The unprecedented high levels of tension at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh on the disputed India-China border, where Chinese soldiers have moved into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), has raised questions about the Chinese motives for this action.
With multiple intrusions, the Chinese have upped the ante with a view to pressure India. This can also be considered a diversionary tactics, considering pressure on China on international platform.
The simplest explanation perhaps is that China is responding to India’s efforts to bolster border-area infrastructure in Ladakh after the completion of the DSDBO road.
After India’s move into Doklam in 2017, China is especially sensitive to Indian activity along the disputed border. Around Galwan, in particular, China may be seeking to pre-empt an Indian effort to improve its links to the LAC.
There are some major changes from the earlier pattern with regard to the Chinese behaviour on the border: one, they have reportedly come in large numbers into a new area (Galwan river valley) which had not been contentious in terms of the alignment of the LAC; two, they are staying put, dug down and in tents and not just as a short-term patrol.
Three, these incursions are happening in multiple locations; and four, they have become more assertive and aggressive in their behaviour.
The broader context is the need for China to show strength amid the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, which has harmed the Chinese economy and worsened relations with many countries.
The activation of border areas by China could also be part of its pressure tactics and its desire to gain leverage vis-a-vis India with regard to issues in bilateral relations and matters like Covid and WHO.