Asia
Op-Ed

China’s Strategic Assessment of the Clash in Ladakh

Despite what the outsiders might see as China’s mistake, China is unlikely to change its current strategic assessment.

Part of the Chinese Foreign Policy Project
China
By Yun Sun

The article was originally published in War on the Rocks.

In early May, Chinese and Indian troops confronted each other along their remote, disputed border in the Himalayas. For forty days, the two sides engaged in a tense standoff, but a fragile peace held. On June 15, all that changed. Fighting with rocks and wooden clubs wrapped in barbed wire, dozens of soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat along desolate ridges high above river gorges. Some soldiers reportedly fell hundreds of feet to their deaths.

China and India — the two most populous countries in the world, and both nuclear-armed — are now engaged in the most dangerous border crisis since they fought a war in 1962. For now, hopes that cooler heads would prevail in Beijing and New Delhi appear misplaced.

At issue is the western sector of the disputed border, between Indian-controlled Ladakh and Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin. The escalating troop deployment, tension, and death toll have pushed tensions to their highest levels in over 50 years. While both China and India have shown a clear interest in de-escalation and dialogue — demonstrated by their relatively calm and non-escalatory statements after the deadly skirmish on June 16 — the latest developments mark a new low in bilateral ties. Restoring a fraught peace now will be easier said than done.

Read the full article.

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