Time:China Vs. India: Will Rivalry Lead to War?


Regular Member
Sep 23, 2009
Every cold war has its proxies. In a swath of Himalayan mountains wedged between the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and China, they can take the shape of things as mundane as the empty beer bottles and cigarette butts left behind by soldiers on patrol. Up in the mountains, the Indian and Chinese armies monitor a boundary whose line the two countries don't agree on. In certain parts of that murky borderland, the soldiers on night patrols often leave behind evidence of their presence. When relations between the two countries are good, it's litter; when the situation is tense, the detritus is marked in the official record as evidence of "aggressive border-patrolling." Without any direct military confrontation, the tension between Asia's two aspiring superpowers is ratcheting up.

India and China have never been close, but of late they have become engaged in increasingly sharp rounds of diplomatic thrust and parry. In September, India signaled its approval of a planned visit by the Dalai Lama to the border town of Tawang, the site of a famous Tibetan Buddhist monastery — a move that China interpreted as a provocation. Beijing then objected to a visit by Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, to Arunachal Pradesh, claiming it was part of Tibet, which belongs to China. Outraged that China presumed to tell an Indian leader not to go to territory legally recognized as India's, New Delhi then objected to a new power plant that China is building in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, territory that India claims. Almost no one expects this year's harsh words to escalate into military action, but the hostility is real. "China is trying to see how far India can be pushed," says Pushpita Das of the Institute for Defense Studies & Security Analyses in New Delhi.


Most of the time, the troops just busy themselves with field exercises in the local farms and orchards. But every so often, things heat up. This summer, China pressured the board of the Asian Development Bank to block a $2.9 billion loan to India, arguing that part of the money would go to a flood-control project in Arunachal Pradesh. The governor of the state, a retired army general named J.J. Singh, then announced that India would deploy 50,000 more troops up there, though he tells TIME the additional troops were planned well before any hint of tension — and they haven't arrived yet. ("That's a future plan," Singh says.) With or without extra soldiers, India is watching the border. Singh says the Chinese army recently staged a massive training exercise in Tibet, with 50,000 personnel.

The military details obscure a more significant, if less glamorous, theater of conflict: infrastructure. It's telling that India has demanded that China cease work on the $2 billion Kohala power plant in Pakistani Kashmir. (The 62-year dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir is as sensitive for India as Tibet is for China.) The plant is part of a systematic effort by China to assert its presence on the rim of the subcontinent, where India has long been the acknowledged superpower. In both Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Chinese are funding new ports. The Chinese Foreign Minister visited Nepal last December to launch construction of a new highway connecting central Nepal to China, and soon after, China announced plans to extend a controversial railway to Tibet as far as the border with Nepal. India is countering: after Beijing agreed to develop a massive copper field in Afghanistan, New Delhi pledged more than $1 billion in development aid to Kabul.


Both sides will probably try to cool things down at the coming summit of Southeast Asian nations in Bangkok. Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen ****** are expected to meet on the margins of the meeting, although one conversation is unlikely to sort out their complicated history. Both countries are still absorbed in a game played in miniature: recently, for example, a Kashmiri student was given a Chinese visa that was stapled rather than pasted into his passport, an implicit questioning of Kashmir's status as a state of India. Indian authorities, Guruswamy says, then quietly suggested they might do the same for Tibetans. Sure, this is small stuff. But it could get bigger. And high in the Himalayas, soldiers continue their patrols.

Orginal text:http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...1739-1,00.html

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