UPSC CSE -SYLLABUS:GENERAL STUDIES-2-Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s
Assessment of India’s China policy
October 20, 1962, is embedded in collective Indian memory as a day of national humiliation when Beijing “surprised” Delhi over disputed territory in the Ladakh region and NEFA areas (now Arunachal Pradesh).
Fifty-eight years later, there is a correspondence of events, wherein India and China are currently engaged in a tense military stand-off along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region and a large number of troops have been amassed by both nations.
Could this exigency have been avoided or better managed?
- An objective review of the last 58 years would suggest that while Delhi was jolted out of the pre 1962 make-believe framework, the immediate response was tactical.
- The army was re-organised at the senior level, and Prime Minister (PM) Nehru personally took over the defence portfolio for a brief period.
- The inadequacies in the higher defence management of the country were swept under the political carpet.
- This inability or reluctance to comprehend the fine print of strategic geography, the lessons of history, the abiding relevance of credible military capability and the correlation of these strands to national security have led to a series of “surprises” that peak with an all too familiar post-crisis Delhi fumble.
- This was evident in October 1962, Kargil 1999, Mumbai 2008 and now Galwan 2020.
- After the historic Rajiv Gandhi visit to China in 1988, the post-Cold War period saw India and China engaging more robustly at the bilateral level and the PV NarasimhaRao to Manmohan Singh trajectory (1991-2014) was one of stabilising the relationship and enhancing the trade-economic engagement.
- The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the foreign office were the lead players in shaping and implementing India’s China policy — from agreements about the LAC to the Dalai Lama, Taiwan and more.
- An element of wishful thinking permeated this China policy.
- There was a visible demonstration of Indian good faith to the one-China policy and respect for China’s core sensitivities would allow the LAC to recede into the background.
- As part of this “appeasement”, Delhi lived with the anomaly of Beijing supporting Pakistan in relation to terrorism and undermining India in international fora.
- The China issue morphed into a problem over the Chumar intrusion (September 2014) and festered through the Depsang-Doklam-Galwan continuum.
- The mistaken assumption appears to have been that high-level summit meetings and frequent bilateral meetings between PM Modi and President Xi Jinping would help resolve the very complex territorial dispute summarised as the three-letter LAC.
Change in status quo:
- The current ground situation in Ladakh is brittle, but there is guarded optimism that quiet diplomacy is underway and that a modus vivendi may still be arrived at, especially with India having gained a tactical advantage on the southern banks of PangongTso.
- However, in whichever manner this military build-up is resolved, there is an irreversible change in the nature of the India-China bilateral relationship after the Indian Army lost precious lives in a violent attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops in the Galwan Valley.
- In a recent conversation, external affairs minister, described the bilateral relationship as one that is now “profoundly disturbed”.
A post Covid-19 world is struggling to emerge and it may be prudent for the government to back to the drawing board. The central objective would be to objectively comprehend the nature of the China challenge for India from October 1962 to 2020, beyond just the LAC impasse.
Source:” Hindustan Times ”.
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