The Great Indo-Sino Pissing Match

By Brendan S.


A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) unit confronts an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) patrol in one of the two disputed “Fish Tail” zones of Arunachal Pradesh region in January 2020.


India and China are in an intense pissing match over whether the Hindutva regime of Narendra Modi or Han supremacist regime of Xi Jinping gets to subjugate Himalayans. These confrontations emerge from a decades-long dispute between the two powers, now exacerbated by the ultranationalist regimes of Modi and Jinping, which head two of Asia’s top three most powerful states.


The easternmost border dispute between India and China lays at the imperialist-drawn demarcation line between Arunachal Pradesh region and southeastern Tibet.

Like many other border disputes across the world, this dispute is rooted in lines drawn by the British Empire with the intention of serving its colonial interests.


At the 1914 Simla Convention, the McMahon Line (ML) was drawn by British imperialist Henry McMahon, separating the British Raj-occupied Arunachal Pradesh region from Tibet. The McMahon Line, drawn with the sole purpose of British annexation of the Himalayas, still remains as the official border between Indian-occupied Arunachal Pradesh and Chinese-occupied Tibet today. India occupied some land north of the ML following independence, but lost it to the PLA during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. This led to the formation of two jointly Chinese and Indian-occupied buffer zone pockets known as Fish Tail-I and Fish Tail-II, which are still heavily contested today.


The most contested line between the hegemonic powers of India and China is the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which generally refers to the border spanning across northeastern Kashmir and separating Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin from Indian-occupied Ladakh. However, it also sometimes refers to all borders between the two states. The LAC is not to be confused with the Line of Control (LOC), which refers to the border between Pakistani and Indian-occupied Kashmir.


On June 15 of this year, 20 Indian soldiers and up to 35 Chinese soldiers were killed along the LAC in Galwan Valley, Ladakh during the bloodiest confrontation between the two powers in decades. Not a single shot was fired, as neither side is allowed to carry firearms when interacting with the other. The soldiers engaged in melee with clubs, rocks, and fists.


Map showing the current (pink and black dotted line) and historical borders along the Line of Actual Control in northeastern Kashmir, separating Indian-occupied Ladakh from Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin. (The Discoverer on wiki)

Today’s LAC in Kashmir was established in 1962 during the Sino-Indian War. The Mao regime, jealous of India’s annexation of Himalayan land and butthurt over its protection of the Dalai Lama, decided to advance the PLA over 85 kilometers past the Macartney-McDonald Line, which served as the recognized border from 1899-1959. The Macartney-McDonald Line replaced the Johnson Line of 1865, which was designed by the British Raj to annex Kashmir and act as a defensive front against the Russian Empire.


Today, the Indian state recognizes the Johnson Line as the legitimate border, claiming all of Aksai Chin as Indian territory, while the Chinese state rejects the line, holding all of Aksai Chin as Chinese territory. While resources in Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin are scarce, the Chinese state has made the most of its occupation by expelling the local population, building a highly illegal road connecting Tibet to Xinjiang, and establishing numerous military installations.


An Indian border patrol unit attempts to physically stop a PLA unit from patrolling further along the Line of Actual Contact (LAC) in June 2017.


Along with the LAC and McMahon Line, there are numerous other points of contention along the imperialist-established borders which separate Chinese-occupied Himalayas from Indian-occupied Himalayas, and even the borders of Bhutan, which lay squished in between the two ultranationalist giants.


While the LAC and McMahon Line are where the most prominent confrontations have taken place, standoffs have also recently occurred in Doklam region, which is just north of Sikkim along the Bhutan-China border. With the Chinese state constantly shoving its social imperialist dick into Bhutan’s borders, Bhutan makes good use of its healthy relations with India to avert annexation.


While the Kingdom of Bhutan has enjoyed sovereignty for centuries, even escaping annexation from the British Raj, it is militarily dependent on the Indian military to protect its borders from Chinese encroachment. This dependence was tested fully by China in 2017, during the Doklam standoff. China attempted to build a road within Doklam region, to which Bhutan replied by calling India for help. The situation escalated as India deployed 270 troops to the region, leading to a melee clash between the PLA and Indian Army which ended in numerous injuries on both sides. Following disengagement negotiations, both sides agreed to withdraw from Doklam.


The 1960s, the bloodiest era in the history of modern Indo-Sino relations, remains vivid in the minds of Chinese and Indian nationalists today. With China’s raging social imperialism under Mao and India’s nascent statehood under Nehru, the race to colonize the Himalayas inevitably converged into the Sino-Indian War of 1962.


On October 20, 1962, while the Cuban Missile Crisis was preoccupying the American and Soviet governments, China took advantage of India’s military disorganization by invading Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, and Assam. Nehru’s granting of asylum to the Dalai Lama during the 1959 Tibetan uprising had infuriated Mao, who yearned for Tibetan identity to become extinct. Mao was also desperately searching for a resurrection to his reputation following the catastrophic failure of the Great Leap Forward, which led to the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese. He channeled his anger by launching a dual-front offensive on Indian-occupied Kashmir and the McMahon Line, which lasted just over a month at the cost of 722 Chinese deaths and 1,383 Indian deaths.

Women of the Indian Home Guard train to defend their community from a potential PLA attack in Tezpur, Assam, November 1962. (Larry Burrows)

Tensions were made worse when Nehru approved a bill which enabled the internment of Chinese-Indians during the conflict. Thousands of Chinese-Indians were subsequently imprisoned for years without trial, and an anti-Chinese pogrom erupted across India. Thousands more Chinese were forced to flee as their properties were looted and destroyed.


As the Sino-Soviet Split was in full effect, the Soviet Union and numerous Western powers displayed a rare agreement in foreign policy, unanimously supporting India. Fearing political retaliation, China declared a unilateral ceasefire on November 21 and withdrew the PLA to the McMahon Line in the east, but continued to keep its forces in occupation of Aksai Chin.


The Cultural Revolution was soon to be introduced in 1966. Mao’s hypocritical criticism of Han ethnocentrism ran contradictory to his structural policies, which directly manifested just that. His genocide of the Himalayas and Tibet, which he took great pride in, would become a social imperialist rallying cry of the Cultural Revolution, and is still one of the CCP’s most championed genocides. Mao’s spineless words against “Han chauvinism” from the previous decade did nothing to stop the wave of Han supremacy he had spawned, which still remains deeply rooted in Chinese state policy.


Clashes reignited in 1967, this time on the borders of the Indian-protected Kingdom of Sikkim. PLA forces, energized by the winds of the Cultural Revolution, launched an attack on Indian outposts. Indian forces were able to fend off the attack and forced the PLA to withdraw. Heavy casualties were inflicted on both sides.


Standoff between PLA and Indian Army units on the Tibeto-Sikkimese border, 1967. (Probal Dasgupta)

Eight years later in 1975, following a questionable referendum, India would annex the Kingdom of Sikkim and begin a campaign of cultural genocide on the region, which continues today. The Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, and Tibetan peoples of the region have become thrust into the Indian underclass and persecuted for not folding to Hindu supremacy.


A similar story of Indian state repression can be found 1,300 kilometers to the west.

All borders which bisect the dual occupation of northeastern Kashmir, both historical and current, have been designed to divide, subjugate, and expel the predominantly Buddhist Ladakhi and Muslim Kashmiri peoples by annexing their homeland. The colonial roots of the conflict can be traced from the very names of the historical borders themselves, the same borders the LAC still largely adheres to. “Ardagh-Johnson,” “Macartney-MacDonald,” “McMahon,” borders drawn by British imperialists for British imperialists.


The Indian state under BJP rule holds very similar imperial interests in the Himalayas to that of its former British colonizers, and is hence willing to exploit these borders to its fullest colonial ability. Today they are embraced by a Hindutva state which aims to annex the Himalayas, and rejected by a Han supremacist state which also aims to annex the Himalayas.


Despite having some identity rights under the Indian state, Ladakhis struggle to maintain their cultural sovereignty as the Modi regime tightens its control on their existence. For decades, Ladakhis have been forced to flee from the Buddhist-intolerant Chinese Communist Party, while Kashmiris have faced numerous Islamophobic regimes in India, including the current one. There has yet to be a single native inhabitant of the region who holds any power in the decision-making process, let alone one who has achieved self-determination from the repressive grasp of the Indian and Chinese states. Himalayan communities are perpetually exploited by the Han ethnostate to the north and the Hindu imperialist regime to the south, both yearning to exsanguinate Himalayan resources, culture, and land.


Ladakhi women wearing perak headdresses at Lamayuru Monastery, Ladakh.

Based on the objective cultural geography and homeland of the indigenous Dardic, Kashmiri, and Ladakhi peoples, Aksai Chin is a region of Ladakh, and Ladakh a region of Kashmir. Greater Kashmir, from its objective cultural boundaries, borders Uyghuristan to the north, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, and Tibet to the east.


Indian ultranationalists often claim that Ladakh region (including Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin) is separate from Kashmir, and hold that only the Indian-drawn borders of “Kashmir Division” constitute the legitimate territory of Kashmir region. This is objectively false, since Kashmir region geographically and culturally comprises of all land from western Gilgit region to northeastern Aksai Chin.


Chinese ultranationalists, on the other hand, claim that Aksai Chin is geographically part of “Xinjiang,” and is therefore separate from Kashmir. This is equally based in state imperialist propaganda, since the CCP-manufactured borders of “Xinjiang” are a Han ethnocentric construct to begin with. The Mandarin word “Xinjiang” itself translates to “New Frontier,” denoting the Han settler colonialism which the Chinese state harnesses as a channel to commit genocide on Uyghurs.


It is important to beware of Indian and Chinese ultranationalists spreading pseudo-historical and pseudo-geographic rhetoric on the internet. Similar to the indoctrination playbook of bozkurts (Turkish fascists), Indian and Chinese ultranationalists both yell “terrorist” at the concept of self-determination for indigenous groups, and deny historical genocides against Himalayans. Legitimizing the occupation of Kashmir and the Himalayas is not only unethical, it is highly disrespectful to the millions of their native inhabitants who have been persecuted by the Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani states for decades.


The Indian and Chinese imperial states, backed by an army of apologists which can be observed across the internet, remain persistent stains on humanity. The Indo-Sino border disputes are, from the standpoint of ethics, nothing more than a constant pissing match between two powers which yearn to colonize and subjugate the people of the Himalayas. A violent clash of two empires competing for genocidal power, India driven by Hindu religious supremacy and China driven by Han social imperialism. With unchecked power, the rogue states continue to direct their immense strength toward the mutual pursuit of ethnic cleansing and extraction across the Himalayas and beyond.