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What in the World is Going On?

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OK, I get it. You're sick of hearing about it.

"There must be something else happening in the world," I hear you saying.

Well, you're in luck! I did some digging and it turns out there are other things happening in the world, after all! Things that have nothing to do with viruses or masks or vaccines or contact tracers. (Or, at least, as little to do with those things as possible, given the circumstances.)

Here are a few of them:

1) China and India are at it again

Back in September of 2017 I wrote about the soaring military tensions between China and India over a seemingly insignificant mountain pass in Doklam, a disputed area near the China/Bhutan/Indian border that is claimed by both China and Bhutan. For those who might not remember, that standoff began when Chinese troops began constructing a road in the region without Bhutan's approval, escalated when Indian troops arrived to stop the construction, and ended when Beijing and New Delhi agreed to mutually withdraw from the region. It was a sudden end to a dangerous impasse between two nuclear-armed regional rivals, and, as many warned at the time, this was unlikely to be the last such border dispute between China and India.

Fast forward three years, and we're now facing what is already being touted as the biggest face-off between the two countries since that Doklam dispute.

This time, the conflict is taking place over the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the imaginary line through the volatile Kashmir region separating Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory. The LAC has been a source of contention between India and China for years, not because the region is home to any large deposit of resource or mineral wealth, but because of its geo-strategic value. Once prized for its importance in trans-Himalayan trading routes, it now stands as a strategic wedge of Indian territory between the Chinese border on the east and the Pakistani border on the west.

But the fragile status quo in the territory has been disturbed by India's recent efforts to ramp up infrastructure development. This development includes a 1400-foot-long bridge over a treacherous section of the Shyok River, an engineering achievement involving micropiles to fortify the bridge's foundations which was accomplished in a mere 14 months . . . with a little help from 1,800 Indian troops. The greater connectivity provided by the bridge and other newly-constructed border roads, combined with upgrades to a local air strip that allows the Indian Air Force to land C-130J military transport aircraft in the area, means India now has a credible ability to deploy and supply a sustained military presence in the region. This, understandably, worries China.

The current spat kicked off earlier this month when China accused India of crossing into its territory, blocking its patrols and "attempting to unilaterally change the status" of the Line of Actual Control. India, meanwhile, insists that it did not do anything unilaterally and that the current dispute is the result of "actions by both armies on the ground." Details of these alleged "actions" are scant, but revolve around incidents on May 5th and May 9th in separate areas of the region that involved "aggressive behavior by both sides" and resulted in "injuries to 76 Indian soldiers."

The Indian media is, perhaps unsurprisingly, playing up the Chinese threat to Indian security, noting that Chinese troops have now crossed into Indian territory, erected encampments, and brought in construction equipment "for construction of bunkers." Indian commentators are decrying this clear violation of Indian sovereignty, warning that the Modi government "cannot afford to yield ground" in the area.

The Chinese media, for its part, has fired back with . . . silence? That's right, after an initial comment from the ChiCom mouthpiece Global Times protesting "India's recent, illegal construction of defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region," there has been nothing at all in the Chinese media about the situation. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has only released two statements on the dispute, and those statements were only issued in response to Indian press inquiries.

Lest there be any doubt where Beijing stands on the matter, though, the Global Times did just run a report about the maiden flight of "China's first plateau-focused unmanned helicopter," which, unnamed analysts say, "could help safeguard China's southwestern borders with India."

One hopes that this stand-off, like the Doklam disturbance before it, is resolved peacefully, but this current round of tension isn't just hot air or diplomatic blather. The LAC came about as a result of the ceasefire from the 1962 Sino-Indian War, so it is not unreasonable to be concerned that a dispute over that line could devolve back into warfare.

Don't worry, though: Trump has magnanimously offered to mediate the dispute between Beijing and New Delhi, because there's no doubt that the US would be a completely neutral party in these negotiations. I'm sure both sides will welcome the offer with open arms. . . .

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