India’s latest row with Pakistan over diplomat expulsions, on the heels of its deadly border clash with China last week , looks set to further complicate the security situation in the Himalayan region as tensions build among key players. Locked in border disputes with both China and Nepal, India on Tuesday told Pakistan to cut its embassy staff in New Delhi by half – and it would do the same in Islamabad – in an escalation of tensions between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals. While it is not uncommon for India and Pakistan to expel each other’s diplomats, the move marks one of the biggest downgrades of bilateral ties since 2001. It follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s contentious decision in August to revoke the autonomy of Kashmir , a disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan region. Explainer: Why are Indian and Chinese soldiers fighting with fists, sticks and rocks? Chinese observers were concerned relations between India and Pakistan could further deteriorate, warning it would not only set them on a dangerous collision course, but may also have implications in the region. According to them, the Indian subcontinent was at one of its most dangerous moments in history, with distrust and nationalist sentiment rising amid long-running territorial disputes, historical grievances and tensions over economic and geopolitical interests. “The already tense India-Pakistan relations are on the course of a risky cycle of escalation towards violence and conflict,” said Sun Shihai, an expert on South Asian affairs at Sichuan University. He said it was a critical juncture for both countries, and for major regional players such as China and the United States, “because an all-out armed conflict or a war would be the last thing anyone wants to see”. Chinese observers noted that India appeared to be taking a more aggressive and sometimes reckless approach to decades-old border disputes with its neighbours. They said Beijing had become increasingly wary of Modi’s nationalist and adventurist foreign policy, with New Delhi emboldened by its alignment with Washington. With China and India yet to completely disengage from the worst confrontation along their unmarked border in decades, foreign ministry and military spokesmen in Beijing on Wednesday again put the blame squarely on the Indian side for the deadly clash on June 15. Wu Qian, a spokesman for the defence ministry, said responsibility for the China-India border conflict in the Galwan Valley, part of the disputed Ladakh region in Kashmir, which left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead and an undisclosed number of Chinese casualties, rested entirely with the other side. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian offered a longer explanation of that view and urged New Delhi to “meet China halfway” in restoring peace and stability along their disputed frontier. Unlike the skirmish with China, their first fatal clash since 1975, India’s other border stand-off has had little international media attention so far. It began early last month when Nepal – which is sandwiched between the two giants and generally has close ties with New Delhi – protested over India’s building of a new road at the Lipulekh Pass, which connects the Indian state of Uttarakhand with China’s Tibet region. Nepal accused India of changing the status quo unilaterally in the Nepal-China-India tri-junction – similar to Beijing’s claim in its latest border row. India responded by accusing Nepal of taking an unusually hardline approach “at someone else’s behest”, without naming China. Galwan border clash a nightmare come true for India and China “A prevailing perception among Indians seems to be that China is trying desperately to contain India’s rise. But it doesn’t make much sense, especially considering China’s predominant focus is on the competition with the US in the western Pacific,” said Zhao Gancheng, a researcher with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. Both Zhao and Sun also noted that while China was willing to mediate in the India-Pakistan stand-off, New Delhi was unlikely to see Beijing’s overture in a positive light, especially considering its “all-weather” ties with the isolated Islamabad. China, which occupies one-fifth of the original Jammu and Kashmir state, known as Aksai Chin in China’s western Xinjiang region, is also a claimant in the long-standing and often violent border dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Chinese experts said the latest border row could be partly attributed to India’s controversial Kashmir decision, which effectively “forced China into the Kashmir dispute”. Since India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and imposed a draconian lockdown, China, at the request of Pakistan, took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council in August and in January, a move that angered New Delhi. Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Centre in Washington, said as rivalry deepened between China and the US and India, it was less likely to take a constructive role in the India-Pakistan crisis.