The border tension between India and China may have subsided for now, following a couple of rounds of talks at military and diplomatic levels but it is no occasion to drop its guard in view of Beijing’s increasingly blatant display of territorial hegemony in recent times. While the rest of the world is distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, China was at its provocative best with a massive military build-up at multiple sections of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. For now, both sides have agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and maintain peace and tranquillity. There were two rounds of talks at diplomatic and military commander levels to resolve the month-long standoff in Ladakh. However, India must be prepared for a long haul of tough negotiations and smart diplomacy to sustain the pressure points to deter China from any further misadventures. One should not overlook the fact that just seven months after the Mamallapuram summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, war clouds were hovering over the border region following large scale Chinese incursions. The informal summit saw the reiteration of a desire for peace and tranquillity in the border areas and a commitment to work on additional confidence-building measures (CBMs). Yet, today, the Indian Army is facing two aggressive Combined Arms Brigades of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso patrolling points along the 3,488-kilometre-long LAC.
Though there have been several bilateral pacts in the past to maintain peace at the border, Beijing has been making repeated attempts to alter the border positions. The Doklam standoff took over two months to resolve and the earlier Sumdorong Chu altercation took almost eight years. Today, with an even more aggressive China, India’s task is going to be that much harder. However, allowing a third party mediation could be a fatal mistake. By maintaining direct communication with China at military and diplomatic levels, India has effectively kept the United States at bay and rightly rejected its mediation offer. This shows India’s assertion of strategic independence. The move to restrict foreign direct investment from neighbouring countries — clearly aimed at China — shows that New Delhi has the capacity and capability to calibrate its responses independently. It has also done the right thing by not joining the chorus of international resentment against China following the coronavirus outbreak. On the other hand, Beijing is using neighbours such as Pakistan and, more recently, Nepal to flaunt its dominance in the region. China would be well advised to realise the folly of military pressure tactics because India is no push over in this game.
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