Dragon shadow in central Himalaya: Is China trying to open a new front against India?

China is not happy with India. It expected Delhi to accept the fait accompli that the territories grabbed in Ladakh in 2020 would forever become part of the Middle Kingdom. Not only did the Indian Army negotiators in Moldo-Chushul, near the Pangong tso (lake), did not agree, but also External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reiterated several times that the relationship between India and China will be impacted if the latter disturbs peace and tranquility in border areas. “Our relationship is not normal, it cannot be normal as the border situation is not normal,” he told PTI recently in Bengaluru.

The minister added that the main issue with China is the border, where the Indian Army has been holding ground for two years. “The situation is tense as the positioning of the two armies is very close. It also could be a dangerous situation.”

Beijing is also irritated with the Modi government because it has been more assertive on the Tibetan issue, for example by allowing the Dalai Lama to get a grand reception in Leh or providing all facilities (including an Indian Air Force helicopter to move around in the mountainous region) during his stay in Ladakh.

At the same time, India seems to be coming closer to the US, something which is not appreciated by China; Beijing is particularly resentful of a military drill which will take place from 18-31 October at an altitude of 10,000 feet in Uttarakhand’s Auli. The spokesman for the US Army in the Pacific explained: “The strategy for this year’s exercise focuses on cold-weather operations, and at high-altitude, an environment that poses distinct challenges.”

According to the Hindustan Times: “While the annual joint exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ is not new, the location and timing for this year’s drill are interesting, taking into consideration Beijing’s unprecedented exercise surrounding Taiwan in the past several days.”