Posted in: Tattle, World

Here’s why tensions are running high on India and China’s border | Mukul Kesavan

Modi sells himself as a guardian of India. But a deadly clash with his most powerful neighbour shows his rhetoric has limits

The Chinese assault on Indian troops near the Galwan Valley, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that serves as an unofficial international frontier between the two countries, is, for India’s political elite, a reminder of an awkward reality. India’s control over its border with China is contingent on China’s geopolitical priorities, not India’s own military capacity. This has been true for more than half a century. In 1962, 15 years into India’s life as an independent nation, a dispute over Aksai Chin, the north-eastern “ear” of Kashmir, led to a short war with Mao Zedong’s China and a humiliating defeat for India. China’s military edge along this huge disputed frontier has kept successive Indian governments on tenterhooks ever since.

Dealt a poor hand, India has played it reasonably well. The 20 military casualties in the recent violence is its largest death toll in relation to China since 1967. Keeping the peace has involved some imaginative diplomacy. After a border confrontation in Arunachal Pradesh in 1986, India’s then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, visited China in 1988 to thaw out a relationship that had been in deep freeze since the 1962 war. His visit led to a peace agreement signed in 1993 by his successor, Narasimha Rao, which made the LAC the basis for a stable and relatively peaceful status quo.

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