China & India: All Not Quiet on the Western Front
Image Credit: Flickr (94142146@N05)

China & India: All Not Quiet on the Western Front


Reports of a fresh Chinese incursion in India’s Ladakh region surfaced in the first week of July, barely two months after a tense border face-off in mid-April when a Chinese platoon set up camp about 19 km inside Indian territory. Reports of the latest incursion, which took place on June 17, came three days after the July 5-6 visit of the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to China.

According to reports, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) patrol in the Chumar sector of southern Ladakh smashed Indian bunkers on June 17 and took away a camera placed on the ground, about 6 km ahead of an Indian Army post. The camera was ostensibly installed by the Indian Army to monitor Chinese troop movements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border separating Indian-administered Kashmir from the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin area.

India reportedly raised the issue two days after the incident at a border meeting on June 19. The Chinese returned the non-functional camera in early July. Given that the reports surfaced three weeks following the incident and going by New Delhi and Beijing’s attempts to play down the incident, it seems as if the two countries do not want to see a repeat of the April stand-off.

Reacting to the incident, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying denied the reports saying, “I have seen the relevant reports but I am not aware of the specific situation." She added, “Chinese defence forces have been patrolling along the Chinese side of the LAC of the China-India border. The general situation in the border areas is stable. We have the consensus that pending the final settlement of the boundary question no one of us should change the status quo along the LAC."

However, the Indian government’s attempts to play down the situation did not go well with the opposition, with the Bharatiya Janata Party accusing the government of “suppressing” the information. In the government’s defense, its response may have been guided by an attempt to prevent the situation from snowballing into a raging controversy fuelled by India’s hyper-sensitive media.

Yet the latest incident is a cause of deep concern and raises serious questions about China’s intentions. Even more so, since the incident has occurred against a backdrop of a spate of high-level visits exchanged between the two countries in recent months, including that of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India in May. Interestingly, New Delhi and Beijing held the 16th round of their Special Representatives' talks on the boundary question barely days after the incursion in the Chumar sector, which focused on devising joint mechanisms to avoid repetition of a Depsang-like situation.

However, despite claims by the Chinese interlocutor Yang Jiechi of “breaking new ground”, the two countries seem nowhere close to resolving the boundary dispute. China’s perceived incursions also come at a time when Beijing is involved in territorial disputes with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam – which makes the timing of its territorial row with India all the more curious.

Whichever way one looks at them, these incursions do not bode well for Sino-Indian ties and raise questions about the intentions of the new Chinese dispensation in Beijing, which seems to be potentially testing the waters before forcing the border issue with India. They may also shed light on the multiple factors influencing Chinese decision-making, including domestic constraints and government-military relations, among others. India would do well to expect and be prepared for similar border incursions over the coming months – particularly at a time when the Indian government’s political capital is at its lowest in the lead-up to the 2014 elections.

One way India could strengthen its hand in its dealings with China would be by shedding some of its ambivalence towards the so-called US pivot to Asia and intensifying its diplomatic engagement with other Asian partners like Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

December 31, 2013 at 21:43

Jumping on the pirated version of weapons does not make china powerful. At first you have to understand power doesnot come from the muscles you have. But obviously it comes through words you use. If china were really a powerful country that you always try to display then the countries like Philippines, Taiwaan have bow downed in front of The so called Chinese power.
There is no difference between somali robbers and your China because somali robs ships laden with goods and you robs defense architectures through hacking. You are just trying to make china a saint in the daylight but unfortunately whole world knows you are a hackers who stole. All the defense equipment you made is based on the US or Russian architect. What kind of people you all are? If you can not admit the truths then not to be like a saint. The way always you try to display yourself is just the illusion.

December 31, 2013 at 21:05

@Samin khan
How could you become a barrister even when you dont have knowledge about history. I dont know your age but it seems to me that you are still enjoying your school life. And, dont talk about Talibaan. See what is going on in your mainland, Baluchistaan and so on. Look my dear son, you are just about to ablaze yourself. Just give some more autonomy to Talibaan, I wish. On the world’s map Pakistan is Failed state not because of talibaan but a barrister like you. May the allah bless you your current state of mind.

July 17, 2013 at 00:48

@ TDog said "China, at least according to China, tried for decades to resolve these disputes via diplomacy and, obviously, got nowhere."


LOL, are you for real?


Let ask Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Vietnam (Paracel Islands in 1974 and Spratly in 1988), India (1962), Philippines (Scaborough Shoal in 2012) and so on how bully china treat them with diplomacy.


July 16, 2013 at 13:04

these issues and news can continue forever…

CCP has lots of issues internally and so does Indian goverment. Overall borders are safe and noone wants to escalate the issues to war. India and China are too huge and too close with too deadly weapons that war is no more an option to resolve any issue.

papa john
July 16, 2013 at 10:33

Now you really earned 55 cents for this post. Defending China's greatest territorial grab in this 21st century is a shameless stupid act. But what can we expect from a Tdog barking for his commie boss?

July 16, 2013 at 06:45

On the contrary.  The "alliance" that the US is putting together is nowhere near as cohesive as most people tend to think (wish?) and tends to emphasize self-preservation rather than collective security.  The result is not a NATO-esque organziation where an attack on one is an attack on all, but rather a loose mob whose sole common ground is a distrust of China.  The Philippines, for example, is unlikely to employ its military against China in the event of a Chinese incursion into Indian territory.  

This current umbrella organization is best defined as an American attempt to find people willing to subsume their national interests in favor of propping up America's dominant position in world affairs.  And while some nations like Japan and South Korea are more than willing to, others like India and Vietnam seem less inclined to act in a similar fashion.

Furthermore, China's territorial claims and disputes are nothing new.  When China was unable to press its claims, however, people took that to mean there was no dispute.  Now that China can, there seems to be this panic in the air with a bunch of people wondering "where did this come from?"  China, at least according to China, tried for decades to resolve these disputes via diplomacy and, obviously, got nowhere.  Only the most obdurate individual or government would insist upon sticking with a nonproductive course of action and obviously China felt that pure diplomacy was getting it nowhere.  

By pressing its claims with both soft and hard power, China has gotten people's attention and put itself in a win-win situation.  If negotiations are a result of its military muscle flexing, China gets what it asked for years ago.  If no negotiations are forthcoming, China can occupy most if not all  of the territory currently in dispute, thus gaining de facto possession of the regions in question.


samin khan barrister at law
July 14, 2013 at 17:13

First of all laddakh is not part of india but of indian occupied kashmir-

secondly when india was defeated near sikkim and chinese entered the area and the deputy commissioner ran away-then i had advised president ayub khan to take action in kashmir and laddakh but then arrived the two famous diplomats -one from usa the other from london who persuaded presdent ayub khan not to attack india and take kashmir and laddakh which is part of kashmir-that was the great mistake committed by president Ayub khan now it will be only taliban who will take over kashmir but also former east punjab and create a sikh province within pakistan-even now many sikhs have migrated to pakistan's tribal areas.

sameen khan

barrister at law.

July 13, 2013 at 01:32

Sun Tzu wrote that alliances of the enemy need to be weakened. Beijing's doing the opposite. It's galvanizing its neighbors to flock under the US umbrella. Is Beijing actually doing Washington's bidding?

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief