Changing China’s conduct
India adopted five strategies. They haven’t worked yetUpdated: Jul 24, 2020 05:45 IST
The disengagement process between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) , initiated after conversations between special representatives on the border issue of both sides (national security adviser Ajit Doval and foreign minister Wang Yi) and military representatives, has hit a roadblock. China is not moving back from Pangong-Tso and Depsang. It hasn’t fulfilled its commitments to step back from Hot Springs and Gogra. Its military build-up remains intact, which means that the next step after disengagement — de-escalation — is a distant proposition. Both Chinese intentions and its capabilities make it clear that Beijing will continue to be belligerent.
India has attempted five strategies to counter this. The first was underplaying the nature of incursion. While the government should have been more transparent in April, May, and early June, it is understandable if New Delhi wanted to keep the public glare away from the border to be able to arrive at a quiet understanding and give the Chinese a “face-saver”. This did not work. The second strategy was to warn the Chinese that the border stand-off will have implications for the rest of the relationship. The ban on the Chinese apps, the decision not to award highway contracts to Chinese firms, the clear signalling that the 5G contract to Huawei was now in jeopardy, and the general message within the government to reduce interlinkages with China was meant to deliver the message. It had an impact, but not enough to change Chinese plans. The third was a military response — India has matched the military build-up at the border. Galwan showed India was willing to inflict costs on Beijing, though, to be sure, it incurred costs in the process too. The fourth has been to cement international partnerships, link Chinese actions to its aggression elsewhere, and mobilise international pressure — sometimes discreetly, sometimes publicly — on Beijing. This has been noted in China, but has not been a sufficient enough lever to change Chinese behaviour. And the fifth was a direct dialogue, which hasn’t yielded the desired results.
Given the Chinese intransigence, India will have to rely on all but the first option to an even greater degree. There is no point in underplaying the tension. But continue to make China pay economic costs; don’t let the guard down militarily; and be an active part of a coalition to contain Chinese belligerence while continuing the dialogue with Beijing. It will be a tough year in Ladakh, but letting the Chinese have their way and losing territory is not an option.