China’s increased military activity in the Taiwan Strait may have grabbed all the headlines in recent weeks, but thousands of miles to the west, another simmering territorial dispute on the country’s borders looks more likely to boil over first.
Just 16 months ago, Chinese and Indian troops fought a deadly hand-to-hand battle in the Himalayas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the ill-defined de facto border between the two nuclear powers.
And now, tensions appear to be rising again.
According to unverified reports, troops from both sides have been briefly detained by the other, as military positions are fortified and talks to deescalate the situation seem at an impasse.
In 1962, India and China went to war over the remote, inhospitable border regions high in the mountains, eventually establishing the LAC. But the two countries do not agree on its precise location and both regularly accuse the other of overstepping it, or seeking to expand their territory. Since then, they have had a series of mostly non-lethal scuffles over the position of the border — until the June 2020 clash, the deadliest on the LAC in more than 40 years.
After that battle, in which at least 20 Indian and four Chinese troops were killed, respective military leaders have held face-to-face talks to dampen lingering tensions.
The 13th of those meetings was held Sunday — and it didn’t end well. Earlier discussions had made some progress in calming the border, but a statement from the Indian Defense Ministry on Monday accused China of no longer cooperating.
“The Indian side pointed out that the situation along the LAC had been caused by unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter the status quo and in violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement said.
“The Indian side therefore made constructive suggestions for resolving the remaining areas but the Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals.”