UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- India and its neighborhood- relations.
- The ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control(LAC)pose the biggest national security challenge to India in at least 20 years.
- The clashes in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakhhave claimed 20 Indian lives, the first incident of fatalities on the India-China border in 45 years.
- China has revived its claim on the entire Galwan Valleyand has asked India to pull back from the areas.
- Satellite images in the public domain suggest that China has set up defence positions in the valley as well as the disputed “Fingers” of Pangong Tso.
- Both sides are engaged in a face-off at Hot Springs.
- Despite multiple rounds of military-level talks, tensions are unlikely to ease given the complexity of the ground situation.
What led to the current situation?
- In 2017, India and China agreed to amicably resolve the Doklam standoffthat lasted for more than two months.
- No blood was spilt then, and no shots fired.
- India has been very careful not to upset China’s domestic and geopolitical sensitivities.
- However, it has made occasional joint statements issued with leaders from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific countries, reasserting India’s commitment to “freedom of navigation”( to be seen with China’s claims over the South China Sea),
- India has stayed away from criticising China on controversial topics, whether its “de-radicalisation” camps in Xinjiang, crackdown on protests in Hong Kong, or disputes with Taiwan.
Yet China chose to increase tensions along the LAC.
Salami slice strategy:
- One popular argument is that China’s move, driven by local factors such as India’s infrastructure upgradeand its decision to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
- Several experts have claimed that the tensions on the border are driving India deeper into a strategic embrace with the U.S.
- They may be true or it may be complex.
- However, there is a clear shiftin Chinese foreign policy post the COVID-19 outbreak.
- This is seen in,
- China’s rising tensions with the U.S., its threats against Taiwan
- Repeated naval incidents in the South China Sea
- New security law for Hong Kong
- Finally the tensions along the LAC.
To understand this shift, one has to get a sense of the sources of China’s conduct.
Understanding the shift:
- Today’s China is an ambitious rising powerwhich wants to reorient the global order.
- Unlike the Soviet Union of the 1940s(in the early stages of the Cold War), China is not an ideological state that intends to export communism to other countries.
- But like the Soviet Union of the post-war world, China is the new superpower on the block.
- When it was rising, China had adopted different tactical positions — “hide your capacity and bide your time”, “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development”.
- But under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese think they have arrived.
Chinese assessment of the global scenario:
- The global economy in the doldrums
- Globalisation in an irrecoverable crisisaccentuated by the COVID-19 outbreak
- The U.S. under an isolationist Policytaking the most aggressive position towards China since Richard Nixon.
With all these China believes the global order is at a breaking point.
It is fighting back through what game theorists call “salami tactics” — where a dominant power attempts to establish its hegemony piece by piece. India might be one slice in this salami slice strategy.
Perception of decline:
The author says that,
- China doesn’t see India as a ‘swing state’ any more.
- It sees India as an ally-in-progress of the U.S.
- Its actions were not reckless, taken at the risk of losing India strategically.
- Its actions are a result of the strategic lossthat has already happened.
(Here it should be noted that Indian foreign policy in recent days is one of multi-alignment. India has ties with China in BRICS, SCO etc.)
Right time for China : Regional and Global condition
- Within this broader framework there could be a host of factors —local, regional and global — that influenced China’s moves.
- When most of the world’s big powers are grappling with the pandemic,revisionist powers such as China have more room for geopolitical manoeuvring.
- Europehas been devastated by the virus.
- The U.S. is battling in an election year the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the deepest economic meltdownsince the Great Depression.
- Its global leadershipis unravelling fast.
- The Indian economywas in trouble even before COVID-19 struck the country, slowing down its rise.
- Social upheaval over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, and the National Register of Citizens had weakened the Indian polity.
India’s traditional clout in its neighbourhood was slipping:
- Tensions with Pakistanhave been high keeping the troops occupied in the border areas
- Nepalraised boundary issues with India
- Sri Lankais diversifying its foreign policy and China is making deep inroads into that region
- Bangladeshwas deeply miffed with the CAA.
- Even in Afghanistan, where Pakistan, China, Russia and the U.S. are involved in the transition process, India is out.
A confluence of all these factors, which point to a decline in the country’s smart power, allowed China to make aggressive moves on the LAC.
What India needs is a national security strategy that’s decoupled from the compulsions of domestic politics and anchored in neighbourhood realism. It should stand up to China’s bullying on the border now, with a long-term focus on enhancing capacities and winning back its friendly neighbours. There are no quick fixes this time.
Source:” The Hindu“.
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