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Analysing Sino-Indian Standoff: What China Really Wants?

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Author: Prof. Sudhanshu Tripathi

(The writer is Professor, Political Science in UPRTOU Allahabad. His book NAM and INDIA was published in 2010/ 2012 and a co-authored text-book Rajnitik Awadharnayein, in 2001.)

 

As of now it is clear that China has indeed done enough homework to encircle India from all directions by engendering multiple intrusions, some in areas like Galwan where, there has never been a dispute as regards the actual alignment of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two neighbours. Indeed, with the active assistance of Pakistan in the north-west, Nepal in the north and Sri Lanka in the south, Beijing has thrown its gauntlet around India to squeeze it to accept the emerging China dominant international order. It has already encircled India through its earlier String of Pearls scheme with active support of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other littoral countries around Indian Ocean. Further, Beijing has captured an area in Indian Ocean and has also established its air-strip in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as reported by the satellite images. India’s endeavour to claim the entire PoK after Pakistani Supreme Court directed it to conduct elections in Gilgit-Baltistan has obviously unnerved both Pakistan and China, because New Delhi’s weather reports included PoK as part of Jammu and Kashmir. China is also worried because of its OBOR grand strategy including the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through PoK.

 

 

Although the ongoing Sino-Indian tussle apparently looks as differing perceptions over the LAC between them, the real Chinese intention goes far beyond that to include larger geo-political landscape, characterized by the mounting Sino-US tensions. In fact, by indulging into a long standoff over LAC, China can use India as a perfect bet to extract tactical gains over it. But the increasing isolation of China on all global fronts due to its supposedly shady role in leaking Corona virus into the world has prompted Beijing to send across a message of dominance in the larger context: South China Sea, Hong Kong, global trade and India.

 

As the US appears determined to retaliate with China’s misadventures through both diplomatic means as well as muscle-flexing tricks respectively, reflected in the case of Tibet including Hong Kong and South China Sea, Beijing asserts its full preparedness that President Xi boldly declared to meet even “worst case scenarios”.  In fact, China has selectively hit those targets which have either raised question regarding origin of the Coronavirus, as did Australia by supporting WHO’s inspection into the Wuhan Lab of Virology, or may become adversary in future, particularly India, Vietnam and Philippines, who may, in all likelihood align with the impending US led post-Corona global alliance against Beijing.

 

Among these, India is obviously the most potential threat to China due to its inherent ancient cultural power and massive scientific-technical and economic potential which altogether projects it as an unparalleled and fast-ascending peaceful and dominant moral-political sovereign association in the world, capable of assuming not only regional predominance in the East but also that of a distinct global power as well. India’s rising potential and rare magnanimity, always during humanitarian crises in the past and today in times of global Corona menace too, has significantly elevated its status that the US wishes to include New Delhi into the global community of seven rich countries or G-7 along with Russia, Japan and South Korea.

 

Today, while the whole world is passing through the mounting Corona menace, China is instead working hard to expand its sphere-of-influence in Indian Ocean, PoK and South China Sea etc.. But political analysts are of the view that China is facing numerous internal challenges and popular unrest on several counts, like reverse Corona attack and consequent economic recession, rising people’s unrest, government’s inability to address their aspirations and instead resorting to repression and suppression of masses including minority Uyghur Muslims etc.. All these together pose a serious threat of possible regime change in China and that prompts President Xi Jinping to divert popular attention from his own inabilities and failures to focus on the thorny border issue with India.

 

While facing ongoing isolation in the world, Beijing may devise such strategies to prevail over Nepal, Sri Lanka and other neighbours of New Delhi nurturing anti-Indian feelings - including littoral countries around Indian Ocean - to evolve a joint front against India. This may help-derive the legitimacy of China’s imperialist and expansionist policies against India, on the one hand, and castigate New Delhi as an expansionist hegemonic power in South Asia, threatening security of the regional states, on the other. Supporting China’s above strategy, Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan is acting as Beijing’s mouth piece against India. Similarly, Nepal protested not only over India’s newly inaugurated road to Lipulekh in May 2020 but also extended its claim to Limpiyadhura and Kalapani.

 

While the ongoing standoff in Ladakh with increasing numbers of soldiers and armaments at both sides may frighten the entire South Asian region, China will obviously prolong this show-off so as to deflect the entire global attention away from its presumed Corona related misdemeanours against humanity. Evidently, China would not forget its failed misadventure against India in 1967 due to fierce repulsive attacks by the Indian Army. This time if China dares to impose an undesired war upon India, which New Delhi will never initiate itself until and unless the dire need arises - because India always longs for peace and prosperity of the whole world - Beijing may have to face a united global front in favour of India.

 

These besides, today’s India is far ahead in terms of all components of the national power, that it was in 1962, and enjoys a distinct and unparalleled image under the present dispensation, and both these facts together will definitely compel China to think hundred times over, should it decide to initiate war against India. While China is a very unpredictable mighty power and maintains strict silence lest the world may guess its future steps or probable intentions - as it surprised the world by attacking over Tibet, India and this time perhaps in secretly releasing the Coronavirus - India has to remain very cautious over the LAC to ensure its territorial unity and integrity. Hence the continuing Sino-Indian tensions may either result into local skirmishes between the soldiers or may worsen due to China’s persistence with its wolf-warrior’s foreign policy to complicate a possible resolution of the standoff.

 

While the best option for both sides is to initiate dialogues at political level, apart from ongoing army level talks, both sides must work for actual demarcation of the LAC on sector-to-sector basis and consequent erection of a permanent wall or barbed fencing on the so-delineated international border. Further, India should take lead to forge a regional security architecture with the association of like-minded countries in Indo-Pacific, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and America, so as to counter China’s militarist aggressions against itself and other regional partners as well, that Beijing always uses as a strong signal of its rising global aspirations

 

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