As nuclear posturing between North Korea and the United States rivets the world, a quieter conflict between India and China is playing out on a remote Himalayan ridge — with stakes just as high.

For the past two months, Indian and Chinese troops have faced off on a plateau in the Himalayas in tense proximity, in a dispute prompted by moves by the Chinese military to build a road into territory claimed by India’s close ally, Bhutan.

India has suggested that both sides withdraw, and its foreign minister said in Parliament that the dispute can be resolved only by dialogue.

Yet China has vociferously defended the right it claims to build a road in the Doklam area, land it also claims.

Since the dispute began, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued an angry stream of almost daily denunciations of India and its “illegal trespass” and “recklessness,” along with demands that New Delhi withdraw its troops “if it cherishes peace.” …

Two months in, a few hundred Chinese and Indian troops remain hunkered down on the plateau — and the threat of real violence looms.

Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general, said China has been preparing to evict Indian troops if New Delhi does not back down but hoped that China’s objective could be realized without bloodshed.

“We won’t be the first to fire. We are very clear about this line, and this shows China’s sincerity,” he said. “But it’s not up to China to decide. Whether there is to be war depends on the Indians. However, if they fire the first shot, they would lose control and the initiative.”

Source: Washington Post

Bottom line: The last time these nations fought a major war was in 1962 when both were far less of a threat to global stability. Now nuclear-armed, even the smallest of provocations has the potential to see the first nuclear exchange since World War II. In a straight-up conventional conflict, however, most analysts believe China has the substantial edge.

That said, both nations are claiming the high moral ground but on the surface at least this looks a lot like China asserting rights it does not have, as it is doing in the South China Sea. As dangerous as it may be, the only way to counter Chinese aggression is with resolve. India seems to have figured this out.