• Brianna Pillay

Battle Over the Himalayas

The Himalayas is a mountain range found in Asia that divides China's independent region of Tibet from India. There have been perpetual disputes between these two Asian countries due to the ambiguous authority of the Himalayas, resulting in casualties from India and China’s respective armies. According to an article from The Guardian, “The deaths are the first loss of life in the border area since 1975 and come amid a renewed dispute between the two countries in recent weeks.”

This dual battle backtracks to 1962 during the Sino-Indian War. The war took place in the mountains of Aksai Chin. India had made a statement that the border of the Himalayas belonged to them , therefore it was referred to as the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. However, China claimed that the whole Himalayan region is a Chinese-controlled portion of Xinjiang. Tibet began to provoke Beijing and Delhi’s bilateral affiliation. India had also allegedly attempted to destabilise China’s rule in Tibet, while India accused China of withholding Tibetan autonomy.

With the formation of Pakistan in 1947, the annexation of Tibet in 1951, and China’s edifice of a road that connected Xinjiang and Tibet, tensions rose, as all of the aforementioned areas had been possessed by India. This escalated the geopolitical debate between the two Asian nations even further.

From 1959, boundary skirmishes had risen along the disputed line, when the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, implemented the Forward Policy. This policy resulted in India attempting to execute boundary stations and patrols around China’s region in order impede China from the supply line, sending Chinese troops back to China. According to the Home Minister in Delhi, on the 4th of February 1962, “She will certainly drive out the Chinese forces.” This has been referred to as the forward policy. The war then served to solidify these convoluted problems.

The war concluded when China asserted an armistice on the 20th of November 1962, and instantaneously declared their withdrawal in accordance with the ‘Line of Actual Control’. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a demarcation boundary that separates the territory belonging to India and the Chinese-controlled territory which had been agreed upon. Both countries agreed to disengage and withdraw their troops 20km behind the present lines of actual control.

The 1962 battle was one that undeniably set the narrative for years to come. A fatal battle between the Indian and Chinese armies broke out, which has elevated a global apprehension recently. Escalations between the two Asian giants have been rising since late April 2020, due to them establishing claims on territory. This included infringing army troops, building roads and infrastructure, as well as outpost stations in disputed areas. China claims more than 90 000km2 in the eastern Himalayas and another 38 000km2 in the west, both of which are contested by India.

The situation was aggravated when an Indian officer discovered Chinese troops on a narrow edge. According to The Guardian, the Indian patrol was then pushed and fell into a ravine due to the confrontation. Beijing has refused to confirm any casualties, rather assailing India of crossing the boundary twice and “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel.” This triggered both armies to fight by throwing rocks and fist-fighting in key border areas. Many soldiers have died, some injured without access to medical attention. This is the most fatal incident since 1962.

In recent weeks senior officials from both sides held a virtual conference in order to discuss an approach regarding de-escalations, however due to the death of the soldiers, matters have been made problematic and perilous to navigate. The foreign affair ministry reassured that the meeting took place in a "cordial and positive atmosphere" and that both sides agreed to "peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas.” This leaves people questioning if the battle of the Himalayas will ever be resolved or will this be an everlasting battle with more casualties to come?

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