Ever since India revoked the special status accorded to the disputed Kashmir area and sent thousands of troops to enforce its will, the area has been rife with conflict. The precarious move not only exacerbated the tensions between the countries but also left the field open as to define the administrative boundaries.
China, who also has a stake in the matter regarding the disputed border area surrounding Ladakh marched its troops in the region last month whereby a battle ensued. The skirmish ended with 20 casualties on the Indian side with at least 76 more injured, the highest number of indian deaths along the border in more than 5 decades.
Ever since a sort of unspoken stalemate has been reached. Indian sources claimed that China has disengaged its forces from the area and in a display of feigned strength, Prime Minister Modi visited the Ladakh region and made a speech directed at China saying, “Friends, the age of expansionism is over, this is the era of development…whenever we have seen expansionist tendencies, these have spelt danger for world peace”.
The incident last month could be taken as a warning shot as India strengthens its military infrastructure in the area. It makes tactical sense since India has repealed its article 370 which ended the autonomy in the region and which also affects disputed areas occupied by China. China also decried the move to repeal article 370 in the UN security council last year.
Ever since then, a much needed display of peace in the area has come about as both countries have made statements indicating de-escalation. Last week India’s external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stated that the troops on both sides were disengaging and that it was “very much a work in progress”. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said last week, “We hope India will meet China halfway and take concrete measures to carry out what both sides agreed to, continue to closely communicate through diplomatic and military channels, and work together to cool down the situation at the border”. In a more recent statement Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that “The two sides have made positive progress on pushing forward the disengagement of the front-line troops on the western section of the border and easing the border tension”. The Indian side has been relatively taciturn but a temporary peace seems to have been established.
The peace seems short lived as the tension is still high and the area is still very much contentious ever since India made the move to enforce its own will. Journalist Tariq Mir, in an opinion piece for Aljazeera stated that “The face-off between Chinese and Indian troops in Ladakh might eventually turn out to be only a sideshow to what could become a much bigger military confrontation this year between India and Pakistan along their long border in Kashmir.”
That could very much be the case especially if prime minister Modi might feel the need to maintain a favorable appearance in the eyes of the Indian people.