Indian Decade

India-China Tranquility Fading?

The unofficial border between India and China is usually described as tranquil. Is that starting to change?

“Tranquil” is the word often used by India and China to describe the state of their unofficial border – the Line of Actual Control. Yet tensions are simmering between both nations over troop deployments along the LAC, suggesting the so-called tranquility of their unrecognized international border is fading.

Chinese state-controlled media has reacted angrily to the Indian military build-up along the LAC and, for the first time, China’s Chengdu Military Region has organized an Army-Air Force drill using live ammunition in an area 4,500 meters above sea level.

A Chinese language blog reported on October 21, under the heading “PLA’s Powerful Exercise: Lightning Hit Back at India’s Border Provocation,” that live ammunition war games were held soon after the Indian Army-Air Force Exercise along Rajasthan border. As China specialist D.S. Rajan noted writing for the South Asia Analysis Group, the blog suggested that MI-17 helicopters, F-10 fighter aircraft, 122-mm howitzers, two car- mounted anti-aircraft artillery groups and a large number of infantry fighting vehicles.

Also on October 21, a Chinese website published an extended article titled “India’s Border Blitz, Not to be Routine, with No Prior Notice to Beijing,” giving details of the Indian deployment along the LAC that is supposed to have used China’s strengthening of its troop deployment in Tibet as a “pretext.” It says that India has so far deployed 240 to 300 fighter aircraft, five mountain infantry divisions and one mechanized division in the eastern sector, including Arunachal Pradesh.

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As Rajan also noted, the piece took special note of reports in the Indian media of the Indian government supposedly sanctioning deployment of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh. It described the move as the first time India would be deploying offensive tactical missiles against China, thus signaling a marked shift in the Indian military strategy vis-à-vis China from “defensive” to “offensive.”

For the first time, the tranquility along the LAC seems fragile. Whether such concerns prove founded will now largely be determined by the response of the Chinese, who are now on the receiving end of their own massive military build-up. The ball is in China’s court.