Recent Developments on the China-India Border

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Since the early 2000s, the armies of India and the United States of America (USA) have held annual “Yudh Abhyas” exercises. These exercises, which typically take place in cold and mountainous terrain, took place in Alaska in the year of 2021, primarily in the form of mountain war training. In 2022, the exercise will take place in the Himalayan mountains of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, about 100 kilometers from the Line of Actual Control between India and China.[1]

China has objected to the military exercises being held near its disputed border. In this context, the Beijing administration stated that the joint exercises with the USA “violated the spirit of the relevant agreements” between Beijing and New Delhi and expressed their concerns regarding the exercises.[2] In response to this, Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “India exercises with whomsoever it chooses to, and it does not give a veto to third countries on this issue.”[3]

In the background of this development is China’s deployment of four brigades to the Indian border just before the exercises.[4] Accordingly, the Chinese Army deployed four brigades to its eastern and southern commands, aligning them along India’s eastern sector. One of the brigades was stationed at Phari Dzong along the Siliguri Corridor of India, one at Tsona Dzong along the Tawang sector, and two near Nyingchi along the Walong sector in Arunachal Pradesh.[5] This move has prompted questions such as, “Is Beijing asking New Delhi to stop its Asia-Pacific initiatives and cooperation with the USA?”

As a matter of fact, it is noteworthy that the brigades in question were dispatched from the inner regions of China to the Indian border. India perceives this as a preparation for war. According to the claims of the West, China not only secures the border region with this deployment, but also aims to change the demographic and cultural structure of Tibet. In a more realistic scenario, China may wish to use this border deployment to convey a message to India. In this regard, one could argue that Beijing compelled New Delhi to make a choice. New Delhi has to choose between doing business with Washington in the Asia-Pacific or becoming friends with Beijing.

India, on the other hand, is concerned about China’s growing military capabilities in its immediate surroundings. In this context, there are concerns that China may trigger instability in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Therefore, India does not dismiss the “Chinese threat” in its immediate surroundings. Beijing, on the other hand, says that this mobility on the border is mostly related to its own internal security. However, Moscow had made similar statements before its intervention in Ukraine. During the said period, Russia stated that it could decide on the deployments within its own territory as it wished and that this did not concern other countries.

In general, China and India are making moves that will escalate the border conflict. India has stated that it would not be held accountable to China for its joint exercises with the USA. It is clear that China underestimates India’s power. In response, New Delhi is sending the message that “Washington is supporting India.” This approach has further angered China because Beijing saw the exercises on the border as a threat to its own interests. Also, China cannot attack India, which is “under the protection of the USA,” and breach the border. What’s more important is that India, like Russia and China, is taking radical military-security actions since  New Delhi now draws strength from Washington. However, it is doubtful whether it will receive the support of the USA when war breaks out. In other words, the USA may draw India into a crisis, as it has done with other Western nations.

As might be expected, the USA does not guarantee India’s defense support in the event of a conflict. Thus, in this regard, India differs from the Philippines, Japan, and Australia. The United States has a commitment to assist the defense of these countries. This is the reason why China is able to pursue more aggressive policies towards India. Also, China feels besieged by the USA and its allies in the Asia-Pacific. Therefore, the areas where China can make military-security moves in its immediate surroundings are limited. Despite this restriction, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and India are among the countries where action can be taken.

Recognizing this threat, India has increased defense cooperation and military exercises with the USA. However, as long as the two nations do not form a defense alliance, it will be difficult to eliminate the Chinese threat. The fundamental reason for the necessity for this military collaboration is the past border wars between India and China. In retrospect, the 1962 battleground was a mountainous terrain 4,250 meters above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains. This war ended with India’s defeat. Many Indian troops were kidnapped and killed in the clashes in 2020. Despite the fact that the USA has provided mountain combat training every year since 2002, India has shown to be quite ineffective against China. In Beijing’s perspective, defeating India in a potential border battle is easy. However, the geopolitical climate is not suitable for this.

At a time when the world’s conflicts are migrating from the West to Asia and the Asia-Pacific, China is grappling with concerns such as the Taiwan Crisis, where a global power struggle is taking place, as well as domestic ones. As a result, with the exception of Taiwan, China will not seek to create a new conflict or Cold War front against the United States in its immediate surroundings. Furthermore, India will feel stronger as it assumes the G20 Presidency in 2023 and may try to utilize this position to put pressure on its neighbors. Hence, the New Delhi administration may try to put further pressure on China through the Kashmir issue in 2023. In the near future, we may witness a situation in which India and China challenge each other, demonstrate power, and force each other to make decisions on specific issues.

[1] “India, US Armies Hold Exercises Close to China Border”, Independent,, (Date of Accession: 03.12.2022)

[2] “India Dismisses Chinese Objections to India-US Military Drills Near Border”, Voanews,, (Date of Accession: 03.12.2022).

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Why China under Xi Poses Military Threat to India”, Hindustan Times,, (Date of Accession: 03.12.2022).

[5] Ibid.

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.