Daily Editorial Analysis for 4th June 2020

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In Himalayan stare down, the dilemmas for Delhi

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.


The time has come for India to checkmate China’s aggression even in the backdrop of maintaining robust economic ties. The growing number of reports about Chinese troops crossing the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India in the Ladakh region — neither acknowledged nor denied by the Indian government as yet — indicate a new age of Chinese territorial aggression against India.

Key Details:

  • While there are around 400 transgressions/faceoffs each year on an average along the LAC, the recent spate of territorial transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) is unprecedented in its scope and manner.
  • Even as independent accounts point out that Chinese troops are yet to withdraw from the transgressed territories, traditionally considered by both sides to be on the Indian side of the LAC, and restore status quo ante, Chinese officials have gone ahead and stated that the “Situation in China-India border is overall stable & controllable”.

Is all well between the two nuclear-armed adversaries?

If the mounting evidence of China’s territorial aggression against India is even partly accurate, and there is no reason to believe they are not, the NDA government is left with two basic choices:

  • Accept territorial loss as a fait accompli or force or negotiate a reversal to status quo ante, unless of course the PLA unilaterally withdraws.
  • Either way, China’s growing territorial aggression on the LAC signals the end of Beijing’s peaceful rise and its traditional desire to maintain regional status quo with India.
  • China under its President, Xi Jinping, unequivocally seeks to demonstrate that it is the preponderant power in the region.

Explaining the aggression

  • What baffles most observers is the rationale behind the Chinese escalation on the LAC while the entire world is preoccupied with battling COVID-19, the biggest crisis humanity has faced since the Second World War.
  • While the timing could be explained by the global political distraction caused by COVID-19 and the international pressure on China (including by India) to come clean on the origins of the novel coronavirus, the proximate causes could be several.
  • For one, New Delhi’s terse statements about Aksai Chin following the Jammu and Kashmir reorganization in August last year had not gone down well with Beijing.
  • While not many in India believe that New Delhi was serious about getting back Aksai Chin from Chinese control, Beijing may have viewed it as India upping the ante.
  • More pertinently, in a clear departure from the past, New Delhi has been carrying out the construction of infrastructural projects along the LAC — a long overdue activity — which is something that seems to have made China uneasy.

The Chinese angle to the J&K conundrum:

  • China’s China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connectivity to Pakistan through the Karakoram and New Delhi’s criticism of it, the reported presence of PLA troops in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (Pok), India’s new-found activism on Aksai Chin, and the PLA’s incursions into areas in eastern Ladakh must be viewed in the broader context of a long-term geopolitical world view China has for the region.
  • It is equally important to appreciate the larger Chinese strategic calculations behind its recent spate of aggressions.
  • Having given up its traditional slogan of ‘peaceful rise’, China, under Mr. Xi, is beginning to assert itself as the next superpower.
  • Over the years, Beijing has perhaps realized that India is not keen on toeing the Chinese line in the region.
  • So, this is Beijing sending a message to New Delhi to fall in line, a message that will not go unnoticed in the smaller capitals around China — from Colombo to Kathmandu to Hanoi.
  • There is more subtle political messaging in Beijing’s LAC aggression.
  • Given that China is currently engaged in what many analysts are describing as a new cold war with the United States, in the middle of a crackdown in Hong Kong along with fighting COVID-19 at home, one would not have expected the Chinese leadership to open another front.
  • And yet, by opening a limited military front with India on the LAC, China is signaling the U.S. that it can handle pressure, and telling India that it has the political and military wherewithal to put pressure on New Delhi notwithstanding its other preoccupations.

Doklam redux?

  • The 2017 standoff between India and China at the Doklam trijunctionwas the first major military standoff between the two sides in a long time in which New Delhi demonstrated it was not a military pushover despite China’s conventional superiority over India.
  • Since Doklam, however, there have been several reports that China has continued with its construction activities in and around Doklam.
  • The 2020 transgressions in Sikkim and Ladakh are perhaps Beijing’s way of responding to India consistently and militarily.
  • China’s limited scope military expeditions on the long-contested border is cost effective for the PLA given the ever-growing conventional military superiority that it enjoys with India.
  • Moreover, because limited fights or smaller land grabs may not provoke an all-out confrontation or nuclear use, the side with conventional superiority and more border infrastructure would likely carry the day.

Unpack this argument:

  • Picking a direct fight with India which might lead to an undesirable military escalation with India does not suit Beijing’s interests, but carrying out minor military expeditions with the objective of inflicting small-scale military defeats on India is precisely what would suit the Chinese political and military leadership.
  • they are cost effective, less escalatory, and the message gets conveyed.
  • More so, India’s military response would depend a great deal on how far the regime in New Delhi is willing to acknowledge such territorial losses due to domestic political constraints: if New Delhi acknowledges loss of territory, it would have to regain it, but doing so vis-à-vis a conventionally superior power would not be easy.
  • Put differently, growing conventional imbalance and domestic political calculations could prompt New Delhi to overlook minor territorial losses on the LAC, the manner in which Pakistan refused to acknowledge the 2016 surgical strikescarried out by India.
  • The Newer Delhi overlooks them, the more Beijing would be tempted to repeat them. These considerations lie at the heart of India’s China dilemma.

Limits of adventurism

  • And yet, there are limits to China’s LAC adventurism.
  • There are several places along the several thousand-kilometer-long LAC where the PLA is militarily weak, the Indian Army has the upper hand, and, therefore, a tit-for-tat military campaign could be undertaken by New Delhi.
  • Second, while China enjoys continental superiority over India, maritime domain is China’s weak spot, in particular Beijing’s commercial and energy interest to which the maritime space is crucial. Finally, and most importantly, would Beijing want to seriously damage the close to $100 billion trade with India with its military adventurism on the LAC?
  • In any case, for India, the age of pussyfooting around Chinese intimidation strategies is over.


The time has come to checkmate Beijing’s military aggression even as we maintain a robust economic relationship with our eastern neighbor. It is also a reminder for us to get more serious about finalizing a border agreement with China: the bigger the power differential between India and China, the more concessions Beijing would demand from New Delhi to settle the dispute.There is little doubt that China is our neighbor and that we have to live next to the larger and more powerful China.  However, India should not accept Beijing’s attempts at land grabs, or military intimidation.That China is a rising superpower located next door to us is a reality, but how we deal with that reality is a choice we must make as a nation.

Seven to eleven: On India and G-7

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.


The US President Donald Trump has called the existing Group of Seven (G-7) club a “very outdated group of countries” and he wants to include India, Russia, South Korea, and Australia in the group making it G-11.

What is Group of 7 :

  • The G-7 or ‘Group of Seven’ are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
  • Initially formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues, the G-7 forum has deliberated about several challenges over the decades, such as the oil crashes of the 1970s, the economic changeover of ex-Soviet bloc nations, and many pressing issues such as financial crises, terrorism, arms control, and drug trafficking.
  • The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997. The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

Working of G7:

  • The G-7 nations meet at annual summits that are presided over by leaders of member countries on a rotational basis. The summit is an informal gathering that lasts two days, in which leaders of member countries discuss a wide range of global issues. The host country typically gets to invite dignitaries from outside the G-7 to attend the Summit.
  • The groundwork for the summit, including matters to be discussed and follow-up meetings, is done by the “sherpas”, who are generally personal representatives or members of diplomatic staff such as ambassadors.
  • The sherpa for Prime Minister Modi at 2019 summit was former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Why expansion is needed?

  • Not all the countries of G-7 are among the most advanced now. India is both a military and economic giant but isn’t part of the G7.
  • So, its expansion, just like that of the United Nations Security Council, is called for.
  • The US President Trump’s decision to postpone the G7 summit calling it outdated, and attempts to expand the grouping to include other countries like India, Russia, Australia and South Korea reflect American desire to wrest back the global leadership initiative from China, as the US slowly begins to crawl back towards normalcy after the COVID-19 debacle.

Should India play along as US takes on China?

  • India has had a complex relationship with China. China’s past record—it fought a war with India in 1962— makes it difficult for India to trust it. China and India are in a standoff in Ladakh.
  • India and the US are natural allies. One is the world’s largest democracy and the other the oldest.
  • There is an urgent need for democracies and rules-based regimes that believe in fair trade and respect for intellectual property rights to come together.
  • It may be time for India to play hardball with China.

Experts also caution India

  • India is already a member of G-20, a body responsible for global governance.
  • The G-7 was expanded to the G-20 when the West realized after repeated recessions that the global financial governance was not possible without including countries such as China, India, Turkey, South Africa, Australia and so on.
  • The current American push for a new organisation is an attempt to isolate China.
  • While India should have no objection in joining the new club, it should not be pitted against China or Russia.
  • Moreover, it is better for India to wait and watch for the time being as one is not certain whether Trump will come back to power after the present term. If a new president joins the White House, terms of engagement would be different.

China’s response

  • China has reacted by saying any attempts to draw a “small circle” against Beijing will be “doomed to fail” and become “unpopular”.


As former foreign secretary of India Shyam Saran has noted, “It has been New Delhi’s experience that strong relations between India and the US, indeed with other major powers, give India greater room for manoeuvre and ability to manage the China challenge. The more isolated India is, the greater its vulnerability to Chinese pressures.”India should, therefore, interpret Trump’s comments on the expansion of G7 as an opportunity, not as a curveball that should be best avoided.

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