[By Mohammed Ayoob]
Many local factors have contributed to the face-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Ladakh.
Western Ladakh borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, where China has invested hugely its economic corridor project with Pakistan under the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s apprehension about Indian designs on the territory has been accentuated by recent comments by Indian leaders, including External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, that India expects to have ‘physical jurisdiction’ over it ‘one day’.
Ladakh also borders Tibet and Xinjiang, the turbulent peripheries of China, and Beijing is apprehensive of Indian moves supported by the US that may threaten its control over these regions.
The trigger for the current face-off was China’s opposition to India’s laying a key road in the finger area around Pangong Tso Lake and constructing another connecting Darbuk–Shayok–Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley. China is also laying a road in the finger area, which India finds objectionable. According to Indian sources, China has deployed 5,000 heavily armed additional troops to the area and India has responded in kind. Both militaries have also moved in heavy equipment and weaponry, including artillery and combat vehicles, to their rear bases close to the disputed areas in eastern Ladakh.
Indian and Chinese forces in Ladakh are separated on the basis of a Line of Actual Control, drawn at the end of the 1962 war but still contested in some areas. India argues that Chinese forces have violated this arrangement. Bilateral moves at the military and diplomatic levels are on to defuse the situation, but both sides have rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate the dispute.
However, most observers believe that not only local factors have led to China’s move in Ladakh. Beijing is feeling increasingly beleaguered globally and regionally and has embarked on a strategy with several goals. It assumes that foreign adventurism cloaked in the garb of ultranationalism can shore up the Chinese Communist Party’s rule at home. While the authoritarian regime’s legitimacy rests primarily on its economic performance, it is now facing the prospect of a severe decline in the country’s GDP.
Simultaneously, creating a crisis with neighbors can divert international opprobrium at a time when China is facing heavy criticism, including from Australia, because of its failure to notify the world of the coronavirus during the crucial early weeks when it could have been more easily contained.
In the face of such criticism, the Chinese regime is increasingly using jingoistic jargon to build up domestic support. In a recent speech, President Xi Jinping exhorted the armed forces to ‘prepare for war’ in order to ‘resolutely safeguard national sovereignty’ and ‘the overall strategic stability of the country’.
China’s relations with the US have been going downhill since soon after Trump was elected, which has unnerved Chinese leaders despite their disclaimers. Trade disputes have led to repeated threats by Trump that he would unleash a trade war against China. Beijing has deliberately eroded Hong Kong’s special status and is suppressing its pro-democracy movement, leading to much criticism from the US administration and in Congress. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China and no longer merits special treatment under US law.
Differences over Taiwan have added to US–China tensions. The CCP sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and it considers the US to be the primary impediment to the island’s integration with China. The Trump administration has significantly increased American support to Taiwan with arms sales and laws, such as the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China. In response, China has stepped up its military activity around Taiwan, further accentuating the tensions.
Above all, US–China rivalry in the South China Sea appears to be the most serious potential flash point that could start a conflagration. Over the past decade, China has vigorously advanced its territorial claims there by militarizing islands it controls and vociferously contesting claims by other states and impeding their attempts to access territories that they claim.
So far China has acted cautiously to prevent these moves from triggering a serious confrontation with the US, but that might change if it feels under greater pressure internationally.
Washington has a strong interest in preventing Beijing from asserting control over the South China Sea, as maintaining free and open access to this waterway is important to the US for economic reasons. It also has defense treaty obligations to the Philippines, which has been in the forefront of contesting Chinese claims. For China, the ability to control the South China Sea would be a major step in threatening the US position as the foremost power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Increased Chinese adventurism born out of its inability to respond adequately to external criticism and to control domestic discontent could result in an escalation of US–China tensions in the South China Sea.
If that happens, the India–China confrontation over road building and movement of troops close to the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh could become a sideshow in a much larger ‘great game’ played out in Asia between the US and China.
Mohammed Ayoob is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Michigan State University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy in Washington DC. His latest books include “Will the Middle East implode?” and “The many faces of political Islam.” This article appears courtesy of The Strategist and may be found in its original form here.
Go to Source
A massive fire broke out at the Port of Beirut on Thursday, incinerating a warehouse full of tires and oil within the port’s free zone. The same area was heavily damaged in the ammonium nitrate explosion that leveled the central port area and the adjacent waterfront on August 4. According to Lebanon’s civil defense agency, […]
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a Marine Accident Brief about an accident that occurred on April 15, 2019, involving the towing vessel DeJeanne Maria which struck the end of a submerged dredge pipeline while pushing two spud barges to the Gulf of Mexico. The incident occurred on the Mississippi River in Pass […]
DSV Belgium has solid experience in the transport of pharmaceutical products for different customers. With a pharma hub based at Brussels Airport a lot of experience and know-how has been built up over the years. Last weekend, the forwarder handled one hundred million mouth masks, an important milestone for its Belgian organisation that has put […]
Best known as a leading passenger airport serving Germany’s most populated federal state North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf has become transformed into a vital distribution point, during the COVID 19 pandemic, for medical equipment and other life-saving goods, mostly from China. Gerton Hulsman, managing director of cargo operations, reports that the handling teams are working hard to […]
With close to 100 daily cargo flights operated to a destination network spanning more than 65 cities across six continents, Emirates SkyCargo is delivering essential supplies and commodities to people around the world. The air cargo carrier is currently operating 11 Boeing 777 freighter aircraft, each with a capacity to transport about 100 tonnes of […]
Operators can continue to use pilots and other crew members who have unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak in support of essential operations. Additionally, this Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) provides regulatory relief to certain persons and pilot schools unable to meet duration and […]
Astral Aviation has increased its intra-African network with cargo freighters during the pandemic. While there has been a reduction in capacity to, from, and within Africa, which has been caused by a stoppage of passenger flights and limited frequencies on freighter aircraft, Astral Aviation continues to operate cargo freighters from its Nairobi hub to 13 destinations […]
Emirates SkyCargo has expanded its weekly scheduled cargo flight operations to cover 75 destinations across six continents. Through its wider reach, Emirates SkyCargo is able to transport essential commodities and other urgently needed cargo more rapidly across the world, allowing exporters and importers across markets to benefit from direct access to widebody cargo capacity. Some […]
Global commercial aviation charter company Albion Aviation Group is reporting that it is seeing a considerable uptake in its professional cargo broker training courses from the current global pandemic crisis and surge in charter demand. “We have completed a number webinar courses for a whole of host of companies, looking to manage their own cargo […]
The UK government’s new post-Brexit tariff regime will result in both winners and losers. The new regime is set to replace the European Union’s Common External Tariff from the end of the Brexit Transition Period on December 31, 2020. The UK’s commitment to the ongoing Brexit process and ending the UK’s transition from EU membership […]
Callan Marine is serving as the prime contractor to the Texas Department of Transportation for a maintenance dredging project located at the Bolivar Ferry Terminal, in Galveston, Texas. Work began in May and is estimated to be complete in late July 2020. The project consists of the removal of 600,000 cubic yards of material and […]
The U-Freight Group (UFL), with its considerable involvement in eCommerce logistics, says that the latest statistics showing that global e-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion in 2018 are a further vindication of its decision to enter this sector of the international freight market several years ago. The latest available estimates, up 8% from 2017, were recently […]
NOAA Fisheries announced Friday that it will cancel five out of its six large-scale research surveys in Alaskan waters this year due to COVID-19. The canceled surveys include the Aleutian Islands bottom trawl survey, the eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey, the northern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey, the Bering Sea pollock acoustics survey, and […]
Qatar Airways Cargo transported 56 SkyCell containers with vaccines from one of the largest vaccine manufacturers worldwide on its scheduled freighter and belly-hold cargo flights for its customer, CEVA Logistics. The 54-tonne shipment consisting of pneumococcal and varicella vaccines were flown from Brussels to Mumbai via the carrier’s hub in Doha on two separate flights. […]
Network Airline Management and TAAG Angola Airlines are pleased to announce the renewal of their long-term freighter aircraft contract by an additional 12 months, sealing an ongoing partnership for the foreseeable future. Operating a regular weekly scheduled service from Liege, Belgium, to the capital of Angola, Luanda, Network Airline Management provides a Boeing 747-400F aircraft […]
Tigers has launched a new dedicated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) section on its eShop, powered by its freight portal SmartHub:Connect. The global logistics and transportation company has also released new software updates for SmartHub:Connect, giving customers shortcuts to buy and process documentation for the shipment of PPE. Tigers is also managing the door-to-door transport of […]