Military commanders of Indian and Chinese armies have been holding several rounds of talks to resolve the impasse at the four stand-off points in eastern Ladakh as the soldiers. The meetings at Galwan region’s Patrolling Point 14 – the site of a bloody clash on Monday evening that killed 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number from the Chinese side – have helped lower the tension at the border but from all available indicators, the two sides are far from a resolution. Patrolling Point 14 is in control of the Indian army but the Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers – which now claims Galwan valley as Chinese territory – are standing close by maintaining the face-off.
India’s border dispute with China that blew up this week takes the shine off the many agreements between the two sides not to let differences turn into disputes. At Galwan, President Xi Jingping’s PLA is trying to create a new one.
And it isn’t only on its border with India that President Xi’s China has manufactured a problem. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking during an online conference on democracy, attacked China for its “rogue” attitude in its entire neighbourhood. The US Navy has deployed its 300,000 tonne aircraft carriers to the Pacific Ocean on June 15. This is the first biggest deployment of US super-carriers – USS Ronald Reagan, USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz – since 2017. While the US has not attributed any security motives to the deployment, it is quite evident that the move is to counter Chinese aggressive posture over Taiwan.
The last stand-off between India and China was over Beijing’s encroachment and construction activities at Doklam, at the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, that continued for 73 days. China had backed out as part of the peace deal between India and China but according to multiple reports, was back at its game. There have been similar such encroachments, construction activities and cases where Chinese patrols have intimidated Bhutanese graziers from accessing pasture lands within Bhutan territory in other sectors of Bhutan-China borders.
South China Sea
China has been flexing its muscles for complete control over the resource-rich South China Sea. China’s claim to the waters based on “historic rights” was turned down by a 2016 arbitration ruling but that hasn’t stopped China from amping up efforts to militarise the zone.
That South China sea is one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes that serves as a passage for annual trade worth $ 3.5 trillion implies that this territorial claim impacts not just its smaller neighbours, but a larger number of countries.
To be sure, China has island and maritime border disputes with Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea and its extension. The disputes include islands, reefs, banks and other features in the South China Sea including Spratly Islands (with Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan), Paracel Islands (Vietnam), Scarborough Shoal (Philippines), and Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam).
In addition, China claims the entire Taiwan and its controlled islands as its own.
Eastern China Sea
China has Exclusive Economic Zone disputes with North Korea, South Korea and Japan in the Yellow Sea (North Koren/South Korea) and East China Sea (South Korea/Japan). In addition, China claims Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands of Japan. The area again sees a huge intra-region and global trade and Chinese claim would spill over the region and affect many more countries beyond the immediate region.
Around the same time that Kathmandu had objected to a fresh map issued by India last year, Nepal’s Survey Department had accused China of having encroached Nepali land in northern districts of Humla, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Sankhuwasabha. There were protests against China in Nepal after this survey report was leaked but Nepal’s communist party didn’t escalate the border dispute with China that has been pouring billions of rupees in investments into the country and kept the spotlight firmly on India’s map instead. China has also initiated an exercise to measure the height of Mount Everest and installed telecommunication equipment to provide 5G services on it. In May, the state-run China Global Television Network claimed Mount Everest as part of China in a tweet but deleted the post after outrage.