India must reassess position on alliance with US, One China policy to send firm message to Beijing
The violent clash that erupted between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the edge of Galwan Valley on the night of 15 June was the bloodiest since 1967
The violent clash that erupted between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the edge of Galwan Valley on the night of 15 June was the bloodiest since 1967. Twenty Indian soldiers, including a commanding officer, lost their lives and several others were injured after being attacked by People's Liberation Army soldiers. Ten Indian soldiers were also taken captive and released days later after high-level talks took place between the senior military officials of both sides. This is a brazen violation of rules of engagement by China. These rules bar both sides from using military strength to resolve the border dispute.
After the India-China war of 1962, both sides have claimed the areas under the LAC. As of now, there are 23 flash points that are recognised by both sides as being disputed. The soldiers from both sides patrol the contested areas for area domination. Most of the disputed areas are called "grey areas" where both sides routinely send out patrols. The status quo was maintained by both sides in these areas till this year, but it seems to be quickly changing now after the violent clash at Galwan Valley.
This year, the strategic locations at Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Hot Springs have seen Chinese intrusions. Satellite imagery also indicates a massive military buildup by the PLA along the LAC. In Pangong Tso, the contested area between the two sides stretches more than 30 kilometres. The Chinese have been intruding in this area aggressively since 2017. They even constructed a road on the Indian side of the LAC for tactical movement.The Chinese have built up new bases along the LAC effectively blocking any possibility of patrols on the Indian side or efforts to stake any further claim to the disputed area. Subsequently the Chinese side has also staked claim to the entire Galwan Valley, which is on the Indian side of LAC.
This confrontation is going to be a protracted one for both countries. The Indian Army will dig deep against the PLA thwarting any further advance. India has already accelerated the pace of its own strategic infrastructure buildup along LAC, thus sending a clear message to the Chinese side on its intent to defend its territorial integrity. Outright war doesn't favour either nation and is an unlikely probability in the near future.
This standoff is a serious provocation and a threat to the sovereignty of India and cannot be seen in isolation. China is behaving like an expansionist imperial force in the world. Bullying India on its borders, intruding into Taiwanese airspace, aggressive manoeuvring in the South China Sea thereby threatening the sovereignty of Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam on one end and using North Korea as its ally to threaten South Korea and US on the other. There's more: China is also eyeing Central Asia through the CPEC by cutting a deal with Pakistan and abetting terrorism in the region.
Unleashing the Wuhan virus (COVID-19) is a part of the new aggressive plan embarked upon by the Chinese to set up a new global dominance role. Its aggression towards India also stems from its ambitious CPEC project as it wants to wrest maximum control of Jammu and Kashmir. Much of the CPEC passes through the Gilgit Baltistan area, which Pakistan occupied by force and illegally handed over to China.
In response to this aggressive manoeuvre by China and its allies, India needs to quickly revisit its strategic policy. It has to do away with the self-defeating and redundant policy of non-alignment and form a strong alliance with the US and its allies in South Asia. India has a crucial role to play in this new geopolitical theatre. It should lead the counter charge against the Chinese hegemony by officially calling out the One China principle. The G-7 Summit scheduled to be held in September this year provides India and its partners with an opportunity to debunk the One China principle.
Recognising Taiwan can be the first step towards the new policy. India should set up a cultural and trade centre in Taipei and look to build sound cultural and trade exchange mechanisms thus gaining more leverage. India should also encourage US to reopen its consulate in Taiwan that was shut down in 1979 after the US accepted the One China policy. India, along with other countries, should levy heavy taxes on Chinese imports and simultaneously should set up free trade agreements with Taiwan. It can emerge as a new market zone for India and the world thus effectively cutting away the Chinese industrial domination.
India also needs to revisit its Himalayan policy and undo its previous Tibet policy. The declaration of Tibet as an occupied country by India and like-minded countries will have serious ramifications for China. The US has already taken a step in this direction after Senator Scott Perry introduced a bill to declare Tibet an occupied country. India should also give greater international diplomatic access to the Tibetan government in exile. India also needs to maintain strong relationship with Russia and Afghanistan. Nefarious Pakistani and Chinese designs to use terrorism as a tool to reach desired objectives in that region should be countered strongly.
India and its allies also need to move the UNSC with a new resolution which should call for an end to the illegal occupation of China of Raksam and Shaksgam Valley — a part of Gilgit Baltistan, that was illegally handed over by Pakistan.
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