10/21/2021, 15.55
CHINA-INDIA
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Himalayas: Beijing and Delhi relaunch border talks, but arm troops

by Emanuele Scimia

Standoff over withdrawal of respective forces along the disputed frontier. The Chinese position long-range missile launchers in the region; the Indians deploy M777 howitzers. Indian government: we have the capabilities to face the Chinese army. China is better equipped, but its soldiers are unfamiliar with operations at high altitude.

Rome (AsiaNews) - China and India will resume military consultations by the end of the month to resolve their territorial disputes over the Himalayan border. The last round of negotiations broke down on October 10. The failure of the talks is due to the Chinese refusal to withdraw from the Hot Springs area, in eastern Ladakh, and retreat to their permanent base, which instead the Indians had. The two armies had held the positions until April 2020. At the same time, Beijing accuses Delhi of not wanting to reduce its troops on the Depsang Plains.

China and India share a 3,488-kilometer border in the Himalayas, which they have fought a brief but bloody conflict over in 1962. Delhi claims large sectors of Aksai Chin (which the Chinese took from Pakistan); Beijing claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. In the last 46 years the two armed forces have faced each other several times, often without reporting casualties. However, in June 2020 Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Galwan valley, between the Indian Ladakh and the Chinese Aksai Chin: 20 Indian soldiers died; unconfirmed sources initially spoke of 45 Chinese victims.

The stalemate in negotiations has led to increasing militarization of the Sino-Indian border. According to the South China Morning Post, which cites sources close to the Chinese military, Beijing recently deployed more than 100 sophisticated long-range missile launchers to the border with India. The move by the People's Liberation Army is reportedly in response to the deployment in the disputed areas of three Indian regiments armed with M777 howitzers.

Chinese analysts note that in terms of weapons and equipment China has an advantage over India. However, the Indians have more experience in high-altitude combat and in freezing temperatures.

Indian General Vinod Bhatia believes that the Indian Army has the strength to face the Chinese along the provisional frontier, largely because of its ability to fight in the high mountains. The retired general, a former director general of military operations, notes that the two sides have stiffened their positions as they prepare for a long contest, with the Indian government sticking to the operational philosophy of "no blinking no brinkmanship".

According to Bhatia, however, China and India have no interest in dramatizing the situation. The senior Indian official told AsiaNews, "I doubt if there will be any escalation though we could witness an increase in the frequency, intensity and scope of transgressions along the LAC [Line of Actual Control] by the People's Liberation Army.”

Also for another Indian general, Rajiv Narayanan, "India has the requisite strength to counter both China and its 'cat's paw' Pakistan." According to Narayanan, Beijing will not attempt to escalate the dispute in the immediate term, but may do so in the spring as Chinese soldiers sent to the Himalayan border have trouble acclimatizing.

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