China-India Stand-off : An appraisal

Muhammad Imran National Defence University

Sino-India stand-off has reconfigured various geo-political realities. Reductionist lens might more focus to discern local and bilateral texture of the development at Line of actual Control (LaC). However, structuralist approach connects it with various variables that directly or indirectly are attached with power transition.

Until now, China lacked to show its military dimension and had been greatly relying on economic solutions but at Galwan River its military showdown has deeper message. Several intervening variables profound the intricate nature of Sino-India relations. In this equation, neither America nor Pakistan factor can be downplayed. American has interpolated itself despite global power as a balancer between China and India. India has been openly declared vital counter weight to contain China. Back in 2011 the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in her article for foreign policy that “The US is making a strategic bet on India’s future by viewing it as a “linchpin” in South, East and Central Asia despite “obstacles” in bilateral ties”. The statement heralded the dawn of a new geopolitical chessboard, where American all of a sudden shifted its global standing from being sole super to balancer between India and China.

Localized , low intensity and hand to hand scuffle at Galwan River forces strategic thinkers to cogitate its consequences at structural level. The event exposed the vulnerabilities of India’s hard power viz a viz China that will relief other smaller states of the region. As a result Nepal flexed its muscle on border demarcation. In South, and South East Asia, India being strategic partner of US has been displaying aggressive demeanor with impunity. Since Narendra Modi being in power, India tried to ride over great power horseback to fulfill its hegemonic designs.

Modi tried to kill two birds with one stone. In the wake of populist politics from America to South Asia, Modi not only extracted domestic approval but tried to cash his misdiagnosed adventures translating it in domestic popularity and international acclaim. But apart from American, no other state saw Modi as a responsible leader. Populist mode of politics has been core vehicle for Modi. Populism requires often bold nationalistic adventures to sell them back at home in order to bag votes. So do for Modi. He has been selling his both domestic and external anti- Muslim misdiagnosed adventures.

In short term such stunts can personally benefit Narendra Modi but in the longer run they hold grave repercussions for India’s heterogeneous society in the first place. Internationally, it also has consequences. In Machiavellian politics, which dictates that one must prepare for unexpected even from close ally. As Morgathau averred that human rights is one of the tools in American foreign policy toolbox. In future it cannot be overruled that at some particular point America can leverage Modi’s anti-Muslim violence to diffuse India’s inflated insobriety of “strategic autonomy”. Especially, in the wake of human rights violation narrative in American foreign policy more specifically to curb China, American sooner or later can channelize pressure over India to get back its soft image in Muslim world.

Modi’s tenure opened many challenging fronts for India and repercussions are bound for follies. India is continually in state of war with Pakistan, in its north its entire border is infested with disputes, in waters it is vital member of anti-China team led by America and has been part naval exercise aim at China, to further tried to match China’s tall standing India came up with Indian version of BRI , project Mosam.

What does make everything look bad? The utopian concept of Indian Strategic Autonomy. Apparently, it pursues independent foreign policy on all fronts without compromising under the misnomer umbrella concept of the “strategic autonomy”. India portrayed itself independent of American yoke and attributed every move to Indian growing national power. But, if she believes so even privately then the more appropriate term will be “strategic short-sightedness”. Empirically, Indian Defence Minister is still in Russia for military weapons and hardware against China.

In 2013, Chinese president Xi jinping unveiled ambitious themes backed by detailed plans to make China true great power by 2050. The overarching term China dreams have been in full swing through China. In the backdrop of the Chinese Dream, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (in Xi’s words) is about territorial integration under CPC designed political, social and economic system. To conquer the world, China must conquer itself. It must, at least, need to regain the geographical integrity. Currently, Taiwan enjoys de facto independence, anti-government protests have rocked Hong Kong, Xinjiang has been under relentless censure for human right violations and additionally Indian unilateral action to strike down the special status of Kashmir has impacted China’s strategic standing in its immediate neighbor.

At regional level, India under ultranationalist government was growing belligerent. It overlooked international human rights watchdog warnings, legislated anti-Muslim citizenship laws known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), anti- Muslim violence reached the alarming point, Genocide Watch issued a Genocide Alert for India Administered Kashmir, but yet Indian went on with impunity. India behaved as if it was living in a world without any counter weight or law. Being protector of the world order, rather than American stepping up its efforts to bring back India in the circle of civilized nations, it turned a blind eye over India.

Amidst the massive pressure from America, and India’s rebellious attitude at regional level, China thinks it is right time to reverberate its response at every front. China passed new law to bring Hong Kong under

China control, reciprocating on trade war, in Xinjiang it adopted indifferent posture to American censure while in the neighborhood it issued a shut up call to India. China chose pertinent timing. US-Pak relations are on upward trajectory, President Trump is busy in consolidating his power base for next election, internally India marred in Corona, facing fierce resistance in Indian Held Kashmir, all this has put India in shambles situation. At appropriate time China flexed its military muscle and it will enhance its preventive diplomacy in the region. To become global power, China has to be regional power first. China decided to rule region both by soft and hard power.

Following 2017 American defense strategy, Trump’s America diverted its entire state machinery to hold back China’s rise. Across the spectrum from trade war to South China, China was made to feel the burden of American animosity. China tried to give low intensity response by defying western world pressue over Xinjiang, HongKong and in SCS. But in Galwan River China not only sent an open message that it won’t tolerate any nonsense from India.

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