Neither China nor India wants a border stand-off over disputed territory in the Himalayas to escalate. Even though both sides are strengthening their military positions, they are also only too aware of the consequences of a full-scale military conflict. But efforts to find a political and diplomatic solution are being complicated by nationalist sentiments and, for New Delhi, worsening relations with its other neighbours. With the United States also goading India as part of its Chinese containment strategy, a dangerous situation is evolving that requires leaders to take concerted action to de-escalate tensions. Beijing and New Delhi well realise the importance of high-level discussions to prevent further confrontation. Top-ranking military officers have met several times since last month’s deadly clash in the Galwan Valley in the disputed Ladakh region of Kashmir. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and an undisclosed number of Chinese casualties claimed; not for 45 years have there been fatalities in the long-running stand-off over the nations’ disputed boundary. Their foreign ministers broached the matter during recent trilateral video talks with their Russian counterpart and although their defence ministers failed to meet on the sidelines of the recent Victory Day parade in Moscow, hopes are high for President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have discussions at the BRICS summit of emerging national economies in St Petersburg this year. Nationalist pressure means that neither side is willing to give ground and Modi is being urged by right-wing supporters to take military action. With the area critical to ensure stability in Tibet and Xinjiang, China also has to take a tough stand. India’s row with Pakistan feeds into existing China border tensions But the issue is a distraction for both nations, the Covid-19 crisis and its economic and public health impact being more pressing. Modi took power in 2014 promising to improve ties with neighbours and he made the unprecedented step of inviting the leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to his inauguration. It was a promising start, but ties with all but Bhutan have since soured, in some cases dangerously so. War almost broke out with arch-rival Pakistan last year and a new spate of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats has taken place, while a border dispute has also erupted with Nepal. China’s regional links have strengthened as a result of its belt and road strategy to grow global trade, further isolating New Delhi. The US, which in the past would have tried to cool tensions, has instead taken sides by backing Modi. India has to step back and assess its regional situation. Easing the border flare-up with China is a priority, but preventing conflict on other fronts is also vital.