India’s China strategy needs to be debated

Source- The post is based on the article “India’s China strategy needs to be debated” published in “The Hindu” on 9th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Bilateral groupings and agreements

Relevance– India and China bilateral relations

News- Recently, China renamed 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh. The announcement was made after approval from the State Council, implying a green light from the very top of the Chinese system.

The “renaming” of disputed territories has been a long-held tactic of the Chinese government. This is the third batch of “re-naming” with reference to Arunachal Pradesh.

What is the situation on LAC?

As per a research paper submitted by a senior police officer, India has lost access to 26 out of 65 Patrolling Points in eastern Ladakh.

India has adopted the “play safe” approach. It has turned areas that were accessible before April 2020 for patrolling by the Army into informal “buffer” zones. It has resulted in the loss of pasture lands at Gogra hills, the North Bank of Pangong Tso, and Kakjung areas.

This is a matter of national security and of grave concern. Yet, the government refuses to openly call out the Chinese threat.

What are several factors that explain Indian stand on Chinese aggression?

There is a growing power differential and military capability differential between the two countries. There is uncertainty about the strategic actions of major powers such as the U.S. in case of a military stand-off.

There is pressure from Indian business interests to safeguard trade. Lack of consensus within the various ministries about the response to the Chinese threat and lack of political will are also major factors.

These considerations have led to self-restraint by the Indian government. It has even refused to permit even a basic discussion of China in Parliament, on the grounds of national security.

Is India repeating the errors made in its pre-1962 engagement with Communist China?

Nehru viewed India and China as the two major south Asian civilizations. It recognised the Communist government in China and softened its line on China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet, its encroachment on India’s borders.

Present government’s current policy of ignoring Chinese threat seems similar.

What is the way forward to deal with the Chinese threat?

The Indian government is strengthening border defences and building infrastructure on the Indian side.  But it is not opposing Chinese build-up and continuing “salami-slicing” tactics on the disputed frontier.

There is a need for acknowledgement of the problem. It will initiate a process of resolving it.

As a one-party state, China does not have to worry about public approval. The Chinese Communist Party has built domestic credibility by valorising its international image.

It is now about showing strength, determination, economic might and an unwillingness to compromise on core national interests.

In fact, China’s public image is a source of its vulnerability. It has always had a fear of being isolated in global affairs. Its assertiveness today is accompanied by diplomatic overtures in Europe, Russia and West Asia.

India was able to capitalise on China’s image-consciousness to get Masood Azhar blacklisted by the 1267 UN Sanctions Committee. Hence, image matters to Beijing. It can be exploited to India’s advantage.

However, the government must take the Indian people into confidence. It is time for an urgent debate in Parliament on India’s China strategy.

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