News cycles lately have been almost exclusively dedicated to coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic at the local, regional, and global levels. Understandably, many important events have either been under-reported, or have slipped through the cracks. One of those events is the continuing standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in eastern Ladakh at four separate points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which separates Chinese-controlled territory from Indian-controlled territory. Essentially, the LAC is the border between India and China.
India’s infrastructure development projects taking place in close proximity to the border seem to have been the initial cause of the standoff. China then began moving in large numbers of troops, and military equipment to the border and India responded in similar fashion. The situation deteriorated on 5 May when Indian and Chinese troops took part in a violent confrontation along the LAC which carried over to the next day before both sides agreed to disengage. Over 100 troops from both sides were injured in the violence. Four days later a second incident took place at another point involving 150 Indian and Chinese troops. There were injuries sustained in this face off too.
Since then, more Chinese troops have entered the border area and established camps. Both sides are complaining of LAC violations by the other’s patrols. Quite honestly, it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on around the border, but this is an area that has seen standoffs between India and China in the past. So, in that regard this situation is regarded by many observers, and Indian politicians as nothing out of the ordinary and will run its course in the coming weeks.
There is a difference now, however. The current standoff comes at a time when China desperately needs to show strength. The pandemic which originated in Wuhan, is damaging the nation’s economy, and severely worsening relations with other nations. China’s actions along the border now could be part of a greater effort to put pressure on India in order to gain leverage in bilateral issues. Or it could be part of the growing Chinese diplomatic and military assertiveness going on around the globe right now.
In any case, China’s behavior carries significant risk. India has demonstrated in the past that it will match Chinese military moves near the border, and not be forced to back down. As a result, Ladakh is an area that should be monitored closely in the coming weeks.