[Editorial Analysis] The standoff and China’s India policy dilemma

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Line of Actual Control
Mains level: India and its neighborhood- relations

Context:

• China is preoccupied with its relentless pursuit to approach the centre of the world and in managing a turbulent relationship with the United States.

• June 15 incident of a violent face-off between Chinese and Indian troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), causing casualties on both sides, came as a big jolt.

• It brought the national focus back on an otherwise not-so-popular topic of China-India relations.

• The development took China’s strategic community by storm, while the intense debate and discussions that followed, rather than generating a consensus, brought out China’s many dilemmas vis-à-vis India.

NO ACCIDENT:

• China’s top India watchers believe that the present conflict is not an “accident” but an “inevitable result” of what they perceive as “India’s long-standing speculative strategy on the China-India border”.

• From Doklam to Kashmir to India’s “unending infrastructure arms race” at the LAC, they say, Beijing was “fed up” and “had to teach India a lesson”.

• Their key argument is that China-India relations hold no great prospect in the current international situation.

• There is no possibility of a negotiated settlement of the border dispute any time soon.

• India is already a “quasi-ally” of the U.S. with no scope for reversal.

• Opportunities for cooperation at the global level is diminishing, regional competition intensifying and the earlier system of effective management of bilateral differences is crumbling beyond control.

• Periodic violent conflicts, they predict, are the “new normal” in China-India ties.

• China, they argue, should reconsider its prevalent strategic thinking that India is not its main strategic challenge and, therefore, peace needs to be maintained in its direction as much as possible.

• Only by daring to fight, by showing strong determination, the will and the ability on the western frontier can China effectively deter its adversaries on the eastern coast.

• This is also, what they called, the right way to resolve China’s primary contradiction, that is the China-U.S. problem, by first breaking “its arms and legs”.

HANDLING A RESURGENT INDIA:

• To deal with a resurgent India, Chinese hardliners suggest a policy of “three nos”: “no weakness, no concession and no defensive defence”.

• In other words, China should take all opportunities to crack down on India, take the initiative to hit it hard whenever possible.

• This, it is argued, will not damage China-India relations; on the contrary, it will make it more stable.

• Didn’t the 1962 China-India war help China to maintain peace and stability on the western front for a long time and directly eliminate American and Soviet ambitions to use India to contain China?

• In this backdrop there is renewed interest among certain sections of the Chinese strategic community to keep India under control by destabilizing.

Chinese aim to destabilize:

• the entire border region;

• creating tension across the board, from the McMahon Line in the east to the Aksai Chin area in the west;

• take the initiative to attack and seize territories under India’s control from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh;

• weaken India internally by supporting the cause of Maoists, Naga separatists and Kashmiris.

CRITICISM:

• However, on the other side of the debate are Chinese political thinkers who in their analysis of the Galwan Valley incident, have been somewhat critical about China’s policies towards India.

• They say the policy remain mostly tactical, of a “reactive nature” and are characterised by a “tit-for-tat” approach without any clear strategic intent.

• This, according to them, stokes extreme nationalism in India and unites the otherwise divided nation against China.

• They criticise those vying to “teaching India a lesson” as being “short-sighted” and not “psychologically prepared for the rise of India”.

• China, they argue, lacks understanding of the fact that India, as a rising power, is very important to China.

• And India will be increasingly crucial in the future, with China-India relations evolving as the most important pair of relations after China-U.S. links.

• If China-India ties are damaged beyond repair, they warn, India alone or in association with other countries will cause “endless trouble for China”.

• For instance, an openly hostile India will use every possible means to prevent China from reaching the Indian Ocean.

• On the other hand, the decoupling of China-India relations will further strengthen the “anti-China alliance” between the U.S., Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries.

• These countries will actively take the initiative to reshape global industrial chains, use the Indo-Pacific Strategy to check and balance China’s military and economic power.

• They will expand international organisations such as the G-7 to weaken China’s influence in international affairs.

OPINION ON SCENARIOS:

• On a similar note, various commentaries in the Chinese press highlight that downgrading China-India relations is easier said than done.

• This will require a complete reversal of China’s present LAC policy of being “reasonable, profitable and economical”.

• Strategically too, they say, it is “unwise” for China to take the initiative to get into a comprehensive military conflict with India — “a big country with comparable military strength”— at this point in time.

• The general view among these military analysts is that if China has an advantage in terms of psychology, equipment, and logistics mobilisation.

• India too has advantage on various fronts such as deployment, supply line, practical war experience, topography, and climate among others.

• If India’s disadvantage remains in the fact that its capital lies well within the bombing range of China, China’s key disadvantage is its particularly long supply lines.

• Therefore, if the conflict ends in a short period of time, it will benefit China. But if it is prolonged, China will be disadvantaged.

• If a war starts, they argue, India will make all efforts to prolong it as long as possible, and the U.S. is likely to help India to attain this objective.

• Even if the two sides ended in a tie, in India it will be counted a victory and the national morale will rise sharply; on the contrary, in China, the morale will decline if it cannot beat India decisively.

• Therefore, in its effort to “teach India a lesson”, they fear, China might lose more than it would gain.

CONCERN FOR INDIA:

• The overall consensus within this group is that it is still not the time to ‘resolve’ the India problem.

• Instead, China, for now, should strive to make India retreat without a military conflict, maintain basic peace and stability at the borders, and, at the minimum, not deliberately push it towards the U.S.

• Meanwhile, China simultaneously carries out its strategy of weakening India internally by leveraging its social and political differences, completing its strategic encirclement.

• Also, improving troop deployment in the Tibet region to secure the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and stationing Chinese troops in the Gwadar Port (Arabian Sea), so as to secure China’s Indian Ocean sea routes, among other interests.

• In the words of another Chinese strategist, Yin Guoming, rather than winning a war, China should aim at attaining a comprehensive and overwhelming advantage in geopolitics vis-à-vis India, which cannot be altered by war.

CONCLUSION:

• To sum up, despite all the jingoism and rhetoric propagated through its official media, China is actually in a serious dilemma over its India policy.

• As we, in India, seek to reset ties with Beijing in the post-Galwan era, we should take note of the ongoing Chinese debate on India, factor in its many internal contradictions and perceived vulnerabilities vis-à-vis India, and leverage the same to our benefit.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), consider the following statements:

1. Union Cabinet has given its approval for extending the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution to 40% for another three months from June to August 2020 under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY)/Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

2. Government will provide Budgetary Support of Rs.4800 crore for the year 2020-21 for this purpose.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

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