Several strategic objectives at play in India-China border stand-off | India News

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Jun 3, 2020

NEW DELHI: There is a larger dynamic at work in the India-China confrontation in Ladakh, one where India faces a pushback for trying to use the communist giant’s new post-Covid vulnerabilities to reduce its ability to flex muscle on the regional and global stage.
The Chinese intrusions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in east Ladakh reflect “salami tactics” it has used to expand territorial and strategic space, not the least looking to wear down an opponent psychologically. But it may also be a recognition that India is seeking to rework an equation that has allowed China to use the unsettled border and Pakistan to keep India off balance.
The LAC face-off may be resolved yet as the Chinese side has toned down its rhetoric but a strategic tussle is on. The Modi government’s moves to scrutinise Chinese investments is effectively a means to curb it. Pitching India as a welcoming destination to investors looking to leave China and being a part of a global effort to seek an investigation into the origin of coronavirus are not casual moves.
The strategic asymmetry is not going to change in a hurry even though China’s image has taken a massive blow. The Chinese leadership is adept at managing internal challenges and using the country’s huge reserves to sustain the economy. Its lending programmes will continue to lure poor countries and short-sighted leaders and its expansion in the South China Sea may not be easy to roll back.
The Indian resolve to stand its ground in east Ladakh clearly indicates that China will need to ultimately pull back. This may need some trade-offs, but India’s position is clear enough — China can use the element of surprise to get into Indian territory, but there will be no give or acceptance of a unilateral reordering of the LAC.
The Doklam experience has not been lost on China as India had moved into Bhutanese territory — disputed by Beijing — to stall a road being built by the PLA. The discussion on China’s reinforcements after the stand-off ended ignores that the area has been under its influence for long. What is significant is that a threat to India’s north-east was foiled.
The decision to nullify Article 370 was a bold move intended to end an ambiguity that has for decades given Pakistan and its mentor a handle to needle India. The chinks in the Chinese armour offer India a chance to further loosen the pincer grip, and China’s blowback is only to be anticipated.

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