Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )
Notwithstanding China's attempts to unilaterally change the status quo along the LAC in Ladakh, it has been blaming India for the current situation. It has put the onus on India to take steps to ease situation by withdrawing its forces from the region, while reiterating that its territory (read occupied territory) cannot be lost
There seems to be a method behind China’s renewed bellicosity towards India and that has been in the making for the past several years. Behind the charming façade of bonhomie was hidden a sinister design to downsize India.
It was never ever at ease whenever the world linked the two Asian giants through a hyphen.
Given the size of its economy and its influence well beyond South Asia, China found it increasingly difficult to digest worldview of the two Asian countries on equal footing. The rise of the Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi was another sore point as Prime Minister Narendra Modi government sought to deal with
Beijing on equal terms, which was certainly not digestible to it as it was keen to play big brother in the region.
China was also miffed with New Delhi as it sought to strengthen its ties with the Trump regime at a time when the relations between Washington and Beijing were worsening. This happened increasingly 2018 onwards when USA and China were locked in a tit-for-tat tariff war. The coronavirus pandemic further weakened the already-strained ties.
Originating from Wuhan province in China, the pandemic has derailed the world economy and Trump has squarely blamed Beijing for the spread of the disease. On its part, China tried to give a new spin by pushing a conspiracy theory that it was US military personnel who brought coronavirus to China. Angered by China’s insinuation, Trump started dubbing coronavirus as a Chinese virus.
A suspicious China viewed growing bonhomie between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi as a conspiracy against its interests. As angry exchanges between the US and China escalated, President Trump’s apparent shift towards India further piqued Beijing. In fact, many in Trump administration had been favouring prioritising ties with New Delhi to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the world.
The Ladakh incursions by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came at a time when several countries, including the US, were fuming at China’s continued muscle-flexing in the disputed islands in the South China Sea. China says it has “irrefutable” sovereignty over the islands, also claimed parts of the sea within the maritime boundaries of Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei.
The Ladakh incursion does not seem like a sudden move. It all began in June 2017 when the two countries were locked in a military standoff on Doklam plateau. China attempted to extend a road on the plateau southwards near the Doka La pass.
Satellite images and intelligence reports are proof that the Chinese had been building several permanent military posts, a few helipads and new trenches not very far from Doklam. Doklam was just a prelude.
China has been surreptitiously fortifying its positions along the LAC since then. China’s game plan is to impose war on India. Although Chinese officials have been maintaining that their country will never be the first to escalate the situation, their actions prove otherwise.
Notwithstanding China's attempts to unilaterally change the status quo along the LAC in Ladakh, it has been blaming India for the current situation. It has put the onus on India to take steps to ease situation by withdrawing its forces from the region, while reiterating that its territory (read occupied territory) cannot be lost.
The statement that Chinese military is "fully determined, capable, and confident to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity" sums up its intentions.
China is eyeing one wrong move from India that will give it the sanction to escalate the situation along the border further. More than the military damages, China wants to impose a heavy cost on India so as to wreck its economy, which has been severely hit by the lockdowns imposed in the wake of the coronavirus. With Indian economy shrinking badly and the fastest of all the countries, any escalation of the situation will deal a body blow to New Delhi.
If that happens then once the world’s fastest-growing economy, India will certainly slip into a mess and the recovery will take several years. With economy in tailspin, India’s influence in the region and beyond would also diminish. There would be immense pressure on the Indian leadership to take some harsh steps to recover from the economic costs that would accrue due to escalation of the situation.
And this is what China wants. It wants to mute all the voices that speak of China and India as the two giants of Asia. Just like India does not want Pakistan to be counted its equal, China detests granting India any status at par with itself.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)