‘New arms race’: border roads put India and China on route to conflict

‘New arms race’: border roads put India and China on route to conflict

When India and China’s foreign ministers met in Moscow on September 10 and reached a “five-point consensus”, it seemed there had finally been a breakthrough in the months-long stand-off at their disputed Himalayan border.

China’s Wang Yi and India’s S Jaishankar agreed to “ease tensions” and “quickly disengage” their troops from eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations backed by tanks and aircraft along the 3,488km undemarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Yet a month later, thousands of troops from both countries are still caught in a tense deadlock – though there have been no skirmishes or exchanges of fire as happened before the September meeting.

As winter sets in amid the high altitudes of the restive Himalayan region, senior military commanders from both sides are expected to meet on Monday for their seventh attempt at negotiating some form of resolution.

Meanwhile, India has signalled a renewed infrastructure push to connect the border areas with the rest of the country – a move analysts say could widen the gulf between New Delhi and Beijing.China, after all, has blamed India’s building of roads and air strips near the border for recent tensions – an accusation countered last month by two Indian officials who told Reuters that Chinese troops had been laying a network of fibre optic cables near one of the summer’s flashpoints.

Yun Sun, a senior fellow and director of the Washington-based Stimson Center’s China programme, said in a webinar on October 2 organised by the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies that for her “the origin of the clashes is in this arms race surrounding infrastructure development by both sides”.