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Seizing a window of opportunity? The causes and consequences of the 2020 Sino-Indian border Stand-off

Westcott, S.P. (2021) Seizing a window of opportunity? The causes and consequences of the 2020 Sino-Indian border Stand-off. Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs .

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In 2020, the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC) witnessed several violent clashes between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian military that resulted in a tense stand-off between the two highly mobilised armies and plunged Sino-Indian bilateral relations to its lowest point since the 1962 border war. Whilst confrontations between Chinese and Indian border forces are relatively commonplace, this recent crisis has proven remarkable due to the ferocity of the clashes and the alarming pace and degree to which established rules of engagement on the LAC have broken down. With both sides seemingly locked in a stalemate, it is prudent to reflect on the causes and significance of the current stand-off. This article argues that the crisis was largely precipitated by China’s calculation that India’s recent border infrastructure building activities and assertive domestic and foreign policy in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir could threaten the PLA’s tactical advantage along the border, and eventually undermine China’s hold over the disputed Aksai Chin region. Acting on these perceptions and sensing that a ‘window of opportunity’ could be rapidly closing, the Chinese government authorised the PLA to initiate actions to consolidate its advantageous position on the LAC. Although both militaries are fully mobilised and in close proximity across the LAC, both sides clearly recognise the decision to go to war would not benefit either side. Hence, both sides will need to engage in some deft diplomacy going forward to resolve the current crisis and to reset bilateral ties.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Copyright: © 2021 SAGE Publications
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