Asia Politics

India, China military commanders meeting on frontier dispute

Key Points
  • Indian and Chinese military commanders are meeting Saturday to try to resolve a bitter standoff along their disputed frontier high in the Himalayas where thousands of troops on both sides are facing off.
  • Indian officials say the standoff began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh, erecting tents and posts.
  • Experts in India cautioned that there was little expectation of any immediate resolution in the military meeting.
  • In the past, most disputes between China and India have been resolved quickly through such meetings while some required diplomatic intervention.
Nomads walk with their horse along the Srinagar-Leh National Highway in Sonamarg some 89 Kms of Srinagar on May 28, 2020.
Tauseef Mustafa | AFP | Getty Images

Indian and Chinese military commanders are meeting Saturday to try to resolve a bitter standoff along their disputed frontier high in the Himalayas where thousands of troops on both sides are facing off.

The meeting at a border post is the highest-level so far attended by senior commanders. Local border commanders held a series of meetings in the past four weeks but failed to break the impasse.

On Friday, Indian and Chinese foreign ministry officials also discussed the border tensions.

Indian officials say the standoff began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh, erecting tents and posts. They said the Chinese soldiers ignored repeated verbal warnings to leave, triggering shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.

India also mobilized thousands of soldiers and armory.

VIDEO3:1903:19
India's leaders are getting anxious over China's rise, says expert on border tensions

Chinese and Indian soldiers also faced off along the frontier in India's northeastern Sikkim state in early May.

Experts in India cautioned that there was little expectation of any immediate resolution in the military meeting. In the past, most disputes between China and India have been resolved quickly through such meetings while some required diplomatic intervention.

Though skirmishes aren't new along their long-disputed frontier, the standoff at Ladakh's Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China, has escalated in recent weeks.

The Chinese "ingress into the Galwan River valley opens up a new and worrying chapter," Ajai Shukla, a former Indian military officer and a defense commentator, wrote on his website.

India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory while separating it from disputed Kashmir in August 2019. China was among the handful of countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the U.N. Security Council.

The China-India border dispute covers nearly 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of frontier that the two countries call the Line of Actual Control. They fought a bitter war in 1962 that spilled into Ladakh. The two sides have been trying since the early 1990s to settle their dispute without success.

The most serious dispute is over China's claims that India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is part of Tibet, which India rejects.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India's northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, a contiguous part of the Ladakh region.

Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, who retired as head of the Indian military's Northern Command under which Kashmir and Ladakh fall, said the level of physical violence in the current standoff is "unprecedented and different from the past."

"The tensest of standoffs between soldiers of the two sides in the past have been marked by a remarkable degree of restraint and an understanding of not using force. If this restraint breaks down, each transgression could become a flash point," he said.