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Conflict

Not all quiet on the Indo-Chinese border

Tensions are rising between India and China over an alleged incursion on the disputed Himalayan border that remains unresolved more than two weeks after intial reports. Both sides have resorted to aggressive posturing.

Despite three flag meetings between both army commanders to break the deadlock, the impasse in the northern Ladakh region where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a confrontation, persists.

This week, India's army chief General Bikram Singh briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security over Chinese troops pitching their tents in India. He said a handful of People's Liberation Army soldiers had set up camp on a remote spot 18 kilometers into the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBG) sector of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir, which India regards as its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

November 1962: Indian troops being inspected before leaving their posts in the Ladakh region (Photo by Radloff/Three Lions/Getty Images)

India and China fought a brief war in 1962

This is being seen as deliberately provocative, explains China expert Srikanth Kondapalli, Chairman of the Centre East Asian Studies. "The fact is that there are transgressions almost every day, around 250 a year. But in this case, the intrusion is significant. Previously, they would just plant their flag or leave behind cigarette butts or packets of noodles which were the usual tell-tale marks."

"This time, it's the tents that lead us to believe that they want to settle down," he added.

China, on the other hand, has rejected Indian claims that it breached the LAC and in turn, charged the Indian army with carrying out an "aggressive patrol" along the border. It has demanded that India stop such patrols and also criticized India's construction of transport infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges in Ladakh.

Longstanding conflict

There has been longstanding cross-border friction ever since 1962, when the two sides fought a brief war.

China claims 90,000 square kilometers of Indian territory in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and occupies around 38,000 square kilometers of Jammu and Kashmir, which India claims as its territory.

The continuing military standoff threatens to blow up into a major diplomatic row before the visit of new Chinese Prime Minister Keqiang to India later this month.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid is due to travel to Beijing next week to lay the groundwork for Li Keqiang's visit.

China's newly elected Premier Li Keqiang (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Li Keqiang is due to visit India later this month

"How can we hope to solve our longstanding border row when such incursions happen periodically?" former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said to DW. "The ironic part is that this happens just before the arrival of a top Chinese dignitary. This is more than saber-rattling, the Chinese want to send a bigger message and we must not bend."

"India has been developing its infrastructure in the border areas and is planning to strengthen its military presence along the LAC," agreed Lieutenant General Shankar Prasad. "We have to come with a coordinated diplomatic and military response to ensure that China maintains status quo."

Chinese Prime minister Wen Jiabao (R) welcomes Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Wen Jiabao and Manmohan Singh met in Beijing in 2008

Commerce between the two countries has flourished over the past decade, with bilateral trade increasing 20-fold to over 61 billion US dollars in 2010. It is expected to reach 100 billion dollars by 2015.

However, the border issue remains a sticking point as the current face-off shows.

DW.DE