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Options at India’s table – tackling Chinese aggression

Options at India’s table – tackling Chinese aggression

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

In news:

The situation along the China-India border in Ladakh region is still tense. The disengagement process is proving difficult, and the latest meeting of the Corps Commanders on July 14 has not resulted in any demonstrable progress regarding troop disengagement/de-escalation. India is standing firm on both sides ensuring complete disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), while China is laying emphasis on strengthening Confidence Building Measures in the border areas, and proper handling of border issues in a timely manner to “avoid differences becoming disputes”.

Why Chinese aggression:

  • What prompted China’s aggressive behaviour is unclear, but it had the effect of shredding the painstakingly devised Border Agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013.
  • Whether China is behaving like an ‘irredentist power’seeking to expand its frontiers to the limits, or as an ‘expansionist power’ is debatable.
  • However, humbling India in the eyes of Asia and the world was all important.
  • India needs to ponder deeply on this, to avoid making a strategic miscalculationduring a difficult period.

China’s intent:

  • China is intent on managing the ground situation to its advantage, and bring about a realignment of the LAC.
  • The idea of ‘buffer zones’having been accepted. It is to be located on Indian territory.
  • This shows that China is well on its way to achieving its objective.
  • If China does succeed, it could be for the first time that China has a foothold on the west side of the Kongka Pass.
  • A great deal of planning would have preceded the incursions across the LAC at multiple points, several hundred kilometres apart.

Moving away from status quo:

  • China has shaken off its image as a ‘status quo power’. Its intent is on dominating the geostrategic space in its neighbourhood and across Asia.
  • Finally, to displace the United States as the Global Numero Uno.
  • Instead of reinforcing economic relationships in the region, China has been intent on transforming the Asian region in its own image.
  • Simultaneously it is seeking to become a continental and a maritime power.

Not a complete conflict:

  • Trying to make sense of China’s actions is critical for India’s response.
  • China has been inclined for long to claim territories in the western, middle and eastern segments of the border.
  • However, China will not go for a full conflict over territory.
  • This is because, China is well aware that it cannot be certain whether it will emerge a victor from an all-out conflict with India.
  • With two key dates in mind (2025 and 2035 — Made in China 2025 and China Standards 2035), China cannot afford to jeopardise its future for the present.

Options available:

India’s strategic thinkers and planners must keep this in mind, while drawing up plans to checkmate China’s predatory actions in the mountainous border regions. Following suggestions would be beneficial in this regard,

1.Defence related measures:

  • India should urgently implement the plans to set up the Mountain Strike Corps divisions, which had been inexplicably shelved.
  • This is bound to deter China here far more than the stockpiling of state-of-the-art weapons.
  • It is important to maintain a strong military but it is even more important to know when or how to use it.
  • Subtler tools:
  • One option, readily available, is diplomacywhich is an equally indispensable instrument of a nation’s power.
  • Exploiting the current widespread opposition to China, India must embark on a diplomatic offensive to create international opinion in its support regarding border violations.
  • A diplomatic offensive, involving different Ministries of the Central government, business leaders, persons of international standing, etc., can achieve a great deal in convincing international opinion that India is right and China is wrong, as also in conveying a message about India’s peaceful intentions vis-à-vis China’s expansionist ambitions.

3.Leverage with other nations:

  • India should also revitalise another instrument of power that it had employed in the past, cultivation of foreign leaders with a view to draw their specific attention to China’s aggressive policies and designs.
  • Countering China’s moves to ‘buy’ influencewill not be easy, but India’s involvement with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) should prove invaluable in this respect.
  • India’s relationship with NAMneeds to be revitalised.
  • India previously also had a programme of helping countries across Asia and Africa through a well-designed technical aid programme which possibly still exists, but may need to be upgraded.
  • Such programmes not only provide an enduring link between India and these countries but also help contrast India’s ‘untied aid’ with that of countries such as China whose aims are political and economic subjugation.

4.Connecting with the neighbours:

  • India must pay particular attention to relations with countries in its neighbourhood, such as Nepal and Bangladesh, and allies such as Iran and Vietnam.
  • Smaller countries of Asia, which constantly face China’s aggressive interference in their internal affairs, have not received much support from India, and this needs India’s attention.
  • India’s credentials here far outweigh that of China’s and should produce excellent dividends. It needs to become a key plank in India’s ‘forward policy’.

Source:” The Hindu”.

POSSIBLE UPSC CSE MAINS QUESTION:

Discuss the various options available for India to counter Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control.