Rising tension in the Himalayas: A geospatial analysis of Chinese border incursions into India

Jan Tino Brethouwer, Robbert Fokkink*, Kevin Greene, Roy Lindelauf, Caroline Tornquist, V. S. Subrahmanian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The China-India border is the longest disputed border in the world. The countries went to war in 1962 and there have been recurring border skirmishes ever since. Reports of Chinese incursions into Indian territory are now a frequent occurrence. This rising tension between the world’s most populous countries not only poses risks for global security and the world economy, but also has a negative impact on the unique ecology of the Himalayas, because of the expanding military infrastructure. We have assembled a unique data set of the dates and locations of the major incursions over the past 15 years. We find that the conflict can be separated into two independent conflicts, the western and eastern sectors. The incursions in these sectors are statistically independent. However, major incidents do lead to an increased tension that persists for years all along the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC). This leads us to conclude that an agreement on the exact location of a limited number of contested regions, such as the Doklam plateau on the China-Bhutan border, has the potential to significantly defuse the conflict, and could potentially settle the dispute at a further date. Building on insights from game theory, we find that the Chinese incursions in the west are strategically planned and may aim for a more permanent control over specific contested areas. This finding is in agreement with other studies into the expansionist strategy of the current Chinese government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0274999
JournalPloS one
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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