India’s escalating border tensions with China could lead to a wider conflict, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said, adding to concerns for a nation that’s been battling another neighbor to its west for decades.
“In the overall security calculus border confrontations, transgressions, unprovoked tactical military actions spiraling into a larger conflict therefore cannot be discounted,” Rawat said in his address at New Delhi’s National Defence College on Friday. “The situation along Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh remains tense.”
India and China have been caught in a tense military standoff along their Himalayan border since May. Both sides have moved thousands of troops, tanks and missiles to the frontier, while fighter jets are on stand-by. Both armies are now preparing to dig in for the bitterly cold winter at the high-altitude and mostly uninhabited terrain.
The conflict comes as India’s 742-kilometer (460 miles) Line of Control with Pakistan has been equally active and tense.
Indian and Chinese soldiers have engaged in skirmishes in which shots have been fired for the first time in over four decades. Some 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed in a particularly violent clash along the border in June.
Military and diplomatic officials on both sides have been meeting regularly to try and reduce tensions along the 3,488-kilometer (2,167-mile) boundary. Rawat’s comments come as the eighth round of such dialog is underway.
Rawat also warned India may have to reckon with twin conflicts, with Pakistan and China at the same time, along its western and northern borders.
“Constant friction with two of our nuclear armed neighbors with whom India has fought wars, increasingly acting in collusion poses an omni-present danger” to regional stability, Rawat said, adding that there was “potential for escalation threatening our territorial integrity and strategic cohesion.”