India, China hold talks amid ‘volatile’ border situation

Second day of talks held as rival soldiers confront each other at their contested Himalayan border in Ladakh.

India china border
An Indian army soldier keeps guard on top of his vehicle as their convoy moves on the Srinagar- Ladakh highway at Gagangir, northeast of Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir [Mukhtar Khan/AP]

Indian and Chinese military commanders have held talks for a second day as rival soldiers confront each other at their contested Himalayan border in Ladakh, bringing fears of a military escalation.

Both of the Asian giants have accused the other of fresh provocations, including allegations of soldiers crossing into each other’s territory, months after their deadliest standoff in decades.

Details of the talks which resumed on Tuesday morning weren’t immediately disclosed.

China and India have been holding dialogue to negotiate a Chinese withdrawal from the border since May when the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) troops transgressed into the Indian side of the de facto border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Tens of thousands of troops from the rivals sides have amassed across the disputed border since then. The border conflagration escalated on June 15 when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.

India china border
An Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway in Indian-administered Kashmir [Mukhtar Khan/AP]

“Both armies are now confronting each other at the border, it’s an extremely volatile and dangerous situation out there,” Ajai Shukla, defence analyst, told Al Jazeera.

“India has been trying to sort of arrange a mutual de-escalation, a disengagement and a pullback to their respective sides of the border.

But by all accounts, China is not willing to do that, it is willing to talk, but at the same time, it’s continuing its hostile and aggressive stance – and that is what is causing the Indian side to build up and to be prepared for any further escalation of the situation by China.”

On Monday, India said its soldiers had thwarted “provocative” movements by China’s military on Saturday night. In turn, China’s defence ministry accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control and creating provocations along the disputed border on Monday.

Both India and China have provided little information, but media in the two countries have given extensive coverage to the escalating tensions.

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu reporting from Beijing, said: “We have had a more aggressive response from Chinese state media. The Global Times which had a quite aggressive editorial saying that India should be under no illusion that the Chinese are not willing and ready to take on India.”

The official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party blamed India for the latest standoff.

According to the Global Times, Al Jazeera’s Katrina said they have also undertaken a survey with their readers, vast majority of whom say they are tired of what it calls “hostile behaviour” from the Indian side and that 90 percent would support military action.

“But there has also been an acknowledgement from China that India is also an important neighbour – a lot of trade is done with India and they would like to maintain peace,” Katrina Yu said.

The standoff is over disputed portions of a pristine landscape high in the Karakoram mountains that boasts the world’s highest landing strip, a glacier that feeds one of the largest irrigation systems in the world, and is a critical link in China’s enormous “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.

India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory and separated it from Indian-administered Kashmir in August 2019, ending its semi-autonomous status and straining the already prickly relationship between New Delhi and Beijing.

China was among the countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the UN Security Council.

According to some Indian and Chinese strategic experts, India’s move exacerbated existing tensions with China, leading to the deadly June border clash.

The disputed and undemarcated 3,500-kilometre (2,175-mile) border between India and China stretches from the Ladakh region in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim.

The two nations fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. Since then, troops from opposing sides have guarded the undefined mountain border area, occasionally brawling. They have agreed not to attack each other with firearms.

Rival soldiers brawled bitterly in May, and in June, fought with clubs, stones and their fists, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead. China did not report any casualties.

Accusing each other of instigating the violence, both sides have pledged to safeguard their territory but also try to end the standoff, which has dramatically changed the India-China relationship.

India has banned dozens of Chinese apps, including popular video-sharing app TikTok, and has placed restrictions on Chinese investments amid the backlash against Beijing following the deadly border clashes in June.

Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks on ending the crisis have been unsuccessful.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies