“With the kind of developments that are taking place in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and infrastructure that is going up, it gives a certain capability to China,” India’s army chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, told Reuters the day before he left office on May 31. “And you say at some point, if the issue does not get settled, there could be some problem.”
Indian analysts and policymakers went further in their “Non-Alignment 2.0” report released this year. It argues India cannot “entirely dismiss the possibility of a major military offensive in Arunachal Pradesh,” and suggests New Delhi should prepare to fight an insurgency war if attacked.
“We feel very clearly that we need to develop the border infrastructure, engage with our border communities, do that entire development and leave our options open on how to respond to any border incursion, in case tensions ratchet up,” Rajiv Kumar, one of the report’s authors, said in an interview.
Indian media frequently run warnings of alleged Chinese plots, and both militaries drill near the border. In March, while China’s foreign minister was visiting Delhi, the Indian air force and army held an exercise dubbed “Destruction” in Arunachal’s mountains. Three weeks later, China said its J-10 fighters dropped laser-guided bombs on the Tibetan plateau in high-altitude ground-attack training.
Some policymakers play down the Arunachal face-off. Nuclear weapons on both sides would deter all-out war, and the forbidding terrain makes even conventional warfare difficult. A defense hotline and frequent meetings between top Chinese and Indian officials, including regular gatherings at the border, help ease the pressure. Bilateral trade, which soared to $74 billion in 2011 from a few billion dollars a decade ago, is also knitting ties.
From China’s perspective, the border dispute with India doesn’t rank with Beijing’s other border or military concerns, such as Taiwan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin struck an optimistic tone.
“China and India are in consensus on the border issue, will work together to protect peace and calm in the border region, and also believe that by jointly working toward the same goal, negotiations on the border will yield results,” Liu said.
Hu Shisheng, a Sino-India expert at the government-backed China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the border dispute casts an oversized shadow in the Indian media - where the China threat is perceived to be strong. But any voices within the Chinese military that advocate seizing the region are weak, he said.