Unusual tensions escalated at the mountainous Himalayan border between China and India, resulting in the deaths of dozens of troops from both sides. This week, a bloody battle broke out between soldiers of the two giant countries who each have a population of more than one billion. This puts the US, a strong ally of India and a stark adversary of China, in an interesting position amid the heightened conflict.
In somewhat of a world power triangle, the US took a diplomatic stance on the conflict and called for peace between the clashing countries on Wednesday. A US State Department official vowed to advocate for a “peaceful resolution” while they “closely monitor” the breaking situation on the Line of Actual Control, which marks the frontier between China and India.
Time reported that the battle erupted after the Chinese attempted to construct an installation within the Line of Actual Control, prompting Indian soldiers to attack. This came after weeks of multiple standoffs at the line, which the Chinese aggressively violated. The ruthless battle allegedly resulted in at least 20 Indian deaths, and an estimated 35+ Chinese casualties, although official numbers were not released. The combat involved many barbaric fighting tactics including rock-throwing, clubs wrapped with barbed wire, and pushing enemies off cliffs into freezing cold waters.
At this time, neither India nor China has promised retaliatory action, although they both condemn the other for what happened. According to news outlet The Hindu, a spokesman for the US State Department said, “Both India and China have expressed a desire to de-escalate, and we support a peaceful resolution of the current situation.” With countries as big as they are, it’s easy to believe they would rather avoid war.
Upon reports of the clash, India’s Prime Minister Modi held a meeting where he told leadership, “India wants peace, but if instigated, India at all costs is capable of giving an appropriate response.” Similarly, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement, “The Indian side would best not make an incorrect judgment of the situation, would best not underestimate China’s strong determination to safety its sovereign territory.”
China’s desperate campaign to feel in control of something is starting to manifest itself in its recent regional tensions with India. In my opinion, this situation shows that Beijing clearly does not like being on the defensive. They are simply compensating by trying to assert dominance over their former territories and now their neighbors are paying the price. Taiwan and Hong Kong were first, and India seems to be next.
What China seems to fail to recognize is their struggle for power gives the US even more leverage in foreign policy, especially considering that India is a strong ally. China is essentially already at America’s (and the world’s) mercy in terms of manufacturing, trade, and tariffs, following their gross mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. That said, they literally can’t afford increased tensions with the U.S.
Peace is their best bet, and the world is watching.