The shared border between India and China has been a source of conflict for centuries. Stretching over 2,000 miles, the border has produced conflicting maps, confusing territorial claims, and in a few cases all-out war. So it’s no surprise that a recently escalating conflict between China and India involves a border dispute.
What’s strange is that it’s not over their shared border. Rather it involves the tiny country of Bhutan, a little-known region called the Doklam Plateau, a new road, and a region of enormous strategic importance for India.How this conflict plays out could have enormous ramifications for both global politics and the persecuted Christians living in these countries. To help catch you up on this convoluted but important situation here are four things you need to know about the current China/India conflict.
What caused this most recent conflict?
The history of the India/China border is long, complicated, contested, and produced conflicting maps and claims. Some of these areas have produced direct conflict between India and China, but the Doklam Plateau belongs to the small country of Bhutan. While there has never been agreement between Bhutan and China over Doklam, this disagreement has simmered in the background.
However China recently began construction on a road that passes directly through the Doklam Plateau, agitating the situation. Indian soldiers quickly showed up on the scene and threatened the Chinese to keep the status quo in Doklam or else.
Why is the Doklam Plateau such a big deal?
India has two reasons for involving themselves in what, ostensibly, isn’t their concern. The first is Bhutan and India have long had a close relationship, with Bhutan actually granting India the right to control aspects of their foreign policy in exchange for India’s protection. Basically Bhutan is the scrawny kid on the playground who makes friends with a bigger kid (India) to keep the bully (China) from picking on him.
The second reason is the Doklam Plateau sits near a region of extreme strategic importance to India. As you can see from the second map India has a small strip of land connecting them to their northeastern territory. Furthermore China knows this. From India’s perspective it’s impossible not to see China’s encroachment into the Doklam Plateau as a threatening gesture.
So how serious is this conflict?
Serious enough the world is taking notice. Both countries have over 1 billion people, nuclear weapons, a historical animosity and a strong sense of nationalist pride. So far both sides seem to be digging in their heels. From China’s point of view India invaded their territory and won’t pursue reconciliation until they leave. From India’s point of view China invaded an ally’s land for the explicit purpose of threatening their national security.
It’s the most tense things have been in China for over 50 years … and that time there was a war.
What does this mean for Christians?
It’s hard to say exactly. For the time being very little. However both China and India appear on Open Doors’ World Watch List (at 39 and 15 respectively), and India’s current president emboldened militant Hindu extremists to attack Christians. Increased instability in either country, and especially a war, would more than likely lead to less freedom, more chest-thumping nationalism, and inevitably a crackdown on any voices deemed “unpatriotic.”
In other words, for both Chinese and Indian Christians a war doesn’t bode well. For their sake, and the sake of global peace and security, be praying that God would bring a quick resolution to this disagreement.