Outgoing US Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells on Wednesday said that border disputes of China—be it in Ladakh or the South China Sea—are a “reminder of the threat by China”. The strong statement by Wells came days after several instances of Chinese incursions by land and air, one of which led to a face-off between Indian and Chinese troops.
After the clash, security agencies are now apprehensive about the large presence of Chinese personnel and vehicles at Demchok sector of Ladakh region, which was normally used only for patrolling purposes. According to officials, close to 1,000 heavy vehicles were seen across Demchok along with the presence of about 5,000 Chinese personnel including troops from the PLA.
The “provocations and disturbing behaviour by China poses questions about how China seeks to use its growing power,” Wells added.
On May 9, Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in scuffles on the banks of the high-altitude Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh and also in north Sikkim. The clash resulted in injuries on both sides.
Wells cited ASEAN and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries, Japan and Australia, and said that China’s behaviour was causing other nations to come together for the post-Second World War economic order.
In 2017, India and China were involved in a 73-day standoff in Doklam. Relations between the two nations have been largely peaceful since then.
Modi in 2018 also boycotted China’s OBOR or One Belt, One Road project and the US in 2019, supported India’s stand by questioning the economic rationale behind it and its transparency.
In the South China Sea, China is eyeing the mineral-rich island chains of Paracels and Spratlys. Beijing competes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei for control over the ocean areas and two island chains.
In recent times, the US and China have been at loggerheads, first over trade and now over the coronavirus outbreak.