A strip of land in the Himalayas has the two most populated countries engaged in an international altercation. 

20 Indian soldiers were killed in an altercation with Chinese forces on Monday in the Galwan Valley, near the Aksai Chin, which is occupied by the Chinese military but an area both countries lay claim to. 

Officials in China have yet to release Chinese casualties. The conflict stems from mutual accusations of border aggression, according to the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

Both India and China are nuclearly-armed and despite civil pride demanding a military response, leadership is actively deescalating the altercation. 

Despite active communication, both sides have reinforced their military position in the region. China’s troop movement to the area has been very visible in an attempt to signal strength, while India has been more subtle with its military fortifying.

The biggest oddity of the conflict is the environmental challenges found in Aksai Chin. Severe low temperatures make it inhospitable, with temperatures below freezing degrees throughout all seasons. It is only occupied by India and China’s military forces, that go through rigorous training to acclimate to the harsh weather. 

Begging the question: Why is this area so important to both countries?

There are two prevailing theories, one of civic pride and the other of modern-day logistics. 

The former stems from 1962, the Sino-Indian war, also known as the Indo-China War. After several skirmishes between the countries due to India granting asylum to the Dalai Lama, In dia initiated a defensive forward policy in 1960 to limit Chinese patrolling. China responded with placing outposts several miles north of the McMahon Line, thus commencing a four-decade conflict still existing today.

The latter is from China’s objection to India’s road construction. Chinese officials are opposed to India building a bridge across the Galwan nallah. 

This bridge acts as a feeder road strategically connecting Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road.

The bridge will be about 4 miles and poses a threat to China’s thought that the LAC is invalid.

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