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Thursday, February 15, 2024

India rejects Trump offer to mediate the India-China border flareup

India rejected President Trump's offer to act as mediator in the ongoing India-China border flareup. The Indian side said that it was actively working on engaging the Chinese and hoped that peace would prevail soon. Meanwhile, the standoff has landed Delhi in an uncomfortable situation.

India on Thursday rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate the India-China border flareup, saying it was already engaged with Beijing to “resolve this issue”.

Trump’s offer, via a tweet published on his personal account on Wednesday, came after Indian defence sources said hundreds of Chinese troops had moved into a disputed zone along their 3,500 kilometre-long (2,200 mile) frontier.

“We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve this issue,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava told reporters during a weekly media briefing when asked about Trump’s tweet.

“Our troops have taken a very responsible approach towards border management,” Srivastava added.

“India is committed to the objective of maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas with China… At the same time, we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security.”

Last year Trump offered to mediate between India and Pakistan over their Kashmir dispute, but it was tersely rejected by India.

India rejects Trump offer to mediate but developments so far on the India-China border

While blaming each other for the flare-up, India and China — the world’s two most populous countries and nuclear-armed neighbours — have stressed the need to negotiate a settlement to the latest dispute along their tortuous border.

Before US President made his offer to media on Wednesday, Alice Wells, the top US State Department official for South Asia, said last week that China was seeking to upset the regional balance and had to be “resisted”.

Read more: Ladakh: India-China troops face off again

The focus has since moved to India’s Ladakh region across the border from Tibet. Indian defence sources say Chinese forces have moved into Indian territory at four points.

The sources said hundreds of Chinese troops and vehicles have taken over the Indian side of the Galwan valley, one of the four disputed sites.

India-China Ladakh standoff: What actually happened?

Some 150 soldiers were involved in a face-off which was the precursor of the border flareup, the Press Trust of India reported.

The “stand-off” occurred at the Naku La sector near the 15,000-feet (4,572-metre) Nathu La crossing in the northeastern state of Sikkim — which borders Bhutan, Nepal, and China — was later resolved after “dialogue and interaction” at a local level, Hooda said.

“Temporary and short duration face-offs between border-guarding troops do occur as boundaries are not resolved,” he added.

Diplomatic relations strained after India-China border flareup

Diplomatic and military observers said both sides seemed to be digging in for another long face-off.

Their rival foreign ministries have denied any fault but called for established negotiating channels to be used.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping have sought to ease the tensions at summits over the past two years when they agreed to boost border communications between their militaries, such as the one at Chennai in October 2019.

Border tensions: Is growing imbalance of strategic power the reason?

This 20-day Sino-Indian standoff has been analysed in a far-reaching piece by Prof. Sumit Ganguly and Manjit Pardesi, two US based scholars of Indian origin in a far-reaching article, “Why We Should Worry About China and India’s Border Skirmishes” published by the leading US publication, Foreign Policy.

Indian origin scholars have argued that in 1988, when Gandhi and Deng met in Beijing then India and China were relatively comparable. Indian economy was then around US $ 297 billon versus China’s US $ 312 billion. Indian defence budget around US $10 billion was also comparable to Chinese spending of around US $11 billion. But since then, authors argue, while India has grown up economically, militarily and politically it has been left behind by China by a huge margin.

Ganguly and Pardesi argue that “the material balance of power between China and India has dramatically changed since then. At $13.6 trillion in 2018, China’s GDP is now more than five times India’s $2.7 trillion. Similarly, China spent $261.1 billion on defense expenditure in 2019, almost four times India’s total of $71.1 billion. While India has risen as an economy and a global power in the past three decades, its relative strength to China has in fact greatly declined”

Looking at the dynamics of the current standoff, China has also heavily built-up infrastructure in Tibet to improve access to the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). It has also fielded Type 15 light tanks designed for the mountainous regions.

China has developed its military power in a quantum leap vis-à-vis India in the twenty-first century. India possesses around 600 combat aircraft to China’s 1,700; it has only 14 submarines to the PLA Navy’s roughly 60, and it has 214 rocket artillery systems to China’s 1,550.

India is now unable to match China due to various reasons. India is not as cash-rich and therefore its gigantic budget of around US $71 billion pales into insignificance as compared to China’s defence spending of more than US $260 billion in 2018. Moreover, India’s defence acquisitions process is notoriously lazy, corrupt, and politicised making things difficult. For instance, it’s Rafael procurements, from France to bolster Indian Air Force (IAF) run decades behind schedule. After Pakistan Airforce (PAF) humbled Indian Airforce Modi had again complained that things would have been different if Rafael had bene timely inducted.

India also wants foreign arms producers to follow their “Made in India” idea which often complicates negotiations and results in costly delays and quality shortfalls.

Moreover, Indian Army consumes the lion’s share of defence budget and allocates it to fielding manpower-heavy World War II-style divisions, instead of funding modernization and expansion of the Navy and Air Force.

Read more: Why India-China standoff in Ladakh is a difficult challenge for Delhi?

These problems are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. Therefore, it’s unrealistic for India to try to match China’s military power symmetrically.

Historical context of the India China border dispute 

India and China fought a war over India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in 1962. China still claims some 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of territory under New Delhi’s control.

While no shot has been fired across their border for more than four decades, there have been numerous face-offs. In 2017 there was a 72-day showdown after Chinese forces moved into the disputed Doklam plateau on the China-India-Bhutan border.

Punches and stones were thrown this month at Naku La in India’s Sikkim state, which borders Bhutan, Nepal and China, before “dialogue and interaction” calmed tempers.

The focus has since moved to the Ladakh region across the border from Tibet. Indian defence sources allege Chinese forces have moved into Indian territory at four points.

The sources said hundreds of Chinese troops and vehicles have taken over the Indian side of the Galwan valley, one of the four disputed sites.

Read more: China and India muscle up after border dispute but diplomatic channels open 

The latest India-China border flareup comes after India opened a new all-weather access point in late April in Arunachal Pradesh in India’s remote northeast, a region also claimed by China, to enable faster movement of troops and artillery.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk