
He said Chinese soldiers had twice tried to enter the Indian territory but had been pushed back.
“There was a minor incident. There was some stone pelting from the Chinese side but the situation was quickly brought under control,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The brief confrontation was resolved after Indian and Chinese sides retreated to their respective positions, he added.
Police in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Ladakh is located, said clashes were relatively common along the de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“These things happen every summer but this one was slightly prolonged and more serious but no weapons were used,” a police source in Srinagar told AFP.
Asia analysts Shailesh Kumar and Kelsey Broderick at consulting firm Eurasia Group offered this assessment about how much farther the hostilities would likely progress:
Ultimately for Broderick and Kumar, “The headline risk, at the moment, is greater than the actual risk of war.”
A conflict would stem the foreign investment that’s critical for India, whereas Chinese President Xi Jinping “has already consolidated enough power that he doesn’t need to beat his chest in an external conflict to further his domestic goals.”
…Broderick and Kumar said that China’s North Korea and South China Sea concerns take precedent because they “include multiple actors and the domestic economy.”
But they added that China’s firm grip on the situation was important, given its upcoming 19th Party Congress this autumn.
Broderick and Kumar also pointed out that Indian voters are more concerned with existential threats from Pakistan, rather than China.
Part of the Chinese interest in the region stems from its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a massive global infrastructure program to connect Chinese companies to new markets in a geopolitical power-play. The government has been using “check book diplomacy” to place a wedge between India and neighboring Nepal.
…In 2017, Beijing pledged $8.3 billion to build roads and hydropower plants in Nepal, dwarfing India’s commitments of $317 million.
Feasibility studies are also underway for a Beijing-backed railway connecting Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet, cutting straight through the Himalayas at an estimated cost of $8 billion.
Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat magazine, said that could be a game-changer for the small country.
…“China knows that its chequebook diplomacy with the smaller Asian states is a sore point with India, which simply cannot afford to put up the kind of capital outlays that the Chinese promise,” said Panda.
India has snubbed the plan and skipped a summit related to the initiative Beijing earlier this year. So while a military battle seems unlikely, it appears that the two nations are waging a battle for power and influence.DONATE
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