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Chinese aggression – Line of Actual Control

Chinese aggression – Line of Actual Control

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2-India and its neighborhood- relations.

Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control has been a recurrent phenomenon. However, the recent aggression in the Galwan valley is entirely different.  Since Xi Jinping took over, the nature and kind of intrusions have altered. They have become more firm, and appears premeditated and planned

The stand-off in Eastern Ladakh is in at least five key areas where India and China have had traditional differences on the perception of the Line of Actual Control or LAC in the region.

The present tension came when reports of skirmishes between the soldiers were reported in the Pangong Lake region on May 5 and May 6. 

Since the clashes in the Pangong Lake, there have been multiple reports of intrusions by Chinese infantry soldiers in areas which include

  1. 1. Demchok to the South
  2. 2. the Fingers region on the Eastern banks of the high-altitude Pangong Lake
  3. 3. the Galwan River basin
  4. 4. Gogra post.

Rationale behind the Chinese escalation:

  • The construction of the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldi roadand the upgrading of our defence logistics infrastructure. These are points of concern for the Chinese.
  • Growing Chinese interest in the region, particularly with the CPEC -China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
  • The revocation of Articles 370 and 5(A) of our Constitution,the Beijing got more apprehensive.
  • India’s terse statements about Aksai Chinfollowing the Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation in August.
  • This is to seen with Beijing taking the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council onfour occasions so far.
  • In a clear departure from the past, New Delhi has been carrying out the construction of infrastructural projectsalong the LAC
  • The global political distractioncaused by COVID-19.
  • The international pressure on China (including New Delhi) to come clean on the origins of the novel coronavirus.

China may have viewed all these as India upping the ante. All these must be viewed in the broader context of a long-term geopolitical world view China has for the region.

Further internal issues like,

  • The way the S.-China trade waris developing is aggravating and the domestic criticism on it.
  • Level of discontentwithin the Communist Party, particularly its middle and higher echelons.

Having given up its traditional slogan of ‘peaceful rise’, China, under Mr. Xi, is beginning to assert itself as the next superpower.

Daulat beg Oldi road


Subtle political messaging in Beijing’s LAC aggression:

  • China is currently engaged in a new cold war like situation with the United States.This is in the middle of a crackdown in Hong Kong as well as fighting COVID-19 at home.
  • With these entire issues one would not have expected the Chinese leadership to open another front.
  • However, by opening a limited military frontwith India on the LAC, China is signalling the U.S. that it can handle pressure, and India that it has the political and military wherewithal to put pressure on India despite 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.
  • Here India proved it was not a military pushover. This, despite China’s conventional superiorityover 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 andLadakh are perhaps Beijing’s way of responding to India consistently and militarily.

Limited scope military expeditions:

  • China’s limited scope military expeditions on the long-contested borderis cost effective for the PLA.
  • There is the ever-growing conventional military superioritythat it enjoys with India.
  • Since limited fights or smaller land grabs may not provoke an all-out confrontation or nuclear threat and the side with conventional superiority and more border infrastructure would likely carry the day.

Inflicting small-scale military defeats:

Picking a direct fight with India might lead to an undesirable military escalation.

This does not suit Beijing’s interests. But carrying out minor military expeditions with the objective of inflicting small-scale military defeats on India is beneficial for it.

This would suit the Chinese political and military leadership;

  1. 1. they are cost effective
  2. 2. less escalatory
  3. 3. The message gets conveyed.

India should not overlook these manoeuvres as the Beijing would be tempted to repeat them.

Is Chinese adventurism unlimited:

  • There are limits to China’s LAC adventurism.
  • There are several places along the several thousand kilometre long LAC where the PLA is militarily weak.
  • The Indian Army has the upper hand, and, therefore, a tit-for-tat military campaigncould be undertaken by New Delhi.
  • While China enjoys continental superiorityover India, maritime domain is China’s weak spot, in particular Beijing’s commercial and energy interest to which the maritime space is crucial.
  • China would not want to seriously damage the close to $100 billion tradewith India with its military adventurism.

Time has come for India to checkmate Beijing’s military aggression even as it maintains a robust economic relationship.

India should get more serious about finalising 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.

Source:” Indian Express“.

Possible UPSC CSE Mains Question:

In recent days, the nature of Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual control has changed. Will this be a permanent situation henceforth? How could India handle such situations?