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Tension between India and China: Why is there conflict over the Himalayan border?



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Tensions have continued to simmer between India and China in the wake of confrontations earlier this month along their disputed frontier high in the Himalayas that killed at least 20 Indian soliders.

The incident marked the first confrontation between the two Asian countries in which soldiers have died since 1975, and happened after a month-long face off between forces on both sides.

Now, on the back of rising animosity between the world’s two most populous countries, the Indian government has moved to ban dozens of Chinese-made mobile apps – including TikTok and WeChat.

Here, we take a closer look at the relationship between the two nations and the recent events concerning the situation on the border.

Several rounds of talks held in the last three decades have failed to resolve ongoing boundary disputes between China and India (@parasrishi )

What happened in the “violent face-off”?

The fighting between Indian and Chinese forces occurred in mid-June in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, where both countries have increased deployment close to the disputed border.

China accused Indian troops of carrying out “provocative attacks” which led to “serious physical conflicts”.

The Indian army at first said that three of its soldiers, including an officer, had died in a clash in Ladakh, adding that both sides suffered casualties.

It later released a statement saying the two sides had disengaged, and added that 17 other Indian troops who were “critically injured in the line of duty” had died from their injuries, taking the “total that were killed in action to 20”.

China and India have been arguing for decades over territory in the high-altitude, largely uninhabited border region (AFP via Getty Images)

​It is believed ammunition was not used in the conflict, with the fatalities a result of a physical battle.

China has not released any information on casualties on its side.

Why is there conflict over the Himalayan border?

China and India have been arguing for decades over territory in the high-altitude, largely uninhabited border region, and fought a border war in 1962 that resulted in an uneasy truce.

The two nuclear powers’ armies face-off at many points along the 3,440km (2,100-mile) shared border and several rounds of talks held in the last three decades have failed to resolve ongoing boundary disputes.

Now, tensions between the pair are at their worst they’ve been since 2017, when both sides increased their military deployments at their borders with Bhutan in the Doklam crisis.

The animosity has been fuelled in part by a new road built by India in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which divides the two sides.

That move angered China, which deployed troops and built infrastructure of its own in disputed territory, bringing the two sides’ forces in closer proximity along the heavily militarised border and increasing the risk of clashes.

The clashes this month were therefore a culmination of weeks of mounting unease and years of dispute.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at the time that Indian forces had crossed the border twice on June 15, “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides”, AFP news agency reported.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs meanwhile said in a statement at the time that the incident happened “as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo” in the Galwan Valley region.

What is happening now?

The latest sign of escalating tensions came on Tuesday, when dozens of Chinese-made mobile apps were banned by the Indian government.

TikTok and WeChat were among the 59 Chinese-built software applications the Indian government said posed a danger to the country’s national security.

Following the government order, Google and Apple will have to remove the apps from the Android and iOS stores.

The ban is a huge blow for Chinese firms looking to capitalise on one of the world’s biggest web services markets.

India is TikTok’s largest foreign market, with 611 million downloads – more than 30 per cent of its total users.

TikTok owners Bytedance, which is headquartered in Beijing, had planned to invest $1 billion in India, open a local data centre and had recently launched a recruitment drive there.

Other apps now banned include the popular messaging platform WeChat, downloaded more than 100 million times on Android, and two apps by smartphone-maker Xiaomi.

Twitter-esque microblogging service Weibo and a number of e-commerce apps are also now prohibited in India.

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