India’s counter-coercive strategy against China

Synopsis: India has done quite well in countering Chinese moves in eastern Ladakh with its coercive strategy. 


There is an opportunity for middle powers like India to redefine their position in the world order as decline and rise of Chinese and American powers continue.  

  • Alexander L. George, an American political scientist, is best known for his work on coercive diplomacy. The happenings in eastern Ladakh can be understood with reference to four variations of coercive diplomacy: 
      • A gradual turning of the screw. 
      • A try-and-see. 
      • A tacit ultimatum. 
      • A full-fledged ultimatum. 

How the four variations of coercive diplomacy were used in the border standoff? 

      • China attempted to alter the existing status quo in eastern Ladakh, this resembled gradually turning the screw and then waiting to see India’s reaction. 
      • India adopted a try and see approach. India wanted to engage in mild forms of coercion that involved the building up of forces to achieve parity on the ground.  
  • IAF was displaying its capabilities in Ladakh indicating that India wanted PLA to restore the status quo without any threats.  

After India failed to compel the PLA to withdraw by mid-july, it had two options according to Alexander George’s escalatory ladder: 

      • First, India could have issued an indirect or tacit ultimatum that would involve an unspoken and firmly controlled tactical action, by this means signifying resolve and intent. 
      • Second, it could issue a full-fledged ultimatum followed by multi-dimensional military action that could lead to a limited conflict. 

What approach did India took to handle china? 

At the operational and strategic level, the Chinese did not expect the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force to mobilise and get into their operational roles at high altitude with effortlessness.  

      • Indian Army lowered the psychological high ground gained by Chinese by occupying key heights overlooking Chinese PLA. 
      • At the strategic level, India’s political establishment did not push the panic button and synergised politico-diplomatic-military approach was adopted.  


  • India has militarily recovered well, diplomatically played ruthlessly and strategically postured skilfully in spite of the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic. However, it is too early to predict the course of events; it can only be fair to say that India has done well in countering Chinese coercion in Ladakh with its own brand of counter-coercion. 
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