By Shibdas Bhattacharjee
Under the shade of increasing Chinese escalation across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), growing hostilities between the two countries and Chinese provocation to sabotage India’s security interests, New Delhi is working on different fronts. These are not only to restrict China on the military fronts but also making Beijing heed to the reality that it is better both for China and the region to forget what happened in 1962. Tension is prevailing across the LAC and the level of concern has deepened because of force mobilisation by the two countries. But apart from military preparedness, India is making all efforts to extend her strategic reach and intensified larger diplomatic initiatives to counter China in every possible front.
Level of mercury is fluctuating at this point of time as several things are happening together on different fronts. On the one hand, there is military preparedness and on the other recent talks held between the two countries on delegation and ministerial levels. But important point is: it is China that has expressed disparity to resume dialogue with India which became evident from the Chinese approach in Moscow. Talks held between the defence ministers and foreign ministers during the recently held Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet held in Moscow. Nothing substantive has happened from the talks, as India did not allow China to bring other aspects on the negotiation table undermining the existing situation across the LAC. Nevertheless, it was expected that the process of de-escalation might begin after the talks. However, it became clear from the approach of China that its intension to engage into talks with Indian leadership in Moscow was mere eyewash.
Chinese intension became evident within a couple of days after the talks had held in Moscow. On the backdrop of emerging situation across the LAC, the editorial published in the Chinese State-run media The Global Times has virtually threatened India to face the same consequence as the one happened in 1962. The Editorial published in The Global Times under the caption “History will repeat itself if India makes same border mistake” is all about exposing China’s military muscle against India. In the editorial which is the mouth-piece of Beijing administration, it has been stated that “China claimed victory in the 1962 war, which should be a lesson for India.
Moreover, the military capability of the PLA is not what it used to be decades ago. Now, the PLA is a modern one with information capability, systematic combat capability and joint combat capability– India should not make provocations. If it does, history will repeat itself – the Indian army is bound to be defeated. ” This warning was made just after the bilateral level talks held between the defence and foreign ministers of India and China on the sideline of SCO meet in Moscow. This is the official stand of China. China’s increasing activities in Bhutan have proved yet again how China has intensified efforts to use proxies against India.
All these really demand New Delhi extending strategic partnership against China and attaining larger military deployment across the LAC. Across the LAC, India is doing the requisite on the border in the form of force mobilisations and others. Similarly, on the strategic front, India seemed intensifying efforts to build an anti-China axis. In these context recent virtual strategic talks between India and the United States during third India-US Leadership Summit was undoubtedly an important development. Washington has already informally proposed willingness to build Asian NATO comprising India and others. The dialogue between the two democracies has some distinctive takeaways. One is certainly, US wants India emerging as an important stakeholder in the region, which New Delhi really deserves.
As per media reports, “the US is eager to help India become a world power which contributes to net security, a top American diplomat has said, indicating the President Donald Trump-led administration’s willingness to support New Delhi with ‘best-in-class’ defence capabilities.” In fact, US administration is convinced that be the ideological or military battle against China, India is a natural ally. Reality is: on the backdrop of declining US hold in the region, Washington has become more dependable on New Delhi. Americans are desperate to re-establish dominance in the region depending on India. Naturally, this has increased the probabilities of larger strategic and defence co-operations between New Delhi and Washington.
Talks on defence, military and maritime co-operations between India and the United States have far-reaching impact, which can provide formidable restriction against China. India is also using this opportunity in a tactical manner. US dependence on India and reaffirmation by both the leaderships of United States and India for larger strategic co-operation identifying China as the common enemy is also very important. This provides strength to India’s strategic endevours against China. Things are unfolding in the expected line, as China has already expressed its concern regarding India-US strategic partnership. Similarly, economic interests of the United States in India provide much challenge to that of Chinese interests in the large Indian market.
Similarly, another important development has taken place in the region recently; co-operation of India, Japan and Australia on bilateral, trilateral and more importantly regional including the maritime co-operations in the Indo-Pacific region. Recently, India, Japan, and Australia agreed to launch an initiative to achieve supply chain resilience in the Indo-Pacific region. This is a move to minimise dependence on China for trade and commerce. This is true that at present China is a major trading partner of more than 100 nations. As a major economy and military power, China enjoys monopoly in trade resilience in large part of the Indo-Pacific region.
But things have changed considerably after the outbreak of Covid 19 pandemic, the epicenter of which is China. This has brought about much change in both policies and perceptions of different nations regarding China. At present China is a major supplier of pharmaceutical goods, technological equipment, mobile phone technology and others in India. But New Delhi’s approach of pursuing self-dependent India (Atmanirbhar Bharat) can be perceived as move to convert India into a production hub. This sounds more convincing in the backdrop of Japan searching new destinations for investments outside China. India is a natural ally of Japan and has all potentials for Japanese investments. So also, Australia is suffering a lot because of Chinese policy of using existing route of supply chain to Australia dominated by China.
But more important aspect is the strategic dimension of India-Japan-Australia axis in the Indo-Pacific region. This axis is certainly against China to minimise Beijing’s monopoly in this region. Importantly, this axis has backing of the United States and some countries of the European Union. This is important to note here that global community is not ready to accept China as the only stakeholder in the affairs of Asia. United States, major countries of the European like Germany, France and even Russia are not ready to accept Chinese hegemony both in the affairs of Asia and strategically important larger area of the Indo-Pacific any more.
Today’s reality, contrary to Chinese claim of being the only power of Asia, is major parleys of international politics recognise India, Japan, South Korea, Iran and others are important stakeholders of the region. Naturally, India-Japan maritime partnership that covers substantial area of the South China Sea is strategically important for the United States as well. Now Australia has formally joined the axis against the dragon, which is definitely a shot in the arms considering maritime strategic partnership against China. India-Japan-Australia partnership has the potentials to grow and restrict China in the course of the time. It has been reported that Germany has also expressed willingness to become a partner of India-Japan-Australia supply chain resilience. Some other countries of the European Union may join later on as no country wants to depend on China for trade route and supply chain because of the approach of China.
Thus, India seems to keep no stone unturned to increase and expand her strategic base against China in the given time. Under the shade of probable military conflicts across the LAC, India wants to keep more options opened. China has already felt what India can do in the defence fronts. China tries to remind India what happened in 1962. But India is trying to make China heed the reality that if things have changed after 1962. Significantly, it has changed in India’s favour in terms of New Delhi’s both policy and capability.
Similarly, unlike previous occasions, India is prioritising its strategic strength. India’s strategic standpoint seems well chalked out; making anti-China collaboration formidable one and in that collaboration too India is playing pivotal role. This has attracted both the important nations of Asia and other continents including United States and some nations of European Union. Facing China is no doubt a big challenge. But India’s inherent strength and strategic mission have the potential and capability to counter China. In the strategic mission, India is tactically and convincingly sending the message that there is alternative to the dependence on China, which is delivering significantly in the strategic fronts of New Delhi. The momentum should go on.
-The writer is a Guwahati-based strategic affairs expert. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda