New Delhi and Beijing accuse each other of crossing their common border. For several months, tensions between China and India have risen in this area of the Himalayas, causing fears of new clashes.
Incidents took place on Saturday 29 August and Monday 31 August in the Ladakh region, located in eastern India. According to Beijing and New Delhi, the border of effective control, which serves as the border between India and China but is not demarcated, has passed. But neither side admits to having done so.
A representative of the Tibetan exile parliament, Namghyal Dolkar Lhagyari, also announced that a soldier of Tibetan origin who was engaged in the Indian troops had been killed during a collision with the Chinese army.
A fatal collision, a first since1975
For Jean-Luc Racine, Emeritus Research Director at CNRS and Researcher at the Center for Thought in Asia, contacted by France24, this violence marks a turning point in China-India relations. “These clashes are not new, it is that there have been deaths. It is the first since 1975,” he explains.
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In fact, a bilateral agreement from 1993 forbids the armies to fire at the opposite camp. “The troops along the control line are visiting. They may be armed but unable to fire. On June 15, there was no shot but a fight. Soldiers fell into the river,” Jean-Luc Racine said.
By June 15, conflicts had already taken place in the mountainous region of Ladakh. At least 20 Indian soldiers died that day in conflict with their Chinese counterparts. China, for its part, has not communicated the number of victims.
An endangered status quo
After these new moments, the Indian army in late August accused China of “provocative military movements”.India announced in the wake that “has taken steps to strengthen [ses] positions and prevent China’s intentions to unilaterally change the situation on the ground.
Beijing, for its part, has denied all responsibility for these clashes. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that “since the beginning of this year, India[avait]repeatedly violated bilateral agreements and an important consensus “at the border.
And to claim that India “has unilaterally tried to change the status quo with violence, undermined peace, stability and caused tensions in the border area. The responsibility undoubtedly lies with the Indian side”.
An old conflict
This line of control was defined in 1962, when India defeated China in a conflict on the Himalayan border. But according to Jean-Luc Racine, “uncertainties remain around the line”. New clashes have thus taken place in the Aksai Chin region, administered by Beijing but claimed by New Delhi. According to Jean-Luc Racine, India is indeed based on “different British maps”, inherited from India’s independence in 1947. Documents leading to “different interpretations” of the line of control. .
For the Chinese, it is also a strategic area as it extends especially over two Chinese provinces, Tibet and Xinjiang, where Beijing wants to establish its sovereignty. This desire for dominance of Beijing may be the source of the escalation of disputes in this region of Kashmir. “This border operation could be a way to revive the nationalist machine,” the researcher indicates.
For Jean-Luc Racine, the latest violence can also be linked to military reactions. “The Chinese have increased the infrastructure in this disputed area. And in recent years, the Indians have done the same on their side of the control line, in the Ladakh region. The Chinese may have wanted to come forward when they saw that the Indians were in the process of strengthening their positions,” he said. the specialists.
These events also occur more than a year after the abolition of autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir, an Indian region claimed by Pakistan. “When the Indian government changed the status quo for Jammu and Kashmir, it also issued a new map redefining the regions. For the Indian authorities, the new map only put back on the table Indian claims that do not recognize the Chinese and Pakistani occupations” in Kashmir, Jean-Luc Racine explains that this decision could have triggered a reaction from Beijing.
Despite the increased tensions at the border, open conflict is unlikely, according to the specialist. “It would surprise me that these tensions are deteriorating because it is not in the interests of the two parties,” confirms Jean-Luc Racine. China is experiencing real growing tensions with the United States and is an important trading partner for India. Talks between officers from both sides were held on Wednesday, but no progress that could alleviate tensions was announced.