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Thread: A clash between India and China?

  1. #1
    Stranger in a strange land Moderator Hooahguy's Avatar
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    Default A clash between India and China?

    With everyone being focused on North Korea, another situation seems to be brewing between India and China:

    The China Daily editorial said the clock was ticking and that it seemed like a clash would be “an inevitable conclusion” between the two prominent Asian countries if India did pull back its troops from the disputed Doklam region.

    The article referred to a border standoff between the two countries that has continued for over two months. The controversy began when India opposed China’s plan to extend a border road through a disputed plateau which Bhutan says is its Doklam region and China claims as part of its Donglang region.

    I always assumed that if a war was going to occur in that region it would be between India and Pakistan, so this is kind of a surprise.
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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?


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    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    May you live in interesttimg times

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    Member Member Crandar's Avatar
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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    China's border with India is not disputed, but the same doesn't apply to Bhutan, which is supported by India. The controversy stems from a geographic mistake the demarcating commission made, when it failed to estimate the highest peak.

    Doklam is a poor region of minor economic importance, but whoever controls the highest peak can effectively close the narrow pass connecting the Seven Sister States with the rest of India, which makes Doklam of paramount strategic importance.

    Tensions are high, but I doubt anyone is willing to launch an offensive, although they are also afraid of the political cost, if they seem to conciliatory to an aggressive public.

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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    Quote Originally Posted by Crandar View Post
    China's border with India is not disputed, but the same doesn't apply to Bhutan, which is supported by India. The controversy stems from a geographic mistake the demarcating commission made, when it failed to estimate the highest peak.

    Doklam is a poor region of minor economic importance, but whoever controls the highest peak can effectively close the narrow pass connecting the Seven Sister States with the rest of India, which makes Doklam of paramount strategic importance.

    Tensions are high, but I doubt anyone is willing to launch an offensive, although they are also afraid of the political cost, if they seem to conciliatory to an aggressive public.
    Makes sense. Even if they do clash, it will be conventional, localized, and infantry only (read glorified posturing/chest beating). There world stands on end in those parts.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus Fermanagh View Post
    Makes sense. Even if they do clash, it will be conventional, localized, and infantry only (read glorified posturing/chest beating). There world stands on end in those parts.


  7. #7

    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    it seems to also have something to do with the future of traditional Indian hegemony over Bhutan.

    Why Bhutan is the Wildcard...

    As July 2017 comes to a close, the situation at Doklam appears to be stable and tense, with neither side likely to escalate matters soon. India continues to defy a Chinese ultimatum that diplomacy can only take place once Indian troops withdraw to their side of the Himalayan ridge line.

    If China does escalate, it may choose to do so in another sector. Perhaps China’s military may take steps to seize territory on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. In the meantime, the longer the stand-off persists, the more unilateral drawdown becomes an unappetizing loss of face for either side.

    Neither of these proud and rising Asian powers wants to be seen as capitulating in a scenario where both sides are convinced of the fundamental righteousness of their positions. Ultimately, it comes down to complex hermeneutics around a 1890 convention between British India and the Qing Empire and subsequent agreements, including a non-public 2012 agreement in which India claims China would agree to resolve outstanding triboundary disputes in consultation with the concerned third parties – Bhutan, in this case.

    Bhutan, China’s only neighbor with which it has no diplomatic ties, has engaged in 24 rounds of border negotiations with Beijing. Doklam is not the only sector where Bhutan and China have disputes and, while the sector matters immensely for India, where it is seen as a natural bulwark against the PLA’s access to the vulnerable Siliguri corridor, for Bhutan, there are good reasons to allow favorable concessions to China at Doklam.

    In 2005, Bhutan, then still obliged to defer to Delhi on matters of foreign and security policy, reportedly had made important unilateral concessions toward China that left Indian policymakers livid. Though the exact offer remains secret, it is likely that Beijing offered to settle for a small concession at Doklam in exchange for Bhutan’s gaining a wider swathe of territory in the north and east.

    Though the 2005 matter was hardly reported and managed carefully between India and Bhutan behind the scenes, it leaves the sense that Thimphu is the key to the ongoing stand-off. If the PLA’s move to extend the road in June was more than tactical, it may have sought to highlight the growing schism between India and one of its closest allies and neighbours.

    I have a hard time conceptualizing mountainous geomorphology. The maps/panoramas from these articles (especially the Chinese govt map) are very useful in 'getting the lay of the land'. This series of linked articles is also informative on the text alone.

    1. The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam
    2. What's Driving the India-China Standoff at Doklam?

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

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    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

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  8. #8
    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    These guys just want youtube clicks to get rich fast.

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    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    A war of words is probably all both sides can be bothered with at the moment - bigger problems and opportunities elsewhere.

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    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: A clash between India and China?

    A good article on the situation and a bit of history:

    As the world witnesses the growing threat of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, China, which many hope can influence North Korea, is engaged elsewhere in an escalating crisis. China has been embroiled in a border standoff since June 16 in the Doklam area of Bhutan. The conflict started when People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineers crossed into Bhutan on June 16, and began construction of a motorable road from Dokola to Jampheri, which houses a Bhutan army camp. In a press release issued by the Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country asserted that such Chinese activities amounted to “a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries. Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before 16 June 2017.”

    Significantly, China and Bhutan have no official diplomatic relations; yet both have held several rounds of talks on boundary demarcation and have pledged to resolve their border differences peacefully. In 1988, China and Bhutan signed an agreement on the “Guiding Principles” and in 1998 they signed an agreement on “Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility in the Bhutan-China Border Areas.” As per these agreements, both countries committed to resolve the border dispute peacefully through dialogue and consultation, and restrain from any activity that would threaten the peace. Both committed to uphold the status quo and not change either their borders or establish physical presence. In essence, both agreed to uphold their respective border positions established prior to March 1959.

    China now asserts that the pledge for peaceful resolution of the boundary dispute with Bhutan is not valid for the Doklam area, as it has historically belonged to China. China’s foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang asserted in a press conference in Beijing on June 28 that

    Doklam has been a part of China since ancient times. It does not belong to Bhutan, still less India. That is an indisputable fact supported by historical and jurisprudential evidence, and the ground situation. It is utterly unjustifiable if the Indian side wants to make an issue of it. China’s construction of road in Doklam is an act of sovereignty on its own territory. It is completely justified and lawful, and others have no right to interfere. I would like to stress once again that Bhutan is a world-recognized, independent sovereign state. We hope that all countries can respect Bhutan’s sovereignty. Although the boundary between China and Bhutan is yet to be demarcated, the two sides have been working on that through peaceful negotiation. Any third party must not and does not have the right to interfere, still less make irresponsible moves or remarks that violate the fact.

    While most appear surprised at this sudden Chinese move into Bhutanese territory, an analysis of China’s past behavior regarding negotiations on disputed territory reveals a clear systematic pattern of engagement.

    In its active border and territorial disputes, be it with India over Arunachal Pradesh, or the South China Sea (SCS), or Bhutan, China has favored the signing of “guiding principles” or “agreements to maintain peace and tranquility” with the state it is in dispute with. Such a framework, by establishing clear guidelines constrains the negotiating power of the fellow signatory state, blindsiding it to China’s future plans of sudden aggressive broadcasting of territorial claims.

    For example, China and India signed a 2005 agreement on “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question.” The agreement’s Article IX stated that “[p]ending an ultimate settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.”

    Yet, despite this agreement ,which establishes both China and India’s commitment to maintain the status quo and peace at the border, in 2006, the Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi stated categorically,”In our position, the whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory. And Tawang is only one of the places in it. We are claiming all of that. That is our position.”

    This was followed by frequent PLA incursions into the Indian side of the LAC on several occasions, as well as an attempt to set up permanent camps and settlements. These intrusions have been augmented by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs publishing maps in Chinese passports depicting Arunachal Pradesh and other disputed areas like the South China Sea as Chinese sovereign territory.

    A similar pattern of PLA incursions is registered in the China-Bhutan border despite the 1988 and 1998 agreement that commits each side to maintain the status quo pending final resolution. PLA soldiers came up to a Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) outpost at Lharigang in the Charithang valley in 2004 and 2009. Usually the pattern that is followed by China is to construct a version of territorial claim plausibly based on ancient Chinese history, followed by incursions and road building activities. These developments occur despite agreements signed by China to maintain status quo and its commitment to peaceful negotiations.

    A similar pattern of Chinese behavior emerges with regard to the South China Sea (SCS) as well. Significantly, China and ASEAN agreed to a framework on a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the SCS in May. The draft CoC commits the parties to resolve the crisis peacefully and avoid placing offensive weapons in the sea’s islands. In 2002, a “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” was adopted by China and ASEAN. Interestingly, part of the declaration states:

    The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.

    Yet, China is using early presence and facts on the ground to alter territorial claims despite its adoption of the 2002 declaration and establish exclusion zones and zones of military coercion in the SCS. In January 2014, it was discovered that Chinese vessels were dredging white sand onto corals at seven points in the disputed Spratlys, namely; Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, Gaven Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Subi Reef, South Johnson Reef, and Hughes Reef. Once the artificial islands were built, China followed up with erecting buildings, harbors and airstrips, deploying radar and surveillance, as well as stationing its troops: all activities geared towards establishing ownership and sovereign control over disputed territory.

    The Chinese claims SCS on the ground that Chinese ancient mariners discovered the Nansha Islands (now the South China Sea Islands) in the 2nd century B.C., renamed Changsha islands during the Tang and Song dynasties (618 A.D to 1279 A.D.). Quoting sources such as the Guangzhou Records by the Jin-dynasty’s Pei Yuan, China asserts that Chinese fishermen continuously traversed the South China Sea during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368A.D-1911A.D).

    China has strategically preferred to act in ways that go contrary to its signed commitments in the framework agreements. Its act of sending in PLA soldiers and engineers to build roads inside disputed territory in Bhutan, its intrusions across the LAC in India, its building of artificial islands in the SCS, registers a direct violation of its signed commitments in the framework agreements or in its adoption of the 2002 SCS declaration that records its commitment to maintain status quo.

    The critical question that emerges is: why does China sign “guiding principles” and “framework agreements” with countries with which it has territorial disputes and then violates the commitment to the status quo enshrined therein? It may be an attempt to constrain the behavior of other states, while Beijing nevertheless intends to act contrary to the agreements signed, trotting out ancient history to blindside their counterparts across the undefined borders. The jury may still be out, but the pattern in these three cases reflects China’s inability to meet its ‘framework agreement’ commitments, thereby throwing in doubt its seriousness as a reliable negotiator.

    Dr. Namrata Goswami is a MINERVA Grantee of the Minerva Initiative awarded by the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. She is also a senior analyst for Wikistrat. She was formerly a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi and a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington, D.C. Dr. Goswami is a recipient of the Fulbright-Nehru Senior Fellowship, 2012-2103. The views expressed here are solely her own.

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