Sino-Indian update 24 June, 2020

India and China are in agreement that a speedy implementation of the disengagement and de-escalation measures agreed to by their senior military leaders is essential at this time. The joint stance does not signify an imminent scaling down of tensions in the ongoing standoff between India and China. It must be remembered that discussions between Indian and Chinese corps-level general officers took place before the 15 June clash, and similar measures were agreed to then. They did not prevent Chinese and Indian troops from engaging in a violent battle that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, and there is no guarantee the more recent agreements will prevent future incidents. Senior diplomats from both countries held a video conference today. The situation along the Indian-Chinese border was discussed, and both sides agreed to maintain communication at the diplomatic and military levels. They also reaffirmed the measures mentioned briefly above.

The lighting rounds of in-person discussions, and video conferences this week has not stopped the buildup of forces on both sides of the border. Chinese and Indian reinforcements continue to pour into the region, and construction of new outposts, and infrastructure is continuing. This reinforces the theory that while both India and China might be hopeful diplomatic measures can bring a viable solution to the crisis, neither side is banking on it.

There are growing discussions on Chinese President Xi’s motivation for sparking a crisis with China’s large neighbor to the south at this point. Some analysts speculate the move is part of a larger pattern of Chinese actions aimed at taking advantage of a distracted world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of my colleagues believe Xi’s reasoning has more to do with strengthening his diminishing grip on the People’s Republic of China. Personally, I suspect it has more to do with the former reasoning, yet nothing can be ruled out at this point. The potential for future clashes on the ground remain, and the crisis has yet to be decisively concluded.

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