The recent military standoff between China and India is rapidly changing the geo-political situation of the region. Many sources account the present tensions to the construction of a road by India that links Dubruk in the South with Daulat Beg Oldie to the North – an important strategic point that will give India access to Aksai Chin in case of escalation of tensions. However, there is a broader context to the current confrontation between India and China. In the recent past, the West’s growing support of India, combined with Modi’s fascist Hindutva policies in the region, have been a cause of concern for the country’s neighbors. More recently, certain steps taken by the Indian government have infuriated not only Pakistan but also China.
India’s brutalities and blunders
Firstly, on 5th August 2019, India unilaterally revoked the special status of Jammu & Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 from its constitution. Since then, the people of Kashmir are under perpetual clampdown and facing brutalities from Indian forces. Later, India showed Chinese-administered Aksai Chin as part of its own territory and declared Ladakh as a union territory, which enraged the Chinese government.
Secondly, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, undue Indian criticism of China has been most vocal. India supported the unwarranted claims of the United States of America holding the Chinese government responsible for ‘lies, deception, and cover-ups’ that, they claim, have led to the global spread of this pandemic. India has drawn up odd lines of strategic allegiance in complete neglect of the fact that neighbors are permanent in international relations. It has made certain strategic blunders and now stands to face their repercussions.
India makes false claims and news
According to recent news, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has trespassed 50 to 60 km into Ladakh. The famous Indian defense analyst and retired army officer, Ajai Shukla has stated, “there are about 5,000 Chinese troops along the border and they are digging defenses to stay and the Indian government is trying to pass off the Ladakh intrusions as just another border clash.” From a strategic point of view, China wants to prevent India from getting access to Aksai Chin, which could disturb its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project that lies at the heart of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
This what Chinese soldiers have done to Indian soldiers in Ladakh!
Why is Modi silent? Why no demand by Indian media for surgical strike? Where is Mohan Bhagwat's RSS 'Army'? pic.twitter.com/pXaxHRDr0g
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) May 31, 2020
In the midst of Indo-China border clashes, the government of Nepal has issued a new political map demarcating the disputed areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura that neighbor India claim as part of its own territory. The dispute started in November 2019 when India one-sidedly declared Kalapani as part of Indian territory. The government of Nepal requested a high-level meeting to resolve the dispute but India was not forthcoming, given its hegemonic designs in the region. Now India’s hawkish and nationalist media is adding fuel to the fire by giving jingoistic statements on the recent skirmishes. India has also accused Nepal of having taken these steps at the behest of China that has invested heavily in the country under its BRI project.
India’s growing tensions with Nepal coupled with China’s growing investment in both Nepal and Bhutan are proving detrimental for India’s strategic position. China has been in talks with Bhutan to resolve the issue of the disputed territory of Doklam which, if concluded in China’s favour, will provide it access to Siliguri Pass that connects eight Indian states to mainland India. Sources say that Chinese troops have already set up camp across 2 km of the Sikkim border area following skirmishes at the Ladakh border. Discussions are still underway but India’s offensive regional posturing is likely to compel Bhutan to join Nepal in making a deal with China.
India’s strained international relations
Over the period of time, India has strained relations with its neighboring countries at the behest of the USA and Israel, which has pushed the country to the verge of destruction. Instead of cooperating with China, Pakistan and other regional states to harness the Asian century, India continues to make strategic blunders that propel the entire region towards destabilization.
US President Donald Trump, via his Twitter account, offered to mediate between China and India over their border issues. A recent phone conversation between Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which the latter denies having, didn’t conclude favorably. Subsequently, India has rejected Trump’s offer of mediation. Meanwhile, a statement issued by Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava claims that Delhi is already engaged with Beijing to peacefully resolve the issue of border skirmishes.
India’s blunders cause for tension
Amidst the whole border crisis, India is running out of options. As far as India’s military strategy is concerned, many defense analysts and senior retired Indian Army officials have admitted that Chinese superiority in terms of military art and equipment can easily overwhelm Indian forces without having to shoot a single bullet. If, despite a hot northern border, India considers attacking Pakistan as well, it will undo India. In making this fatal mistake of heating up another front, India will only further narrow its political and strategic escape routes.
The only credible option that India is left with is to submit to Chinese demands. In 2018, in the Wuhan Consensus, both countries had agreed to be partners instead of rivals. Since then, India’s regional moves have suggested otherwise. Ups and downs in statecraft are common, but what the Modi government needs now is to review its strategy, change the statuses of Kashmir and Ladakh and come to the negotiating table with peaceful solutions to the territorial disputes with all its neighboring countries especially India, China and Pakistan. This can only happen if India releases itself from its hegemonic goals in the region and initiates talks with an open mind and the realization that conflicts with neighboring countries will only hurt the country itself, both domestically and internationally.
Pakistan’s position in prevailing circumstances
Pakistan’s Army Chief General Bajwa spent Eid ul Fitr at the LOC with his jawans. He reiterated that India’s illegal occupation of Kashmir and forceful change of its special status is undermining the cause of the Kashmiri people and threatening regional peace. In the given circumstances, if India attempts to start a limited war with Pakistan via a false flag operation, Pakistan will need to have a secure western border. It can ensure such by immediately accepting the government of the Taliban and promoting a peace deal between all factions of Afghan society so that Afghanistan can come out of decades of turmoil inflicted upon them by the US and NATO forces.
Moreover, Pakistan needs to deal with Indian sanctuaries along the Pakistan-Iran border through which its hostile eastern neighbor abets instability within Balochistan and attempts to cripple the CPEC projects. This can be resolved through serious talks with the Iranian government to eliminate Indian interference in Balochistan. However, in order to secure its borders, Pakistan needs to first set its house in order and chalk out a clear domestic and international policy to contend with the offensive Indian strategy in the region.
Ms. Ayesha Khan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Global Studies Department at Shanghai University, China. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of GVS.