Remaining non-aligned is good advice
MAINS: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
For weeks, the India-China stand-off dominated newspaper headlines, warning about the possibility of a major conflict along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors. With both India and China agreeing to step back marginally from positions adopted at the beginning of May, and “reaching an agreement”, the newspapers and most other believe that tensions have abated. The reality is, however, very different.
- The India-China stand-off, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors, threatens to result in a major conflict.
- The author argues that despite India and China agreeing to partial disengagement, there is perceptible tension along the LAC.
- Confirmed facts point towards Chinese incursions across the undemarcated LAC at quite a few points in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors. The author argues that the Chinese actions indicate that the Chinese would not withdraw from Galwan Valley or Pangong Tso.
- China has mobilized sizeable military presence along the LAC, comprising armoured vehicles, artillery units and infantry combat vehicles in large numbers.
Possible factors for Chinese aggression:
India’s border infrastructure:
- India has been strengthening its border infrastructure along the LAC.
- The strengthening of the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road may have angered the Chinese. The Chinese demand in the ongoing negotiations is also premised on India stopping its infrastructure development.
- The relations between the two countries have been steadily deteriorating.
- India has been against China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China further views India’s assertions regarding Gilgit-Baltistan as an implicit attack on the CPEC.
- India has put curbs and restrictions on Chinese foreign direct investment.
China’s internal dynamics:
- The internal pressures that have been generated within China — in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are also influencing Chinese behaviour.
- COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious health crisis that China has faced since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The Chinese economy has been on the downslide which is also contributing to increasing political pressure on the country’s leadership.
- The coupling of political and economic tensions has greatly aggravated pressures on Chinese leadership and the rising tide of anti-China sentiment the world over has further worsened matters.
- Chinese aggression has been observed not only along the LAC but also in the South China Sea. This might indicate a deliberate planning on the part of the Chinese leadership to divert attention from domestic issues.
India’s alignment with the U.S.:
- While India professes to be non-aligned, it is increasingly perceived as having aligned with the U.S.
- India’s United States tilt is perhaps most pronounced in the domain of U.S.-China relations. Recent instances are often highlighted to confirm the perception that India tends to side with the U.S. and against China whenever there is a conflict of interest between the two.
- An evident degree of geopolitical convergence also exists between the U.S. and India in the Indo-Pacific, again directed against China.
- India is a member of the Quad (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India) which has a definite anti-China connotation.
- The U.S. President’s proposal of redesigning the G-7, including countries such as India (India has conveyed its acceptance), but excluding China, provides China yet another instance of India and China being in opposite camps.
- India is being increasingly projected as an alternative model to China, and being co-opted into a wider anti-China alliance which China clearly perceives as provocation.
- The Chinese are wary about the growing proximity between India and the U.S. On the eve of the recent high-level border talks between top military leaders, China made an elliptical reference to the need for India to maintain equidistance between the U.S. and China.
- Almost all India-China border agreements are premised on the presumed neutrality of both countries. The document, “Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question” (2005), emphasizes the need for neutrality.
A single misstep from either of the two countries could lead to a wider conflagration, which both sides must avoid. 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.