Numerous other friction points persist between the two nuclear powers. China frequently complains that India’s offering of refuge to both the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan government constitutes tacit support for China’s territorial disintegration. And India is dismayed by Chinese plans to build a series of dams on the Brahmaputra River, which originates in Tibet but flows into India. Tens of millions depend on the river, and water competition between the two countries will likely continue to grow.
Chinese expansion into the Indian Ocean — which India regards as its backyard — also raises hackles in New Delhi. Indian media reported in April that a classified Defense Ministry document alleged Chinese submarines have been making routine forays into the Indian Ocean. In February, a Chinese company assumed administration of Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port, reviving fears that China is seeking a stronger foothold along India’s periphery. Geostrategic competition also extends to Myanmar, where China and India have long competed for influence, and is complicated by China’s friendship with India’s archenemy, Pakistan.
And popular mistrust aggravates these political disputes: A 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 23 percent of both Indians and Chinese hold a “favorable” view of each other.
Now, with Chinese troops in Indian-controlled territory, it is New Delhi’s move. There will be immediate diplomatic implications on the content and atmospherics of upcoming high-level visits. The Indian military will have to consider augmenting its presence and capacity at the border, as it has during previous crises. Some Indian commentators are also suggesting that Delhi re-open the question of China’s legitimate rule over Tibet, which would certainly anger Beijing.