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  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In most parts of the world, the lines on maps separating countries are true borders. That is, they are controlled by the governments on one or both sides. But in some places, they remain the quasi-open frontiers they were in the past or have reemerged as such because of recent political changes; those borders are highly porous zones, where people and goods can move more or less freely in one or both directions without much regard to the powers that be. Such situations invite outside involvement that can ramp up quickly and disturb preexisting international arrangements. One poignant example is the adjoining border area shared by Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In recent years, that frontier has attracted attention because of the danger that Islamist militants from Afghanistan could cross it to move north into Tajikistan and beyond. But another danger is emerging: China is establishing increasing control over Tajikistan and, thus, is putting itself in a position to project power southward from Tajikistan into Afghanistan. If Beijing does so, that could fundamentally change the security situation and geopolitical balance in Central and South Asia as a whole.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Borders
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, China, South Asia, Central Asia, Asia, Tajikistan
  • Author: Sudha Ramachandran
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Tensions between India and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have remained high ever since violent clashes occurred in the Galwan Valley region in mid-June, resulting in the deaths of 20 Indian Army soldiers and an undisclosed number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops (Jamestown, June 29; China Brief, July 15). A significant new development occurred on the night of August 29-30, when the Indian Army took control of strategic heights at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso, a lake in eastern Ladakh that straddles the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between India and China. The operation was significant: it was the first time since the eruption of tensions along the LAC in May that the Indian Army preempted the Chinese from unilaterally altering the status quo (The Telegraph, September 2).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Armed Forces, Conflict, Borders
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, Tibet
  • Author: Jagannath P. Panda
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Connectivity linkages between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and trans-Himalayan countries have taken on a new hue with the recent Himalayan ‘Quadrilateral’ meeting between China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal (MOFA (PRC), July 27). Often referred to as a “handshake across the Himalayas,” China’s outreach in the region has been characterized by ‘comprehensive’ security agreements, infrastructure-oriented aid, enhanced focus on trade, public-private partnerships, and more recently, increased economic and security cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] The geopolitics underlying China’s regional development initiatives, often connected with its crown jewel foreign policy project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), have been highly concerning—not just for the countries involved, but also for neighboring middle powers like India, which have significant stakes in the region.[2] At the Himalayan Quad meeting, foreign ministers from all four countries deliberated on the need to enhance the BRI in the region through a “Health Silk Road”. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary and PRC President Xi Jinping’s ‘Community of a Shared Future for Humanity’ was cited as justification for facilitating a “common future with closely entwined interests,” and the ministers agreed to work towards enhancing connectivity initiatives to ensuring a steady flow of trade and transport corridors in the region and building multilateralism in the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote a “global community of health” (Xinhua, July 28).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, India, Asia, Nepal
  • Author: Anne Marie Brady
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: China Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: China’s military ambitions in the Arctic, and its growing strategic partnership with Russia, have rung alarm bells in many governments. In May 2019, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Defense annual report on China’s military capabilities had a section on China’s military interests in the Arctic and the possibility of Chinese submarines operating in the Arctic basin (Department of Defense, May 2019). In August 2019, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg raised concerns about what he diplomatically referred to as “China’s increased presence in the Arctic” (Reuters, August 7). From a nuclear security point of view, the Arctic is China’s vulnerable northern flank. The flight path of U.S. and Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) targeted at China transit the Arctic. Key components of the U.S. missile defense system are also located in the Arctic. Chinese submarine-based ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) operating in the Arctic could restore China’s nuclear deterrence capability (Huanqiu Ribao, October 28, 2013). China currently operates six nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and fifty diesel attack submarines, with more under construction. If Chinese nuclear-armed submarines were able to access the Arctic basin undetected, this would be a game-changer for the United States, the NATO states and their partners, and the wider Asia-Pacific (Huanqiu Ribao, April 11, 2012). China would be able to target missiles at the United States and Europe with ease; such ability would strengthen China’s military dominance in Asia and bolster China’s emerging position as a global military power.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Territorial Disputes, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, Arctic, United States of America
  • Author: Sudha Ramachandran
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: China Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On May 30, Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second term as India’s Prime Minister. Conspicuous by their absence at the inauguration ceremony were Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan; Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Authority (CTA), more commonly known as the Tibetan government-in-exile; and Tien Chung-Kwang, Taiwan’s trade representative to India. While Khan was not invited on account of the serious deterioration in India-Pakistan relations since early this year, the absence of Sangay and Tien can be attributed to the Modi government adopting a more cautious approach to China in its second term. Modi’s administration seems keen to avoid needling the People’s Republic of China (PRC), especially at a time when Sino-Indian relations are improving (Deccan Herald, May 29). This caution on the part of India notwithstanding, Sino-Indian relations during Modi’s second term (scheduled to run through May 2024) are unlikely to be tension-free.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, Tibet
  • Author: Sudha Ramachandran
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: China Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Upon coming to power in May 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) adopted a more muscular approach to China than its predecessors. As part of this, it was not averse to using the Dalai Lama and the CTA to gain leverage in its dealings with China. Its recent move to put distance between itself and Dharamsala reflects an understanding that playing the ‘Tibet card’ brought India no benefits. In fact, the failure of the BJP’s four-year gambit reaffirms what many Indian diplomats and scholars have been saying for decades: there is no ‘Tibet card’ for India to play.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, Tibet
  • Author: Kevin McCauley
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: China Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: At the end of August, Chinese and Indian troops both pulled back from the Doklam region in Bhutan after weeks of tense posturing. The face off began in June when Chinese construction crews accompanied by soldiers began building a road. The area is sensitive to Indian national interests not only because of its ally Bhutan, but also due to area’s proximity to a narrow corridor connecting eastern India with the rest of the country. Beijing repeatedly ratcheted up the messaging to India, including the release of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal justification of China’s territorial claims against India (China Daily, August 3, 2017). If the two sides decide to face off again, forces on both sides will need to contend with the difficult mountain terrain and complex weather conditions. To prepare for such a contingency, both India and China have invested significantly in units capable of mountain and high-altitude warfare. An examination of the Chinese Military’s doctrine and training of such units provides important insights into how such a conflict would be conducted.
  • Topic: Environment, Military Strategy, Territorial Disputes, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, Himalayas
  • Author: Sudha Ramachandran
  • Publication Date: 09-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: China Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The Himalayan region places tough logistic burdens on militaries operating there, making improvement of roads and rails a priority for China and India. While framing their infrastructure projects in economic terms, China’s progress has real strategic implications. Though the Indian government has often promised to prioritize its own building programs, these have yet to pan out.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Territorial Disputes, Infrastructure, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, Himalayas