Foreseeing and Planning for the Next Border Crisis Between India and China
Rising tensions have been felt along the contested border between China and India in recent years. Clashes along the mostly rugged, mountainous border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), have been triggered by Chinese encroachment and threaten to escalate into all-out war between the two Asian superpowers.
The United States and its strategy in the Indo-Pacific region are being affected by the rising tensions. There is a danger that military hostilities between the two major nuclear powers will escalate into a full-scale war that could draw in Pakistan. An escalation of the conflict to this point would have devastating effects on the region. As both China and India increase their military might and border infrastructure, tensions are likely to rise and remain elevated. To prevent further Chinese incursions into Indian territory, Washington should lend a hand to New Delhi and be ready to act swiftly if things get out of hand.
There is a possibility that the United States could provide diplomatic and military support to India if fighting breaks out along the LAC, without making a big deal out of it. Even if Washington is unwilling to mediate the conflict, it may find novel ways to bolster New Delhi’s position. Of course, it needs to give this careful consideration. The United States cannot sit on the sidelines and watch as this border dispute escalates into a full-scale war.
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At the Center for a New American Security, Lisa Curtis oversees the Indo-Pacific Security Program. From 2017 to 2021, she was the senior director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council (NSC). Derek Grossman is an adjunct professor at USC and a senior defence analyst at the non-profit, non-partisan RAND Corporation. He used to brief the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific security affairs every day on the latest intelligence findings.