India and China have been neighbors for thousands of years, and have traditionally enjoyed good relations. Only recently in their mutual history have the two sides come to blows. Despite that long peaceful history, the brief 1962 border war and subsequent disagreements over territory have chilled relations between the two.
China’s recent push to acquire what it considers historically Chinese territory has not been lost on India, and New Delhi has been stepping up modernization of its armed forces. Fortunately, the terrain on their mutual border makes a land war between the two a difficult—but not impossible—proposition. Although China soundly beat India in the 1962 war, the armies of both sides are now more evenly matched and the result could easily be a stalemate.
If India and China were to come to blows, the real war would be fought at sea. China imports large amounts of foreign oil, and two thirds of that must pass through the Indian Ocean. India sits astride the sea lanes providing China with energy. In the event of increased tensions the Indian Navy could impose essentially a blockade on China of vital shipping from the Persian Gulf and Africa.
Such a move could force the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to travel thousands of miles around the southern end of Asia, into the Indian Ocean to confront Indian naval forces. The fate of the Chinese economy would be in the balance and could escalate to include many different domains of warfare.