Aksai Chin is a disputed territory in Ladakh that has been a source of contention between India and China since the late 1950s. Currently under the administration of China as part of the Xinjiang Province, Aksai Chin has been a flashpoint in the on-going border standoff between India and China. Recently, China announced its plans to expand its railway network project to 4,000 km by 2024, including building a railroad track through the disputed region of Aksai Chin. This has raised concerns about the implications of China’s railway expansion for the India-China border tensions.
Background on Aksai Chin
Aksai Chin is a region located in the northernmost part of India’s Ladakh region, and it is also part of China’s Xinjiang Province. This region has been a source of contention between India and China since the late 1950s, with both countries claiming sovereignty over the region. In 1962, India and China fought a brief war over the region, which China won, and since then, Aksai Chin has been under Chinese control.
China’s Railway Expansion Plans
China has announced plans to expand its railway network to 4,000 km by 2024, which includes building a railroad track through Aksai Chin. This railway track would connect the Tibet Autonomous Region with Xinjiang, and it is part of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to improve connectivity and economic cooperation across Asia and beyond.
Concerns about China’s Railway Expansion
China’s railway expansion plans have raised concerns in India about the implications of building a railroad track through the disputed region of Aksai Chin. One concern is that the railway track would allow the Chinese military to mobilize its forces with ease and create an edge for China in the on-going border standoff between India and China. It could also help China in expanding its strategic military presence in the region.
India-China Border Tensions
India and China have been engaged in a border standoff since May 2020, when Chinese troops intruded into Indian territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. The two countries have since been involved in multiple rounds of talks to resolve the standoff, but tensions remain high, with both sides deploying troops and weapons along the LAC. The disputed region of Aksai Chin is a crucial factor in the India-China border tensions, and China’s railway expansion plans in the region could escalate the situation further.
India has expressed concerns about China’s railway expansion plans in Aksai Chin, with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs stating that the construction of infrastructure in the disputed region “without the consent of the Government of India” is a violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India has also been working on improving its own infrastructure in the region, including building roads and bridges, to improve its military presence and connectivity in the region.