- On Monday, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a violent confrontation along a disputed border that left at least 20 Indian troops dead. Chinese officials have confirmed that there were casualties on their side but refused to say how many.
- The incident is the most serious military confrontation between the two nuclear powers in nearly 40 years.
- India and China have been fighting over the disputed boundary for decades.
- Both countries claim to control huge sections of each other’s territories, and the border has never been formalized despite more than a dozen negotiations.
Indian and Chinese Troops Face-Off
The Indian government has said that at least 20 of its soldiers died in a violent altercation with Chinese military forces after fighting broke out Monday along a disputed border between the two countries, marking the most serious military confrontation between the two nuclear powers in decades.
It is unclear exactly what happened as both sides have given different accounts. Most of the details currently being reported have come from the Indian side. Chinese officials have largely remained tight-lipped and Chinese media has downplayed the incident.
However, according to most accounts, the two sides engaged in hand-to-hand combat using rocks, iron rods, and their fists to fight for several hours. Several people fell to their deaths, but neither side fired shots or used guns at any point.
Indian officials said that three of their soldiers were killed during the standoff, and 17 others died after succumbing to injuries in the sub-zero temperatures.
Indian officials also said that there had been casualties on the Chinese side, a fact that Chinese officials did eventually confirm Wednesday after skirting the question, though they did not say how many people died.
As for what started the stand-off, both sides blame each other for instigating. Indian officials say that Chinese forces crossed into the area under their control where they set up tents and guard posts and ignored verbal warnings to leave, which set off shouting matches, stones being thrown, and fist-fights.
Chinese officials say that Indian soldiers crossed the border into the area they control and “provoked and attacked Chinese personnel.”
While Monday’s events represent a serious escalation, these kinds of confrontations are not a new occurrence.
Just since last month, there have been a number of similar conflicts along the border, though no deaths have been reported. After those initial brawls, which reportedly started after both countries moved thousands of additional troops to the border, senior leaders from the Indian and Chinese militaries held meetings and agreed to disengage.
But the situation goes a lot deeper than that. In fact, India and China have been fighting over this disputed border for decades and decades.
In 1962, the two fought a full-scale war over the border which ended with a truce and the creation of a sort of de facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC), aroughly 2,000-mile boundary that runs along the Himalayas and the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region.
However, the LAC is and always has been a very rough boundary. Over the years, there have been more than a dozen rounds of talks and negotiations, but an actual border has never been formally decided.
As a result, India and China have competing views of where the line is, and both claim significant chunks of the other’s territory. Both sides patrol up to where they believe the border is, but because it is contested, that has led to frequent accusations of one side crossing the LAC which has resulted in numerous clashes.
Despite the frequency of these skirmishes, Monday’s incident has been described as the most violent and serious confrontation since a series of battles in 1967, as well as the first altercation that resulted in reported fatalities since 1975.
Notably, the two sides have worked together to try and keep the peace. In the early 1990s, they agreed to a set of protocols to contain the disputes and prevent escalation.
Those procedures included agreements for where troops would patrol, what weapons they could carry, where military installation would be built, and how close weapons and airplanes could be to the disputed areas.
But tensions have grown over the last few years. Many recent standoffs have been the result of both countries building infrastructure including roads, airstrips, and arms installations, which has resulted in the area becoming much more militarized.
China, in general, has been more assertive in building up its infrastructure, but in recent years, India has been strengthening its border infrastructure and upgrading its military installations— a move that experts say has angered China.
There is also a broader geopolitical element too. China has additionally been upset by India’s growing political and military relationship with the United States. Last year, China strongly condemned India for revoking the autonomous status of Kashmir— the disputed area claimed by both India and Pakistan— and placing it under the direct control of the central government.
On the other side, India is also worried that China is trying to slowly take over more of the disputed territory along the LAC, a concern that has grown as China continues to push forward with more bold, expansionist actions.
“China has pressed other controversial territorial disputes in recent years, stoking anxiety among its neighbors by building military installations in the South China Sea, extending control over Hong Kong and moving to deny Taiwan, which it sees as part of China, legitimacy and participation in international forums,” journalist Rajesh Roy explained in the Wall Street Journal.
As for the current situation, both India and China have said they want peace. In a short televised speech Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that call, while also warning China that India will retaliate if provoked.
“The sacrifice of our soldiers will not be in vain,” he said. “The sovereignty and integrity of India is supreme, and nobody can stop us in defending that. India wants peace, but if provoked India is capable of giving a befitting reply.”
China’s Foreign Ministry has also said it does not want more clashes, and in a call today, both the foreign ministers of both agreed to “cool down” and said they favor peaceful diplomacy and dialogue.
It has also been reported that military leaders in the region are “talking to diffuse the tension.”
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The Guardian) (Al Jazeera)
India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People
The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.
After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people.
According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125.
During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.
“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.
Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government.
In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.
“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.
The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.
“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.
Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters.
Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals
Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.
Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies
Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.
Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.
The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.
For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.
An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”
Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.
As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.
Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.
The Arc of History Bends Toward China
Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.
Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.
Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.
At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.
Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.
Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.
Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.
Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service
Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.
Let Them Eat Satellites
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.
“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”
SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.
At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.
SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.
The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.
Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.
On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”
He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.
On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.
Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded
Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.
The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.
“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.
The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.
One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.
As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.
Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.
Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”