Eye on China: Border Tensions – FPI Review – WHA Meeting – Li’s SOTU – HK NatSec Law – US Strategy

Eye on China is a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom from an Indian interests perspective.

I. India-China Ties

Border Tensions: Tensions along the disputed Sino-Indian boundary remain high. In last week’s newsletter I had covered two incidents, one on May 5 and 6 in Ladakh and the other on May 9 near Sikkim. This week, there’s a bit more clarity, but no resolution. Ajai Shukla reports that “more than 5,000 Chinese soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have intruded into five points in Ladakh – four along the Galwan River, and one near the Pangong Lake.” He adds: “This is not shaping up like a routing patrol confrontation, or even a temporary occupation of disputed territory of the kind that took place in Depsang in 2013, or in Chumar in 2014. This time the PLA soldiers are digging defences, preparing bunkers, moving in heavy vehicles and have reportedly even moved artillery guns to the rear (albeit in their own territory) to support the intruders, say the sources. The Chinese have pitched close to a hundred tents at four points on the Galwan River between Patrolling Point 14 (PP 14) and another location called Gogra.”

Manu Pubby reports: “what started off as one of the many face-offs that occur between troops patrolling the disputed border has taken a more serious turn after the Chinese side brought in troops and heavy equipment from a military exercise that was being conducted in the region this week. It is believed that Chinese troops have also taken up positions along the Pangong Tso Lake in the finger area and are conducting aggressive patrols with motorboats to deter Indian forces in the region.” The report adds: “Some temporary structures put up in the finger area are also said to have been damaged. At the Galwan flashpoint, Chinese troops have maintained their presence and are being countered by Indian reinforcements that have also moved in large numbers. Reports coming in suggest that the face-off position at Galwan (valley) is being broadened by the Chinese to almost four kilometres as it rushed in additional troops this week. Sources said that a possible target could be the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) Road that was constructed last year and is a lifeline for Sub Sector North (SSN).”

Sudhi Ranjan Sen reports for Bloomberg that talks between local commanders on Tuesday ended in a deadlock. Global Times had a piece earlier this week, saying that the Galwan standoff wasn’t likely to become another Doklam. The piece also said that Indian troops had trespassed into Chinese territory. The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday, in Mandarin remarks, warned of “necessary counter-measures” while asking “Indian personnel to return immediately and restore the control of the relevant areas.” In response on Thursday, the MEA said that “All Indian activities are entirely on the Indian side of the LAC. In fact, it is Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns.” On Friday, the Indian Express cited official data to report the jump in transgressions from China across the LAC in 2019 and the first four months of 2020. The report says: “the first four months of this year, according to official data, witnessed 170 Chinese transgressions across the LAC, including 130 in Ladakh. There were only 110 such transgressions in Ladakh during the same period in 2019.”

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