We asked Probal DasGupta, the author of Watershed 1967, to explain the India-China face-off and what happens next.
The standoff between India and China on the Ladakh border is making headlines. But why is this happening and what is China thinking?
Here’s the China pov:
- The Covid crisis has led to political tensions and dissent within China. To deflect attention from these issues, the Chinese government is drumming up nationalistic feelings in the country.
- China believes that it needs to move quickly before other countries put more pressure on it. This is why China has stepped up its aggression around three issues of dispute simultaneously – in Ladakh, in Lipulekh along the Nepal border and in north Sikkim.
- India has been building infrastructure along the LAC, which makes China uncomfortable as it can boost our ability to deploy troops quickly and dominate the LAC. That is one of the reasons why China has focussed on Ladakh.
China’s actions are not merely tactical and short term. They are part of a larger strategic plan and have been in the making for some time now. It’s worth noting that after India’s abrogation of Article 370, China has brought up the subject of Kashmir and Ladakh in the UN three times, most recently in January 2020. It believes that India could potentially be playing an important role in the global alliance against it, and thus, wants to extract concessions from our country. So, what should India do?
India needs to do two things.
- On the tactical, immediate, front: India needs to continue building and strengthening its infrastructure along the LAC and ensure the repair of the bridge along the Shyok river and other vital links so that it can deploy troops and dominate the LAC. It needs to make sure that there is not much Chinese interference with its neighbours like Nepal and Bhutan. And it also has to contend with the greater Chinese participation in Pakistan’s role vis a vis Kashmir from now.
- On the strategic, big picture, front: India, up until now, has been responding to China’s moves – from Doklam to Demchok to Galwan valley. Each time, China makes the first move, India reacts. The pattern continues. We have to remember that India has its own ambitions in the international forum too. If India has to realise these, it has to outwit China and not outgun it. You cannot outgun China. However, China has several weaknesses today, like Taiwan, Hong Kong, WHO. India needs to play an active role in terms of pressurizing China on these weak points. It should move from playing a purely defensive game to making some offensive moves. If we don’t move now, it will be an opportunity lost.
Probal DasGupta is a veteran of the Indian army. A business leader with a global consultancy, he advises firms on reputation, business and geopolitical risks. In 2007 Probal was a Braun-Myers Fellow and Tata Scholar at Columbia University, New York, where he studied international affairs. This is his first book.
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