The Chinese challenge uncovers India’s fragilities

News: The Indo-China border crisis has brought out the political, economic and diplomatic problems between the two countries, which have been the result of choices made after 2014.

With the loss in the 1962 war against China, India lost its pre-eminent position in Asia. With the present display of weakness six decades later, India is in danger of losing its dominant influence even in South Asia.

It’s time for the Indian PM to step up and personally resolve the crisis.

How has China pushed on with its aggressive gestures against India?

After border crisis, China has taken various aggressive military and diplomatic steps like:

Renaming of places in Arunachal Pradesh: Beijing recently renamed 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, following the six it had done in 2017, weeks after the Dalai Lama visited Tawang. China justifies the renaming as being done on the basis of its historical, cultural and administrative jurisdiction over the area. It said that ancient names of these areas were changed by India after “illegal occupation”.

New land border law: On January 1, 2022, it’s new land border law came into force. This law supports, and mutually reinforces — the construction of Xiaokang border villages by China along its disputed border with India.

As per satellite images, at least two of these villages have been constructed on the Indian side of the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh. These villages will come in handy for Beijing when the principle of ‘settled areas’ is invoked to resolve the border dispute in the future.

Emboldened Chinese diplomats: Even the diplomats, posted at the Chinese Embassy in Delhi, have been emboldened by India’s cautious response to Chinese Govt’s gestures. Recently, Political Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy, Zhou Yongsheng wrote an angry letter to Indian Members of Parliament, including two Union Ministers, for attending a meet organised by the Tibetan government-in-exile. This angry missive (long official letter) from an Embassy official to two Ministers has earned no reaction or condemnation from the Government for the Chinese Ambassador.

What are the challenges before India?

Firstly, India has run out of proactive options against Beijing that will force its leadership to change course on its India policy. Tibet and the Dalai Lama are no longer effective deterrents.

Secondly, Beijing does not care for its declining popularity among the Indian populace.

Thirdly, there is a huge trade deficit b/w India and China, which is driven by Indian dependency on Chinese manufacturing. This situation has further worsened by the Government’s mishandling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

What is the way forward?

The Quad has remained a non-military grouping. Moreover, the signing of the AUKUS and the humiliating American exit from Afghanistan proves that India will have to deal with the Chinese challenge on the border on its own.

India can prevent any further loss of territory to China with extensive military deployment on the LAC, while hoping that the crisis is resolved with Moscow’s help. Russia has offered a Foreign Ministers meeting Russia-India-China grouping, but India has stressed on China to take some steps first to resolve the border crisis.

Government should adopt a collegial and deliberative model of decision-making, which requires cooperation and consensus among different stakeholders.
Source: This post is based on the article “The Chinese challenge uncovers India’s fragilities” published in The Hindu on 6th Jan 2022.
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