Recent Developments at the China-India Frontier
Deadly conflict broke out on June 15 on the China-India border following weeks of minor military confrontations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that separates the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) and the Indian regions of Ladakh and Sikkim. The lethal conflict occurred in the Galwan Valley—one of the sites of tension in recent weeks—as the two sides were in the process of negotiating a mutual “disengagement” of forces (see Figure 1). PRC and Indian sources offered conflicting accounts of events, but officials on both sides confirmed casualties, including at least 20 Indian military personnel. The last time the border conflict escalated to the point of casualties was in 1975.
The events leading up to the lethal clashes included fistfights between Chinese and Indian soldiers stationed near Pangong Lake in India’s Ladakh state, territorial advances by Chinese forces in Hot Springs and the Galwan Valley (also in Ladakh), and clashes between Chinese and Indian soldiers on the border near India’s Sikkim state. Authoritative information is limited, but various accounts claim PRC troops made territorial gains of 40-60 square kilometers. On May 27, President Trump tweeted that “the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate [China and India’s] now raging border dispute.”
Tensions had seemed to abate in early June as military officers and diplomats from both sides held talks to try to manage the situation. According to India’s Army Chief, these talks led to an agreement to “disengage[e] in a phased manner.” Following the June 15 clash, both sides pledged to continue to seek to resolve the situation through dialogue and consultation; the status of these efforts is unclear.