In early May, a brutal fistfight erupted along the Himalayan border between Chinese and Indian soldiers. A few days after the initial fight, Chinese troops confronted Indian soldiers again at remote points in the Himalayas. At the glacial lake of Pangong Tso, one fight injured Indian soldiers so badly they were evacuated by helicopter. Thousands of troops have been moved to the border as part of a military buildup.
Both nations are concerned about incursions along the border. According to Brahma Chellaney, a strategic studies professor at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, “The military skirmishes and standoffs with India seem to reflect Beijing’s calculation that India’s still increasing COVID-19 infections, coupled with its economic downturn, place it in no position to wage a border conflict.”
In contrast, China believes that the problem is rooted in Indian trespassing. “The Chinese border troops are committed to upholding China’s territorial and sovereignty security, responding resolutely to India’s trespassing and infringing activities and maintaining peace and tranquillity,” said spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
Both nations patrol the disputed border territory under strict orders to not shoot at the other side.
The relationship between the two countries has long been complicated by border struggles. In 1962, border tensions between the two nations broke out into a short violent conflict known as the Sino-Indian war. Today, the conflict is stoked by the growing economic strength of India that is being played out at these out-of-the-way borders.