No end in sight for fraying Sino-Indian ties

India’s military adventurism


China Daily, China

Although it is generally believed that neither China nor India wants the sporadic spats between their frontier troops to escalate into a full-scale conflict, Indian soldiers again crossed the Line of Actual Control last Monday and “threatened the Chinese border defence patrol officers”.

The Chinese Defence Ministry said it was a “grave military provocation” and, according to the People’s Liberation Army Western Theatre Command, the Chinese troops were forced to take corresponding countermeasures.

The incident may not have been as worrying had it not involved the firing of weapons, albeit reportedly into the air.

It is particularly worrying as the firing of weapons breaks the consensus that the border troops would not use any firearms should there be any coming together.

It is to be hoped this is an isolated incident and does not herald bloodshed to come.

Encouragingly, decision-makers in both countries seem intent on keeping a lid on the tensions.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that China is committed to border peace and friendly relations with the country’s key southern neighbour.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said border peace and tranquillity are the foundation for the two nations’ relations, while calling for “very, very in-depth dialogue” at political levels to resolve the border situation.

Talks have been and are being held at various levels for the single purpose of preventing potential unmanageable escalation and spillover. And these endeavours have worked to some extent, at least in terms of putting an immediate brake on what might otherwise have proved to be inflammable emergencies.

But the latest developments in the China-India border areas indicate that as negative feelings on both sides accumulate against the other, the risk of such seemingly insignificant frictions triggering more damaging confrontations cannot be ruled out.

The rising nationalism in India may make any conciliatory messages difficult to deliver without seeming like appeasement.

So while timely face-to-face communication between the commanders of the border forces is instrumental to avoiding misunderstanding and misjudgment on the ground, it is imperative political leaders get involved to calm the situation.

China’s moves and India’s vulnerability

Vinod Saighal

The Statesman, India

On the night of Aug 29-30, Indian commanders decided to send in a battalion to occupy Black Top on the southern side of Pangong Tso on India’s side of the Line of Actual Control, to pre-empt the Chinese from moving in.

Had the Chinese occupied Black Top and the local commanders waited for instructions, the Chinese would have firmed in.

This would have been a prelude to 1962 all over again. It is felt that India’s options as of now remain limited to firming in while ensuring that China is not in a position to surprise India along the entire front.

Meanwhile, the government is taking all measures to bolster the armed forces in every way.

Immediate military option before the winter sets in is not an option at this juncture. The army and the government would have realised by now that putting the mountain strike on hold was a mistake that has to be rectified at the earliest.

Without riposte capability, no enemy is ever deterred.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has painted himself into a corner in Ladakh. He knows that China can neither afford a full-scale military action in Ladakh nor continue with the status quo throughout the winter and beyond.

Mr Narendra Modi is in an equally difficult position. The virus shows no signs of abating. The economic decline is no less worse.

What can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that the Indian Prime Minister is in a much better position than his counterpart in Beijing.

Mr Modi is unassailable till at least 2024. His party enjoys an overwhelming majority. His popularity remains very high.

His government has to realise that India’s vulnerability in Ladakh will remain till manufacturing speeds up, because China manufactures all its weapons platforms in the country, shedding its reliance on Russia.

De-escalation the only real option

Vijay Kant Karna

The Kathmandu Post, Nepal

India and China have a history of border conflict. The last Sino-Indian clash before this year was in 2017 in the Doklam region.

It was a three-month stand-off between the two armies.

The most recent military confrontation was witnessed in the Galwan Valley in June.

The face-off was, however, not the end of the conflict.

China reportedly moved in 20 martial arts trainers to the Tibetan plateau to train its forces, three weeks after the clash. The martial arts fighters have been employed to help with border patrol and special forces.

Experts have raised concerns over whether there is an ultimate agenda that China aspires to achieve or if the face-off was linked to its behaviour elsewhere.

Foreign affairs experts and China watchers believe that the conflict in the Galwan Valley was anticipated and calculated if viewed in the light of China’s overall international performance.

China’s global standing took a severe hit with the Covid-19 outbreak and a widespread perception that it failed to curb the virus. As it spread worldwide, claiming several lives, the international community has been compelled to question China’s role.

Following the stand-off, which sparked anti-China and hyper-nationalist sentiments in India, the Indians decided to boycott Chinese goods and apps, and burned the flag as well.

The Galwan Valley gets its name from the Galwan River, which originates in the Aksai Chin region and joins the Shyok River. It is located in eastern Ladakh and is a vital road link to Daulat Beg Oldi, the world’s highest landing ground next to the Line of Actual Control.

The Galwan Valley is considered strategic for both countries. The river is the highest ridge line that allows China to control the Shyok route passes, which are close to the river. The country wants to control the area as it fears that India could end up threatening its position in Aksai Chin by using the Galwan River valley to its advantage.

Furthermore, China is very opposed to India constructing any tent or infrastructure in the area.

On July 10, India and China held yet another round of talks. They reviewed the progress made in the ongoing disengagement process and agreed on “overall development” of bilateral ties.

Disengagement and de-escalation are the only options for China and India, for the interest of both countries’ peace and development.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times’ media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 24 news media titles.

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