Foreign Policy

Border Tensions Flare Between India and China

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Tensions flare over the border between India and China, Baltic states sanction Belarusian government officials, and Lebanon’s new prime minister pushes for political reform.

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Border Tensions Highlight the Worsening India-China Relationship

Tensions along the border between China and India have flared up again, as both sides have accused the other of violating the disputed boundary and trying to seize territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

On Monday, the Indian military said in a statement that Chinese troops had carried out “provocative military movements” in a contested part of the Ladakh region over the weekend, to which Indian troops responded by bolstering their own presence in Ladakh, sparking a fierce war of words that was defused by local commanders before it turned violent.

The Chinese foreign ministry dismissed the Indian military’s claim that it had initiated the row and rejected the accusation that its troops had crossed the LAC. It accused India of “seriously violating China’s territorial sovereignty” with its own maneuvers.

Nothing new. This weekend’s events occurred in the same area as the deadly clashes that took place in June, during which 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in the worst crossborder violence between the two nuclear-armed states in decades. Representatives from both sides have been in talks since earlier this year to try to find a way forward, but this weekend’s events suggest that they have made little progress and that the LAC is still a source of great tension between India and China.

Looking West. This is the latest sign of the worsening state of Indian-Chinese relations. As Jeff M. Smith wrote for Foreign Policy after the last border clashes in June, the increasingly frequent hostilities along the LAC reflect a broader feeling of suspicion and distrust both sides feel toward each other. As India and China each continue to vie for regional influence, their relationship is unlikely to be salvaged in the near future.

More than that, as Foreign Policy’s Sumit Ganguly recently wrote, India will increasingly look to strengthen its ties with the United States and other Western countries as its relationship with China grows more tense. In addition to turning a largely regional dispute into a global hotspot, this could further antagonize Beijing and make border clashes more likely.

What We’re Following Today

Kushner urges Palestinians to negotiate peace. White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and other top U.S. officials accompanied an Israeli delegation on the first official flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi on Monday to finalize the historic peace deal between the two countries. Kushner used the occasion to encourage Palestinians to negotiate peace with Israel. “They have to come to the table,” he said. “Peace will be ready for them, an opportunity will be ready for them as soon as they are ready to embrace it.”

Palestinians have been deeply critical of the deal, saying that it legitimizes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and turns a key Arab ally against the cause of Palestinian statehood.

Baltic states sanction Lukashenko. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have announced sanctions against Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and 29 other government officials over accusations of election-rigging in last month’s presidential election. The move is seen as a reflection of the Baltic countries’ growing impatience with the European Union’s slow response to the crisis engulfing Belarus.

In August, EU foreign ministers met in an emergency session to prepare a list of Belarusian individuals to be sanctioned, but they have been slow to implement the measures in part due to the threat of Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel against foreign powers getting involved in Belarus, and recently told Lukashenko that he was prepared to send in a reserve police force to support his government.

Rwandan businessman held on terror charges. Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan businessman who became famous for housing people in one of his hotels in the capital of Kigali during the country’s 1994 genocide, was charged on Monday with crimes related to terrorism, arson, kidnapping, and “murder perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory.”

Details of the accusations against Rusesabagina have not been made public, but the Rwanda Investigation Bureau said in a statement that he “is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits … operating out of various places in the region and abroad.”

Lebanon’s new prime minister pushes for reform. Mustapha Adib, Lebanon’s newly-appointed prime minister-designate, called for immediate political reforms during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron as the country continues to undergo one of its worst crises since the end of the civil war in 1990. Protesters took to the streets en masse following last month’s deadly explosions in Beirut demanding sweeping reforms and an end to the country’s sectarian governing system.

The need for reform has been widely acknowledged. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that the Iran-backed Shiite movement is open to discussing political reform in the country if the other major parties agree. Further, the International Monetary Fund has tied economic assistance to institutional reform. In July, Foreign Policy’s Steven A. Cook wrote that Lebanon’s deep social, political, and economic problems were unraveling its constitutional system from within.

Sudan signs peace deal with rebel group. Sudan’s transitional government achieved an important milestone on Monday after it reached an agreement with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella organization composed of several of the country’s rebel groups. The agreement provides for the dismantling of SRF forces and the integration of its fighters into regular military units. It also covers issues around security, land ownership, justice, power-sharing, and the return of displaced people to their homes.

The deal aims to bring an end to the 17-year insurgency in Darfur, and is a major step toward the transitional government’s goal of resolving the country’s myriad of civil conflicts. In an article for Foreign Policy in March, Kenneth Roth wrote that there are powerful actors resisting the country’s transition to democracy, necessitating international support.

A district mayor from the Czech capital of Prague has broken new ground in what counts as diplomatic language. In a letter to the Chinese foreign ministry, Pavel Novotny lashed out at Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Li over some perceived, unspecified slights of the Czech Republic. “How dare you threaten that you will force Mr. Chairman of the Senate of the Czech Republic to ‘pay a high price,’” he said, “you impudent, thoughtless, uncouth clowns!”

The tirade only got worse, before Novotny ended his note with a slew of screeching vulgarities. “Yeah, and send me a copy of the apology so that I can file it away and drop this outrageous, unseemly and wretched diplomatic f***-up you just displayed. Don’t f*** with me!!!”

On second thought, it’s unlikely very many diplomats will follow Novotny’s lead.

That’s it for today. 

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