Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- India and its neighborhood- relations.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas
Remaining non-aligned is good advice
Context: The India-China stand-off and the both countries agreeing to step back marginally from positions adopted at the beginning of May.
What exactly happened?
- During May 2020, Chinese forces came in sizeable numbers and crossed the undemarcated LAC at quite a few points in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors.
- These were in the vicinity of Pangong Tso (Lake), the Galwan Valley, the Hot Springs-Gogra area (all in Ladakh), and at Naku La in the Sikkim sector
- This led to physical engagement with Indian soldiers who opposed Chinese activities
- Chinese action is primarily to oppose India’s efforts to bridge the infrastructural gap at the border areas i.e. at Line of Actual Control (LAC)
- China has sizeable military presence along the LAC, comprising armoured vehicles, artillery units and infantry combat vehicles in far larger numbers than that of India
- China also insists that India stop road construction in the border area on the ground that it is taking place in Chinese territory, which India contests, insisting that it is taking place within Indian territory.
- Due to diplomatic efforts, both sides agreed for partial disengagement and to handle the situation in line with the agreement that had been reached.
So is the issue resolved?
- No, the statements may actually conceals many a truth.
- This time, it would appear, the Chinese are here to stay in places such as the Galwan Valley.
- It is also unclear, as of now, whether the Chinese would withdraw from Pangong Tso, any time soon.
- Restoration of the status quo ante which existed in mid-April is thus nowhere on the horizon
More Weightier reasons for China’s actions
- To say that India’s decision to strengthen its border infrastructure was the main trigger for the recent show of strength by China, would be simplistic.
- Leadership factor: Chinese President Xi Jinping disdains Deng Xiaoping’s policy “to keep your head low and bide your time”
- Geopolitical Factors: India’s increasing shift towards US and emergence of Quad (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India) has a definite anti-china stance. China thus views India as being in opposite camps in the wider geopolitical game
- Bilateral Relationship: Despite public bonhomie at the level of Mr. Xi and PM Modi, relations between the two countries have been steadily deteriorating. India opposes China’s Belt & Road Initiative. China views India’s assertions regarding Gilgit-Baltistan, as an implicit attack on the CPEC
- China’s internal dynamics: Internal criticism of China’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic, growing opposition within party ranks to some of Xi’s policies and Chinese economic miracle losing steam has put pressure on Mr. Xi to deflect attention & showcase the strongman image (through border clashes with India)
Lesson from History
- There were similar circumstances that led to the India-China war of 1962
- Faced with the disaster of the Great Leap Forward (internal pressure), and increasing isolation globally (even from USSR), China under Mao chose to strike at India rather than confront Russia or the West.
- Therefore, a single misstep by India could lead to a wider conflagration, which both sides must avoid
- This is not the time for India to be seen as the front end of a hostile coalition of forces seeking to put China in its place
- India has consistently followed a different policy in the past, and it is advisable that it remains truly non-aligned and not become part of any coalition that would not be in India’s long-term interest.
Connecting the dots:
- India-China war of 1962 – reasons and critical analysis
- Similarities & differences between NATO and QUAD