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China and India Clash Along Border

Wilson Center experts offer their analysis of the border clash between China and India.

Abraham Denmark, Asia Program Director:

"This will likely be a watershed moment in India-China relations and the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific. We’ve already seen the deadliest clash on the China-India border in over 50 years, both countries are led by men who have embraced nationalism, and both countries are facing tremendous domestic and international upheaval as a result of COVID-19 and other long-standing problems.

The main questions now are if either side is capable of finding an off-ramp to de-escalation, and of India’s nascent friends — such as it’s Quad partners of Australia, Japan, and the United States - will come to its aid.

This isn’t World War 3 by any stretch, but it is a highly volatile and dangerous situation between two nationalistic, nuclear powers at a time when American influence has badly diminished."

Robert Daly, Director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the US:

"Neither China nor India has a vital interest at stake in Ladakh and both nations’ leaders are keenly aware of the need to avoid war. The killings are a worrisome escalation of tensions, but little is known about the immediate causes or results of the fight in Galwan and it is not possible, at this point, to assign blame.

The United States’ role is to express alarm at the loss of life, monitor the situation closely, and encourage both Asian powers to stand down and manage border disputes through peaceful negotiation. If the U.S. wishes to take further action, it should do so through the United Nations."

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asia Program:

"What had been a slowly deescalating standoff has suddenly escalated to the biggest crisis India and China have confronted in decades. With two bitter rivals not only staring each other down on their disputed border but also reeling from a deadly encounter with mass casualties, this crisis isn’t about to end anytime soon.

Conflict is unlikely, but climbing down the ladder will be neither quick nor easy. What I’ll be looking for are deescalatory signals: Will the two sides return to the high-level dialogue launched earlier this month? Will government messaging be conciliatory? If the answer is no, all bets could be off and more escalation could be on the horizon."

Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The mission of Kissinger Institute on China and the United States is to ensure that informed engagement remains the cornerstone of U.S.-China relations.  Read more