Temporary calm returns on contested border between China and India

China and India’s foreign ministers after meeting in Moscow China and India’s foreign ministers after meeting in Moscow Xinhua

11 September 2020

The two countries have agreed to de-escalate tensions on their Himalayan border and use diplomacy to restore peace

Following a high-level diplomatic meeting in Moscow at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, China’s and India’s foreign ministers declared their intention to re-establish calm and tranquillity along their contested border in the western Himalayas, the so called Line of Actual Control. In a joint statement, Jaishankar and his counterpart Wang Yi concurred that the current situation was not in the interest of either side and presented a five-point agreement aimed at easing tensions and avoiding further confrontations. Among the measures to be taken, they announced that “the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”. The foreign ministers did not set any timeline for the withdrawal of the tens of thousands of troops both sides have deployed at the border, but agreed that they would respect existing agreements on the borders and would avoid any action that could lead to escalations.

In June,  tensions had erupted into fightings in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. The number of casualties China suffered are unclear. As a consequence,  troops were deployed and mutual accusations and other provocative moves ensued and  maintained troops from both sides on high alert, with soldiers coming face to face. Most recently, the situation had deteriorated again  amidst China’s accusation that  Indian troops had crossed the border and fired warning shots at Chinese soldiers. India retributed by accusing China of  violating the agreements and claiming that its  troops had kidnapped five civilians from an area near the disputed border. As it was feared that these developments had increased  the likelihood of a limited armed conflict, the announcement constitutes  a very significant step, a relief for both countries and even for the entire world, given that China and India are the two most populous nations on earth and major  nuclear powers.

Both countries’ troops were patrolling this region for decades, as the 2,200 mile long border has been the theatre of constant tensions, including a brief war in 1962. The Line of Actual Control is insufficiently demarcated and China and India interpret the exact location differently In order to establish their claims to territory, both nations built roads, airstrips, telephone lines and infrastructure. In particular, China claims more than 90,000sq km in the Eastern Himalayas and another 38,000sq km in the west and is accused of already occupying the territory of Aksai Chin claimed by India.


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Author: Michele Pitta

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