BY SHRUTIKA CHAVAN
On April 1, 2020, India- China marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The two emerging and most populous superpowers share a complex and dynamic relationship. The year 2020 has been particularly turbulent. Let’s have a quick look at all the recent advancements.
Past developments in India-china Relations:
1)In the mid of June 2017, Chinese troops began constructing a road southwards in Doklam Plateau, a disputed territory claimed by China & Bhutan. India considers Doklam strategically crucial as it opens a path to the Siliguri Corridor that links northeast India to the rest of the mainland. China accused India of intrusion, causing the violation of territorial sovereignty. Later China stopped Indian pilgrim’s passage heading towards Kailash-Mansarovar through Nathu La pass, Sikkim. Both India & China increased the presence of troops in the Doklam, resulting in a Standoff.
2)On August 28, 2017, both countries agreed to disengage from the border standoff. May 2018, India and China agreed to co-operate on the development programs in Afghanistan in the field of food security, health, education.
3)Chinese premier Xi Jinping in October 2019 met with Prime Minister Modi at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, for the 2nd informal summit between the two countries.
In May 2020, both sides clashed at Nathu La pass, following the incident in Sikkim, the tension between the two countries grew, resulting in troop’s deployment at multiple locations. A major face-off occurred on the night of June 15 in the Galwan area of Eastern Ladakh, the first of its kind since 1975. The front line soldiers of two nuclear powers used batons and stones to inflict injuries. India acknowledged its deaths while China chooses not to comment on the reports of fatalities.
In eastern Ladakh, People Liberation Army moved into areas that were previously under Indian control such as Depsang, Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongkala, near the Galwan River, and Pangong Tso. PLA is preventing these patrol points from Indian access.
How bad is the ground situation?
Sino-Indian Border dispute knows no easy answers. Having ruled out quick solutions through conflict, the only viable option left for India is to go for a long-drawn border stand-off. The heavy deployment aims at restraining Indian losses and preventing further Chinese infringement in Indian Territory.
The multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks seem to have been ineffective. The 8th round of corps commander level talk was held on 6 November at Chushul. The number of meetings of working mechanisms for consultations and co-ordination on China-India Border affairs (WMCCs) has not delivered peace.
What are the root causes?
1)The root cause behind these complex advancement lies in the ill-demarcated Line Of Actual Control (LAC). Different understanding of demarcation occurs in several spots such as western (Ladakh), middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), and eastern (Arunachal Pradesh) sectors of the India-China Border. Face-offs occur while patrolling in contested zones with overlapping claims.
2)The Chinese technique of salami slicing, encroaching on a small piece of territory over a long period. The recent abrogation of article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, and political claim that Aksai Chin, the disputed area administered by China is a part of the Indian Administered Ladakh UT seem to have irked China.
3)Recent infrastructure development from India along the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road in Ladakh is also one of the reasons for the growing Chinese aggression.
4)Analysts link increasing India-US alliance with the ongoing skirmishes along LAC.
A look at the bigger picture:
1)India has limited tactical and strategic options left to restore the pre-April status quo without causing further conflicts. Also, it will have to rebuild the deterrence that India seems to have lost almost completely.
2)The further westward penetration of China will send signals to Bhutan, Nepal, and other South Asian countries, that India cannot defend itself against Chinese aggression, resulting in losing India’s attractiveness as a reliable ally.
3)If India tilts towards the US in case of further Chinese aggression, it would result in strengthening China-Russia ties, causing great damage to the longstanding and crucial India-Russia partnership.
2020 is a year of Cultural and people to people exchanges, which marks the 70 years of diplomatic ties. Both countries agreed to hold 70 celebratory activities to commemorate the historic ties of the two civilizations.
1)The reason why China dominates the current times of disputes is not because of its military power but because of its economic independence.
2)Through LAC China has pushed India to concentrate on trade, commerce, defense cooperation, military, diplomacy except resolving the complex border conflict. The Government is taking majors such as framing technical regulations and measures and quality norms to cut the dependence on Chinese imports. As a result, in 2019-2020, the India-China trade deficit fell to $48 Billion due to the decline in imports. China is India’s one of the largest trade partners, whereas India is China’s 11th largest partner. Hence, New Delhi has time and again raised concerns over the widening trade deficit.
1)Between 1993 and 2013 India-China signed different Confidence Building Measures (CBM) and assorted Rules of Engagements (RoEs) with regards to tranquility in LAC.
Amongst all the included Border Defense Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), 2013 and Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA) which lead out rules for engagement in LAC, protocols to avoid skirmishes but all these efforts have turned futile.
2)In September 2020, the Foreign Ministers of India China agreed on the five-point course of action to disengage and to re-establish peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Ministry of External Affairs maintains that India will continue the dialogue and seek to resolve the Indo-China border conflict through peaceful means. The MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that the objective of these talks is to ensure complete disengagement and to reestablish peace and tranquility along LAC.
The recent engagements impact India’s economic health but national security concerns can’t be overlooked in order to maintain good bilateral relations. The stakes are higher and choices to be made are difficult, but difficult times demand necessary adjustments to craft rational responses.