China thinks its time has come. But here’s what he hasn’t accepted yet

Chinese PLA troops dismantle temporary structures erected near Pangong Tso (file photo) Photo released by the Indian Army

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IIndia and China have agreed to disagree on how to disengage from their face-to-face in the hot spring area, namely patrol point 15 on the actual line of control, with the 13the series of talks between the corps commanders of the two parties ending in a deadlock on Sunday.

At first glance, this is not a deeply disturbing event. The Indian side, led by Lieutenant-General PGK Menon “stuck to its position”, stressing that it was the Chinese who disrupted the status quo last year and violated several border agreements and understandings with India.

In addition, India argued that an improvement in the overall bilateral relationship depends on China’s return to its LAC side and the restoration of the status quo. Surprisingly, China has raised the bar by speaking of its determination to “safeguard national sovereignty”.

Certainly the Chinese are reporting that they are here to stay in Ladakh. Only a fortnight ago, intrusions took place in Barahoti in the middle sector of Uttarakhand, even as Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh.

So, over the entire 3,488 km length of the ALC, the Chinese are sending the message that as the strongest military power, they will not be defeated by a country that is not only a fifth of its economic size, but which allies with other powers such as the United States, Australia and Japan – the Quad – to support its game.

Maybe the Chinese believe their time has come. President Xi Jinping practically coerced US President Joe Biden into agreeing to a summit meeting before the end of the year – albeit virtual, unlike the physical meeting between Biden and Vladimir Putin last year – and Biden realizes that he has no choice.

For now, Biden is holding on. There is the determination of the Trump era to impose higher tariffs on Chinese products in order to protect the national economy. Chinese researchers with ties to the PLA have been accused of visa fraud while many students have had their visa applications rejected due to suspected military ties. And in July, the United States rallied the European Union and all of its NATO allies in accusing the Chinese government of hacking Microsoft.

Read also : It is clearer than ever to India that Quad is not a military alliance. Everything is a little AUKUS

The US and China are performing, but not the way Obama hoped

India does not really have to fear a repetition of a “G-2” type situation, a bilateral proposal launched in 2011, two years after the famous statement by US President Barack Obama: “The relationship between the States- United and China will shape the 21st century…”

Twelve years later, that prophecy might come true, but not in the direction Obama had hoped for. The Chinese are today a much stronger power: they launch diktats in the South China Sea, then in Ladakh, then send warplanes in the defense zone of Taiwan or warn Germany against any discussion on human rights, as it would harm a trade relationship in which China is a key end user of German cars.

And yet, note that India is not giving in to Ladakh, despite the fact that the odds are against the Indian military. Look at the big picture: China’s GDP in nominal terms is $ 14.9 trillion today, while India’s is $ 2.6 trillion – in PPP terms this equates to 24 $ 200 billion for China and $ 8.7 trillion for India. While India views the Chinese military as its greatest threat, Beijing views India’s relations with its direct competitor, the United States, “with some concern”. Otherwise, China does not view India as a “major security challenge”.

The balance of power, according to former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, has shifted against India since the Sumdorong Chu / Wangdung confrontation in 1986.

According to a report by former ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale and renowned economist Ajit Ranade, India must focus on its “domestic policy flaws that have held it back, and find the energy and intellectual capacity to remedy it “- like, by sparking private investment. The sale of Air India to the Tatas could be a start.

The authors point out that it may take 20 years for “India to catch up with China,” but add that the laggards, along with a decidedly younger population and a more robust financial system, have the advantage. to take a step, especially with the help of technology.

Read also : SAARC is well and truly dead. Recognize this, conduct his funeral rites and move on

China must get the message

Articles in the Chinese state media, meanwhile, make the following assumptions about India’s defense and strategic position:

First, India sees itself as a major power and, although it has accelerated its alliance with the United States, it buys American weapons mainly to improve its own weapon systems and “buy support”. Second, despite India signing four fundamental defense agreements with the United States, which ensure the sale of sensitive technology, there has been little action since – it is mostly talk. Third, it is the United States, not India, that is encouraging arms cooperation, especially to limit Russian purchases from India. And fourth, India will not let itself be manipulated, which is why it continues to buy Russian arms.

Chinese media also tend to ridicule India’s reliance on foreign arms purchases, seeing it as a sign of weakness as well as a continued reliance on its non-aligned stance. In addition, he estimates that the interest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India in seeking “absolute control” in the Indian Ocean is limited to 500 nautical miles, an “average control” up to 1,000 nautical miles. and “moderate control” thereafter.

But there is something else that China may still not have come to terms with, and that is the chain of relationships India is building with key powers – with the Quad, Russia as well as the European Union. If, with a little help from these friends, India is able to show China’s friends and partners that bullies cannot be respected, then New Delhi would have taken the first step.

Of course, in the short term, these friends are not going to help India fight Chinese intrusions into Ladakh; but India can do its part to change the global perspective on China by standing firm and showing that it is not child’s play. He can also show the world that he is ready to use all the arrows in his arsenal, both diplomatic and otherwise, to continue a number of talks with China, but Beijing needs to know that will not be the status quo. if Chinese troops use force at the border.

Jyoti Malhotra is a Senior Consulting Writer at ThePrint. She tweets @jomalhotra. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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