The Asia Times reported recent border incursions by China’s troops into Indian territory in the area of Sikkim on June 16. Troops moved nearly one kilometer into the territory, then departed. There have been over 70 Chinese incursions into Sikkim since January 2008.
It is interesting these incursions happened in Sikkim, which China has acknowledged as part of India as recently as May 2004, rather than in Arunachal-Pradesh and Aksai Chin which are territories still under dispute- of course, incursions are still ongoing in Arunachal-Pradesh.
It is odd, but it appears the major Western news sites have oddly enough not yet picked up on this issue. Perhaps this is because India’s foreign ministry is “playing down” the news.
Sudha Ramachandran, writing for the Asia Times, has many ideas for why China increased its belligerence. Chief among his ideas is that the Chinese are using incursions in Sikkim to encourage India to give concessions in Arunachal and Aksai. Also in agreement is a China expert at an Indian think tank who argues China might be backing off recognition of Sikkim as part of India. The Chinese foreign minister, however, recently reiterated China recognizes Sikkim as part of India.
An increased show of force is likely to cause the Indian populace to dig in and oppose India ceding land. Since the Chinese are not led by foolish military leaders (one would presume), perhaps the increase in incursions is due to something else.
I would posit the main reason for the new incursions in a territory the Chinese already agree is part of India is to give the Indians a warning not to shelter and encourage the D*l*i L*ma of T&b&t&n Buddhism fame. China already warns countries not to receive the spiritual leader under threat of damaging relations. And the recent unrest unnerved Beijing. It reasonable to expect that China is willing to undertake drastic measures to limit the D*l*i L*ma’s influence in India.
The Chinese do not want their country to split because of tensions, and perhaps they see the Indians as encouraging those tensions. Thus, the border incursions are a warning among others that Bhaskar Roy of the India-based South Asia Analysis group describes, which are designed to modify India’s foreign policy behavior and its relationship to the D&l*i L&m&.
* An Economic Times article briefly explains the situation.