A Hotline for China and India
"Hotlines" between world leaders, like the legendary Moscow-Washington "red telephone" devised after the Cuban missile crisis, are designed to prevent misunderstandings or miscommunications between nuclear powers from escalating into a nuclear conflict. China and the United States have one. So do India and Pakistan. This year, the leaders of India and China agreed to set one up between New Delhi and Beijing, highlighting concerns that a worsening border dispute could quickly become the first major conflict of the multipolar era.
Asia's two emerging superpowers are at odds over the Himalayan region of Tawang, a district of India's Arunachal Pradesh state that China claims is historically part of Tibet and therefore within China's borders. The countries fought a war over the territory in 1962 that killed more than 2,000 soldiers. The India-based Dalai Lama has a great deal of influence over the region's largely ethnic Tibetan population, further irritating Beijing. The area has been increasingly militarized, and the Indian military documented 270 border violations and almost 2,300 cases of "aggressive border patrolling" by the Chinese in 2008. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the area in October, drawing official protests and retaliatory measures from Beijing.
In June, the Times of India reported that Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested to Singh that the hotline be set up so that the border dispute didn't lead to military -- or even nuclear -- confrontation between the countries. Although likely a prudent precaution, the hotline is an indication that Tawang has joined Kashmir as one of Asia's most dangerous flashpoints.
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