December 1, 2020

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China-India border: Beijing wants ‘no more clashes’

China says it does not want to see any more clashes on the border with India after fighting that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers. Meanwhile, India is awaiting the response of nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday said China was not to be blamed for the clash and that the overall situation at the border was stable. He said both countries were seeking to resolve the situation through dialogue.

According to Indian officials no shots were fired, but soldiers were hit with clubs and stones during the brawl between the two sides in the remote Galwan Valley. At least 20 Indian soldiers died, with India saying there were also casualties on the Chinese side.

China’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that there was a “violent physical confrontation” in the border area, but not that the Chinese military had sustained casualties.

The Chinese foreign ministry claims that Indian troops crossed the border twice on Monday, and that India was guilty of “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel.” The ministry said Beijing had lodged “strong protests and representations” to Delhi.

The response in India

India was on Wednesday awaiting the response of nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met with his defence and foreign ministers and the military chiefs late on Tuesday.

Modi has so far refrained from commenting publicly, as a clamour for action rose over the past day.

Leader of the opposition Congress party Rahul Gandhi said a response was needed urgently. “Why is the PM silent? Why is he hiding?” he tweeted.

DW’s Nimisha Jaiswal in Delhi says there has been a drive in India recently to “hurt China economically.” However, she says, the “warmongering, ingoistic response” amongst the publich when it comes to Pakistan is “missing when it comes to conflict China.” 

Why is there tension at the border?

Over the past few weeks, Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in aggressive posturing at multiple locations along the two nations’ de facto border, known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), raising tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Thousands of extra troops from both sides have been deployed to the border zone in recent weeks.

On May 5, a scuffle broke out at the Pangong Tso lake, located 14,000 feet (4,270 meters) above the sea level in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, when Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries.

Days later, on May 9, dozens of Chinese and Indian soldiers were injured in fistfights and stone-throwing when another fight erupted at Nathu La Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim, nearly 1,200 kilometers to the east along the LAC.

The tension might have been triggered by infrastructure activities carried out by India along the LAC, some analysts say. In the past 10 years, India has been boosting its border infrastructure, with new roads and airbases inaugurated in remote Himalayan areas.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, referred to informally by some Chinese as “Southern Tibet.” India, on the other hand, claims sovereignty over 38,000 square kilometers  of the Aksai Chin plateau.

rc/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP) (DW)