The Indo-China border is a strategic chessboard and it’s gotten way more complex…
It was straight from an Orientalist romantic thriller set in the Himalayas: soldiers fighting each other with stones and iron bars in the dead of night on a mountain ridge over 4,000 meters high, some plunging to their deaths into a nearly frozen river and dying of hypothermia.
In November 1996, China and India had agreed not to use guns along their 3,800 km-long border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which sports an occasional tendency to derail into a Line Out of Control.
Yet this was not just another Himalayan scuffle. Of course there were echoes of the 1962 Sino-Indian war – which started pretty much the same way, leading Beijing to defeat New Delhi on the battlefield. But now the strategic chessboard is way more complex, part of the evolving 21st Century New Great Game.
Indian army marching in 1962 war, during which Indian Air Force was not used. (Indian Defence Review)
The situation had to be defused. Top military commanders from China and India finally met face to face this past weekend. And on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed they “agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation.”
The Indian Army concurred: “There was mutual consensus to disengage (…) from all frictions areas in Eastern Ladakh.”
A day later, the breakthrough was confirmed at a videoconference meeting of the three foreign ministers of Russia, India and China, also known as the RICs: Sergey Lavrov, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Wang Yi. President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping Xi will meet in person on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Saudi Arabia next November.
And that will follow probably another videoconference special next month, in St. Petersburg, during the combined summits of the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO.)
So How Did We Get Here?
Our Himalayan drama starts way back in October 1947,