Indians respond to Chinese moves by building infrastructure on their side of the border. China is replicating and adapting military tactics already used with Taiwan and in the South China Sea. Delhi defies Beijing by deploying military exercises with the United States less than 100 km from the crisis zones.
Rome () – The territorial dispute between India and China along their border with the Himalayas has become a game of mirrors. The Indian media reveals that Delhi has accelerated the construction of new infrastructure near the border, and that these could be used for military purposes.
Beijing has been doing the same for a long time. On July 1, Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, announced the construction of two new highways. A project that worries Indians in the long term: one will connect Tibet with neighboring Xinjiang on the temporary border with India; the other will connect Xinjiang with the Sino-Pakistani border. The two projects are part of a national plan to build 461,000 kilometers of roads and highways by 2035.
The two countries have deployed between 50,000 and 60,000 soldiers and a growing amount of heavy weapons on each side of the border, the most militarized in the world after the border between Russia and Ukraine. In June 2020, Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Galwan Valley, between Indian Ladakh and Chinese Aksai Chin: 20 Indian soldiers were killed; the number of Chinese casualties is unknown.
China and India share a 2,100-mile border in the Himalayas, over which they fought a brief but bloody conflict in 1962. Delhi claims large areas of Aksai Chin (which the Chinese seized from Pakistan); Beijing claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Despite almost 16 rounds of talks between the two sides, the deadlock situation has not been resolved. The failure of the talks is due to China’s refusal to withdraw from the Hot Springs area in eastern Ladakh. For its part, Beijing accuses Delhi of not wanting to reduce its troops in the Depsang plains.
According to Delhi, the Chinese Air Force carries out repeated air raids in the “friction” zones. Most likely, China is replicating and adapting military tactics already used on other boards, for use on the Himalayan border.
The outposts – civil and military – built in Tibet and Xinjiang are reminiscent of China’s bases on the disputed islets and atolls of the South China Sea. On the other hand, the Chinese Air Force is testing Delhi’s defenses. Chinese aircraft and helicopter missions near Indian Territory are repeated, a tactic also used with Taiwan. And even more: the Chinese could try to fool their Indian counterparts with maneuvers that help disguise a real attack in the future.
Indian General Vinod Bhatia explains to that the mirror deployment of the Indians prevented a military escalation after the clashes in the Galwan Valley. According to the retired military officer, a former director general of military operations in Delhi, India’s “deterrence” has so far been successful because his country has been able to confront China from a position of relative strength.
Bathia also believes that the upcoming deployment of the S-400 air and missile defense system will be a game changer. India acquired this system from Russia, and it promises to increase its ability to counter any surprise Chinese attack.
The Indian general is convinced that China is not interested in a conflict in the Himalayas. Beijing is primarily focused on great power competition with the United States. However, the Sino-American confrontation will also touch the Himalayan peaks: from October 18 to 31, Indian and American troops will carry out exercises in Uttarakhand, less than 100 km from the disputed border between Delhi and Beijing.