With both sides beefing up, latest India-China border clash a bad sign: Asian Insider
Published on 22 Dec, 2022

Synopsis: Each fourth Friday of the month, The Straits Times' US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh presents an Asian perspective of the biggest global talking points with expert guests.

On Dec 9 Indian and Chinese troops got into a skirmish on the border of India’s northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state with China - the eastern sector of the long and in many places disputed Himalayan border. As previously in 2020, this skirmish did not involve firearms, but no less brutal hand-to-hand combat with weapons like wooden clubs embedded with nails. In this new clash there were reported injuries, but no deaths.

In this episode on the volatile Himalayan border, Nirmal Ghosh hosts Dr Manoj Joshi, a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi and author of a new book Understanding the India-China Border: The Enduring Threat of War in High Himalaya; and Dr Aparna Pande, a scholar of Indian and South Asian foreign policy, and Director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC.

Highlights (click/tap above):

2:08 This time, very clearly, the Chinese came up with a plan. They had an extraordinarily large number in their patrol. This was not just a patrol. But given their 2020 experience, the Indians were ready.

4:10 The significance of Tawang is not just strategic, but that the Tawang Monastery is there – one of the most sacred places for Tibetan Buddhists.

5:44 The obsession with Tawang actually begins only in the mid-1980s. The Chinese said if you want to settle the (disputes border), you must give us Tawang – and India has bluntly said that means you don’t want a settlement.

 6:45 The Indian Army is on Yangtse, and the Chinese are trying to push them out.

 7:45 The Chinese have fobbed off Indian attempts to negotiate a settlement on the border. Overlapping claims are convenient, keeping India off balance.

 10:00 A 1996 agreement between India and China prohibits using weapons in the 2-kilometre zone along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). But how long will that last? It’s a matter of time before a breakdown.

 12:35 Chinese actions on the border have driven India and the United States to become more closely aligned.

 13:00 Broad consensus in India on China, and strong defences in the Himalayas. India dropped the ball in 2020 but learned its lesson.

 14:05 The Chinese have been rapidly beefing up infrastructure in Yangtse; there is a buildup – on both sides.

15:30 At the end of the day the border issue has to be decided at the highest levels in both countries, otherwise, it will escalate.

Produced by: Nirmal Ghosh (nirmal@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis, Hadyu Rahim and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim and Fa’izah Sani

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