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In news: In June, there was a scuffle between Indian Army and Chinese PLA in Sikkim area. Of the 3488 kms of Sino- Indian border from J&K to Arunachal Pradesh, 220 kms falls in Sikkim. The scuffle between two armies led to Chinese personnel damaging bunkers on Indian side. After this incident, China stopped the pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar through Nathula border post in Sikkim.
The seriousness of the situation
This kind of confrontation is not new and has happened earlier between India and China. This is not a reason for souring of relation between two countries but a result.
It could be related to Indian PM’s visit to USA and Chinese apprehension about India joining USA to confront China in South China Sea.
Another reason can be that India has opened air freight corridor with Afghanistan which is bypassing CPEC. Here, India has objected to CPEC on its sovereignty ground.
India did not join OBOR talks which China was hoping India would.
This is why China is trying to block India’s NSG entry and not agreeing to declare Masood Azhar as global terrorist. And recently, it resorted to escalating border troubles between both countries in one of the highly tranquil border regions in world.
Thus, one more reason apart from this ever dynamic issues is the lack of clarity in demarcation of border.
The Chumbi valley comes from Tibet and tapers down to tip with Bhutan on east and Sikkim on west. In the north side, the water shed principle is helpful as the ridge lines are sharper and easy to demarcate the area. As it moves southwards, the hills get lower and flatter as not easy to mark the clear borders.
Future changes in relation?
These sequence of events can’t be dismissed as normal. In last 3-4 decades, there have been patterns of transgression/incursions. In 2016 alone there were 250 such incidents. This means such transgression incidents happened almost every other day. But there was one kind of characteristic, that the Sikkim area has been relatively incident free. So bringing this area also in to a fight zone, it can be said that China is raising the ante deliberately.
It should be noticed that whenever India-China have border problem, no third party is involved. Similarly, if China has problems with other countries, India doesn’t poke its nose. But when there are problems between India and Pakistan, China interferes and takes transgression to another level. That is why India has to express certain anguish to keep its sovereignty protected and highlighted.
Also, Chinese media is closely watching Indian PM’s visit to USA. They were unhappy with the drone deal being struck between India and USA. In the past, during Modi-Obama joint statement where there was explicit mention of SCS, China saw this as involvement of India into the region. Instead they would like to have retain it into bilateral framework with concerned ASEAN state. Taking such situations into consideration, there will be some kind of tension in Indian Ocean region as joint military exercise is going to take place between India, US and Japan soon.
What could be the next?
This is not an isolated incident but a message from China that they can be troublesome. The Chinese always react in a manner which shows that the other side has made the mistake. They have an authoritative nature and like to make the other person guilty and so India has to deal with that attitude to settle the disputes as diplomatically as possible. Also, China has been more assertive since 2010. So the kind of mechanism that was in place till now might need a relook. The relation between India and China is expected to experience such scuffles in future too. There is great deal of friction on two sides on issues of sovereignty since 2014. So on local level, whenever a confrontation like this takes place, commanders on both sides should come and meet and the issue is resolved. This is one of the most tranquil border in the world. So the overhyped hostile atmosphere or building up of tension is not right.
In 1993, there was an agreement on confidence building. So issues like such can be brought under it and resolved.
Recently, Indian PM had said in Russia that not a short had been fired since last 40 years even though there have been border tensions at India-China borders. So there is a need to see how such resilience in the system is adequate to be able to absorb the kind of spikes visible. For this, the high level political contacts should continue as it helps in creating a balancing environment whenever things get heated up.
China sees India as a rival in the region. So it will try to keep India down and keep on needling it. Hence, India has to be more realistic when it comes to China policy. Any any hindsight that US will support India in case of direct confrontation between both countries is a misplaced notion. India should solve its country specific issues bilaterally.
Connecting the dots:
China has been attempting to corner India on border disputes recently. However, the reality of Chinese aggression lies somewhere else. Do you agree? Critically analyse.
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