The Chinese Dragon Breathing Down India's Chicken Neck

Geopolitical and historical intrigue could lead to war-mongering along the Indian-Chinese border, but an open conflict is highly unlikely.

India's 'chicken's neck'
India's "chicken's neck"
Alaric Moras

Just a passing glance at a map of Asia, and you can't miss the contours of the more than 4,000-kilometer-long border between India and China, the world's two most populous countries. But it may require a closer look at that same map to see what is commonly dubbed: the "Chicken's Neck" of India.

This narrow stretch of land (less than 27-km-wide at one point) is formally known as the Siliguri Corridor, and lies in the state of West Bengal, connecting India's northeastern states to the rest of the country. It was created in 1947 after the partition of Bengal between India and Pakistan, and today is surrounded by the countries of Nepal and Bangladesh, and the tiny kingdom of Bhutan.

But today the Chicken Neck is back in the headlines because of China. This most vulnerable point in India's geography appears to have pushed Delhi's unusually aggressive move in Dok La, a region comprising Bhutan and China's disputed land border: On June 16th, Indian soldiers formed a human chain in the area, preventing Chinese incursion into the territory for road construction.

Soldiers of both armies have now pitched tents opposite each other, effectively creating a military standoff, as India and China face their deepest conflict since their month-long war in 1962.

The Chicken Neck (Siliguri Corridor) in red — Wikipedia

Asian geopolitics are never simple to understand: in this case, border tensions between Bhutan and China have led to a face-off between China and India. Authorities in Delhi claim to be acting in Bhutan's best interests, and with its consent, but there is more to the standoff than meets the eye. The presence of Chinese troops in the Dok La region would make it easy for China to take control of the corridor, and as a consequence isolate all of northeast India from the rest of the country.

But the more relevant question may be: Why now? Beyond the factors on the ground are the men in charge. The countries' current leaders, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, have each made it clear that they want to exert their influence beyond their respective borders. Xi has been busy flexing his muscles in the South China Sea, across the straits, and now, even in Africa.

Meanwhile, Modi, unlike his predecessors, has taken more hawkish stance with countries such as Pakistan and Nepal — most often to his detriment.

While previous leaders for the two countries have avoided open conflict for more than 40 years, the current territorial skirmishes, coupled with the leaders' global ambitions, begs the question of how much longer this peace will last.

Siliguri, India — Photo: Sayantani

Still, even as both sides declare their preparedness for war, it remains a highly unlikely outcome. Even as Bhutan remains sandwiched between the two countries, with China constantly threatening to make it a vassal state, it is hard to imagine the two continental powers going to war over a border conflict in the tiny Asian kingdom.

Though the two sides are currently showing no signs of backing down, neither Beijing nor Delhi are likely to let the situation degenerate to that point. The reason is simple: even more than global muscle-flexing, both China and India will do everything in their power in the pursuit of economic growth.

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How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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