Long ago a British historian Neville Maxwell described the Himalayan plateau – which is an area of contention between India and China – as a "no-man's land, where nothing grows and no one lives."
Aksai Chin – a Himalayan highland – is claimed as part of Xinjiang by China and Ladakh by India.
A cold and inhospitable land located high in Himalayas, Aksai Chin is draped in snow even in summer at an average altitude of 14,000 feet. This height is known for causing altitude sickness resulting in tedious acclimatisation, crippling headaches, nausea and fatigue for humans.
But historically, the Himalayas have been a centre for political rivalry among different empires, which has now become a cause of contention between countries with the emerge of nation states.
In the 1800s, the empire of Britain, China and Russia fought claiming rights over these high lands.
Since 1947 when India and Pakistan emerged as independent states and fought a number of bloody wars, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the Indian and Chinese border in Aksai Chin remained ill-defined.
China and India have since maintained a status quo of mutual unrest over the region, which often brew unavoidable conflicts.
India and China went to war over it in 1962. China won the Sino-Indian of 62, but thousands of people on both sides lost their lives.
Ever since that war, India and China pledged that their respective troops will not carry guns in the border.
This whole timeframe, however, has seen minor clashes and fistfights between the border guards of these two countries along with a war of words both from New Delhi and Beijing accusing each other of overstepping the border.
However, the skirmish that left 20 Indian soldiers killed last Monday in a bloody brawl in Galwan Valley, close to Aksai Chin, has been the biggest escalation ever since 1962's Sino-Indian war.
This area has been controlled by the Chinese but both the countries claim the land.
During the skirmish India lost many people, while Chinese casualties have not been recorded.
But as usual, both sides have accused each other of overstepping the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border. But this time, political analysts and former bureaucrats believe the bilateral relations may further escalate between Asia's two most populated countries.
Former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, for example, sees "a bad moon rising on India-China relations" after the Galwan Valley brawl between the Indian and Chinese troops.
Why the latest conflicts?
After the 2017's Doklam standoff between India and China, things went back to normal for both of these countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, consequently, never forgot to wish his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping on his birthday. Even the Doklam standoff couldn't stop Modi from wishing Xi a happy birthday.
But the Galwan valley skirmish has changed that. For the first time since 2016, Modi didn't wish Xi happy birthday.
So, apart from Chinese regional ambitions – which is well known – what could motivate Beijing to rupture peace and escalate tensions with New Delhi?
Ashley Tellis is a strategic analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC and studies South Asian security dynamics. Commenting on the Chinese motivations, Ashley Tellis posted an analysis on the Carnegie site.
"I believe that the entire crisis was driven by multiple intersecting Chinese calculations: to push back against India for what China feared was the beginning of Indian revanchism after the Article 370 decision—on this count, the Chinese misinterpreted India's decisions entirely; to physically secure additional territory in Aksai Chin through salami slicing—an area that China already claims entirely and where it has been incrementally increasing its control now for some thirty odd years; and to embarrass India by inflicting political reverses for a variety of accumulating Chinese grievances."
Harsh V. Pant, a professor of International Relations at King's College, London, also agrees with Ashley Tellis.
According to Pant, the genesis of the recent brawl could be found in India's revocation of special status granted to Indian administered Kashmir.
"Since then there have been worries in China that India would make life difficult for China going forward. (The region) connects China to Pakistan, where they have the economic corridor. They have been worried about India's revocation of (the special status) and how India is now looking at Ladakh strategically. They've also been worried by the building of infrastructure," CNN quoted Pant.
What are the geopolitical implications of the latest skirmish?
According to S D Muni, professor emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University and a former ambassador of India to Laos, Galwan violence was a "tough Chinese message of vacating strategic heights occupied through encroachments.
"Strengthening Indian defence infrastructure in the region, along with the Indian political resolve on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin, is seen as a threat to Chinese illegal occupation of Aksai Chin and its strategic access through the Karakoram highway to Pakistan. It has sunk billions of dollars in Pakistan to nurse this strategic access," Hindustan Times quoted Muni.
Happymon Jacob, an associate professor for International Politics of Jawaharlal Nehru University said, "any Indian expansion or significant fortification of its hold over the region could threaten China's geostrategic goals in central Asia."
China has invested more than $60 billion on the economic corridor with Pakistan which is a "crucial element" of President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road trade and development plan, said Jacob.
India built a new road last year which is very close to the LAC. India built this road to transport troops along the border for resupplying them by road from Daulat Beg Oldi.
This road would help India to further reinforce its position or build military installations on the border.
Aidan Milliff, an expert on political violence and South Asia at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes that "China's recent advances are a response to the new road, which they perceive as a change in the status quo at the LAC."
What if the crisis further escalates?
Even though the foreign offices of both China and India promised to talk out the crisis in a recent telephone conversation between the foreign ministers, some political analysts are not so hopeful about an immediate ceasefire as war hawks from both end are actively brewing the crisis to new dimensions.
Now, what if a war breaks out between India and China over the high lands?
Conventional wisdom says that China will have an edge over India with its advantages as far as technology and new weapons are concerned. Beijing has a larger defence budget than India and it has a rapidly modernising military.
Nishank Motwani, an international adviser at the National Center for Dialogue and Progress in Afghanistan told CNN that "China's economy is five times the size of India's and Beijing's defense spending far outstrips New Delhi's defense budget by a factor of four to one… The power differential between China and India is in Beijing's favour and this asymmetry is only widening."
But at the backdrop of such conventional thoughts, a recent study from the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston and the Center for a New American Security in Washington suggest otherwise.
According to the study, India maintains an edge in high-altitude mountainous environments like the Galwan valley for example.
From air forces where India has 270 fighters and 68 ground-attack aircraft in comparison to China's 157 fighters and a small fleet of ground-attack drones in the region, or Indian ground forces better experience on the ground thanks to their presence in belligerent areas like Kashmir, to having consolidate allies like the United States, Japan, France and Australia who have been participating in joint military drills with India, New Delhi in an actual field of war may turn out deadlier for China.
A recent CNAS report reads "Western troops participating in such war games and exercises regularly have expressed a grudging admiration for their Indian counterparts' tactical creativity and high degree of adaptability."
"China's joint training endeavors, on the other hand, thus far have remained relatively rudimentary in scope — with the notable exception of its increasingly advanced military exercises with Pakistan and Russia," the CNAS report says.