Amid international backlash over China’s culpability in the spread of pandemic, during his visit to Xian Jiaotong University, President Xi said, “Great historical progress always happens after major disasters”. Unruffled by the international ire over China’s irredeemable mistake of allowing the infection to grow out of control, Xi reminded people of the “hardship and suffering” and of the unflinching, “The Chinese Dream”. Three weeks into that event, putting Xi’s words into action, PLA unleashed violence across the LAC leading to a blood bath. While the World is consumed by the China-gifted pandemic, reasserting its mythical claims China has been unleashing aggression from East China Sea to Ladakh. In the past few weeks, China has sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat, escalated tensions near Senkaku Island, intruded into Taiwanese airspace only to be chased away ignominiously and ratcheted up tensions with Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
While PLA incursions have been an annual event, violence hasn’t been its accompaniment in the past four decades. Breaching mutually agreed protocols of disengagement to ward off violent flareups, China has lived up to its reputation of transgressor of international rules.
Since May 5th troops from both countries are locked in a stand-off. To escalate the situation across LAC, military commanders of India and China met on June 6th agreeing on partial de-induction of troops from four areas. On June 15th when Indian troops went to supervise the Galwan valley area, PLA troops attacked Indian Commanding officer who asked PLA to remove their tent. The fisticuffs between both sides turned violent after PLA troops attacked Indian counterparts with stones, boulders, fence wires, and clubs. The brutal attack which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, the first since 1975 Tulung La ambush in Arunachal Pradesh has laid bare the insidious intentions of China. While the secretive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) refused to divulged Chinese casualties, the trending #43PLA soldierskilled goes to show that India gave bloodied nose to Dragon. China’s blatant disregard towards the bilateral agreement besides stoking intense distrust prompted India to recalibrate the existing protocols of de-escalation.
With his enthusiasm to play to the domestic audience, who are miffed by CCP’s dismal handling of the pandemic and China’s eroding international reputation China has overplayed India. The violent flareup leading to loss of precious lives is set to change the dynamic of Indo-Chinese relations. Chinese assertive claims and unabated expansionist adventurism will drive India to forge close alliances with like-minded countries. Unlike in the past, the 24X7 social media would continue to exert pressure on both countries, the relationship can’t be normal. Anti-Chinese sentiments are brewing in India.
Besides the planned synchronous intrusions across the 3,488 km LAC, China has instigated Nepal to needle India with its audacious cartographic enlargements. Known for its penchant to seize an opportunity from the crisis, China has firmed up encircling India policy. While the Pakistan continued to engage Indian troops with relentless ceasefire violations and the false flag operations in the Kashmir valley, with its feckless invectives, Nepal added more strain to the otherwise special friendly ties. Offering to help in tackling the Covid-19, dengue and other epidemics, if it signs the sister-city alliances, China firmed up ties with Bangladesh. Huddling up Indian neighbourhood into its orbit to weaken India’s sphere of influence has been domineering aspect of China’s policy toward India.
China loathed India which is deemed as a bulwark against the expansionist Dragon. With its unparalleled civilisational legacy, comparable demography, sizeable landmass and diversity, India has all the attributes to be a global power. Though Chinese Premier Wien Jiabao rejected the dragon and elephant comparison made between India and China and conceded that both countries have enough space to develop and prosper in 2010, China always had alternate plans for India. China believed in kicking a storm in India to keep it busy. China has resolved all border disputes with overlapping neighbour except India. Using this permanent irritant of the unresolved border issue, China continues to badger India. Of late though China advocated a “cooperation and competition” it has remained as a mere rhetoric with competition trumping cooperation as Dragon continues to stonewall India’s efforts to get NSG membership or the Permanent UNSC position. China considers India an adversary to be weakened, subjugated and broken.
The simmering differences between India and China became starker as India under Modi began making rapid strides through pragmatic global engagement. India is no longer considered a reluctant third world representative with obstructionist attitude. But by actively becoming part of global initiatives India has steadily risen the ladder of global recognition. India’s approach to the pandemic offering to lead as opposed to the petulant and peevish propagandist approach of China stood out. While India’s democratic credentials and the first responder’s tag enhanced its attributes the culpability of China in pandemic spread and reckless attempts to exculpate from all crimes eroded Dragon’s reputation. Further China’s postulation of the supremacy of an authoritarian regime in handling the pandemic and ridiculing of the democratic countries have further sharpened the acrimonies.
Revelling the defeat of the virus, China used the global crisis to advance its expansionist pursuits, while nations battered by the pandemic resolved to jointly tackle the virus. Quad plus countries, G7 countries which are now united by a joint objective has cemented ties. China deemed the coming together of the democratic countries as an anti-China alliance. President Trump’s proposal of including India in the expanded G-10 forum further spooked China.
For the past few years, under the ruse of economic cooperation, China turned India into a dumping ground for cheap products and eventually became the largest trading partner of India. Disregarding India’s concerns of ballooning trade deficits China enjoyed huge profits. While India stayed no to RCEP, which has been another sinister design of China to access Indian markets, the trade deficits has sapped the innovative spirits of India. Given China’s reluctance to India’s entry into Chinese markets, India is slowing reducing its dependence on Chinese markets. Trumping China, now the US has emerged as the India’s largest market 1. India and the US are yet to sign FTA (Free Trade Agreement), and once both countries finalise the FTA bilateral trade will reach higher levels.
While analysts warn against the growing propaganda of “boycott Chinese products”, its futility and repercussions, a recent study listed out five countries that made big India. These included United States, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Germany and France. China didn’t figure the list 2. Given China’s reputation and its anti-India agenda it would be naïve to even consider that Dragon would be a constructive partner. China has been eyeing strategic industries in India to entrench itself in Indian markets. It is time India must exercise caution in monitoring and tracing Chinese investments and its origins. By guarding Indian industries against a possible Chinese takeover after corona outbreak and tightening FDI rules, New Delhi irked Beijing.
India’s takeover as the chair of WHO (World Health Organisation) executive board, unopposedly getting elected to the UNSC as non-permanent member from 2021-22 for eight time, backing of a resolution signed by over 100 countries calling for an impartial international investigation on the origins of the pandemic, subtle message of allowing two MPs to attend the inaugural ceremony of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen-all these developments which resonate with India’s assertiveness have petrified China.
Bolstering sovereignty and territorial claims, India abrogated article 370 and stripped Kashmir of the special status. Kashmir has been Pakistan’s jugular and an instrument to bother India at multilateral forums. Asserting India’s unequivocal claims, India junked Pakistan’s narrative and scuttled China’s ambitious strategic expansionism by repealing Article 370. Ever since, both countries are going hammer and tongs after India whipping up anti-India narratives across various global platforms. While both countries failed to internationalise the Kashmir issue, division of State of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories have hampered China’s larger plans. India’s legislation not only posed a threat to the multi-billion CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) project under BRI but frustrated China’s plans of salami slicing and gaining foot hold in the Eastern Ladakh, a huge water source.
Ever since President Xi’s ascent to power in 2013, Chinese incursions into Indian territories have become more aggressive and frequent. Around the same time, India expedited infrastructure development along the LAC. Till 2008, India refrained from developing any infrastructure near LAC under the presumption that it would facilitate Chinese ingress. A structured plan was evolved by late 2012 and 2013. But China on the other hand, rapidly put in place robust infrastructure on their side of LAC and always had an edge. With India picking up pace, China feared a loss of first mover advantage. India has now constructed 255 km- all weather DSDBO road (Darbuk-Shyok-DaulatBeg Oldie Road) which runs parallel to LAC and connects Leh to the base of the Karakoram. This road which is 10km west from the Aksai Chin- Xinjiang highway will rapidly enhance mobilisation of Indian forces. India is now planning to construct feeder road to DSDBO to improve connectivity. India’s rapid infrastructure build triggered China. Demanding that India should stop building roads, PLA made rapid incursions across LAC at various places. By intruding into the Galwan Valley region, one of most demarcated areas along the LAC for the first time since 1962 PLA attempted to signal its indignation.
Through its pre-planned actions and violent flare-ups China has not only exposed its sinister ambitions but also earned the wrath of 1.3 billion people. It can no longer hide beneath the veneer of “peaceful rise”. China had covered up the brutal attacks by censoring any coverage in the domestic media and laying blaming on India’s door steps. Pandering to the domestic audience, while President Xi China went all guns blazing against India amid spiralling global reputation, shrinking economic growth and spiralling unemployment rate. With China opening several fronts with various countries, China’s strategic signalling to India amid burgeoning global backlash is bound to backfire. With its unilateral actions, China has deliberately attempted to change the status quo. Also, India of 2020 is different from India of 1962. India will no longer cow down to Dragon’s tantrums.
Image Credits: India Weekly