A risky new status quo – On India-China Border Related Issues

Source: The post is based on an article A risky new status quo” published in The Hindu on 212nd September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its Neighborhood

News: China and India’s discussion on demilitarization of some conflict points have made a little progress. But it doesn’t mean that the threat is reduced.   

China and India have agreed to completely disengage from Patrolling Point 15 (PP15). This will create a demilitarized buffer zone. However, even after demilitarizing India faces many risks.

What are the risks present for India?

Buffer zone: The buffer zone created by demilitarizing reduces India’s ability to patrol its own territory.

The buffer zone and Depsang’s status both suit China’s objectives because they limit India’s military activities near the LAC. This has led to China’s invasion in 2020.

Military Disengagement: Demilitarizing has not led to diminishing military threat at the border. This is evident from building of permanent military infrastructure from both countries near the border.

China has left India behind in building roads, helipads, and communications nodes. Therefore, coming to status quo is nearly impossible.

Tension at LAC: China still claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory. The growing military build-up of China can increase pressure anywhere at LAC.

There is also possibility of war between the two nations.

Prioritizing land border: The land border has become the highest priority in India’s military competition with China.

India has reassigned one of three Pakistan-facing Strike Corps to the China front along with its newest artillery, fighter jets, and drones to the China border. This has led away India’s attention form Indian Ocean region.

Although India has capabilities in the oceanic region such as indigenously-built aircraft carrier, cruise missile-equipped fighters but these were initiated before the border crisis.

The dominating power in Asia will be determined by the dominating forces in the Indian Ocean region. Therefore, India needs to reorganize its priorities.

However, the disengagement is still helpful for India.

How the disengagement will be helpful for India?

The disengagement at PP15 has the potential to improve the trap set by China.

This will help India to reduce its focus of military preparedness at the border and work towards long-term military modernisation across the Indian Ocean region.

However, prioritizing other issues such as Atmanirbharta in defence industry at the expense of modernization of military poses a threat to India.

What can be further course of action?

India needs a long term growth in its capabilities (military, policies, etc.) to face the challenge posed by China in the Indian Ocean region.

This requires a rational strategic assessment and the political will to balance military preparedness with modernisation.

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