“Victory Without Bloodshed”: China’s India Strategy
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“Victory Without Bloodshed”: China’s India Strategy

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Reports of more than a dozen Chinese incursions during July-August across the poorly-defined Line of Actual Control (LoAC)—the de-facto border separating India and China—have surfaced, barely three months after a tense border face-off in mid-April when a Chinese platoon set up tents about 12 miles inside Indian Kashmir. That standoff almost derailed the first ever visit to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in late May, and ended with the withdrawal of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops on May 6.

Mutual antagonism has persisted along the border ever since the 1962 China-India border war with frequent border skirmishes and standoffs.  Negotiations over drawing the official borders have dragged on for so long that they now carry the distinction of being the longest-running border negotiations in the world. This is fitting as the LoAC is the longest border in the world that has yet to be demarcated and delineated.

Premier Li Keqiang expressed optimism about resolving the border issue in the near future when he finally visited India in late May. Moreover the latest incursions occurred soon after Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony visited China in June to discuss measures to maintain “peace and tranquility” along the LoAC. Recently, Chinese and Indian Special Representatives also held their 16th round of boundary talks.

Still, the prospects of an early border settlement are not bright—indeed, the two sides have failed to even exchange maps showing each other’s “perception” of where the LoAC runs.

Some had hoped the growing economic interaction between China and India would help resolve the border dispute. In fact, the opposite has proven true; namely, trade itself has become a source of friction as India’s trade deficit with China has soared from $1 billion in 2002 to $40 billion in 2013. A 2012 Pew opinion poll showed that only 23 percent Chinese and Indians hold a “favorable” view of each other.

The failure to resolve the border row has little to do with the substance of the issue, and everything to do with the interests of some of the parties. There is indeed a fairly good understanding of where the LoAC lies. This is evident from the fact that no incursions were reported for a decade from 1988 to 1998.

It was only in 1998—notably, the year India tested nuclear weapons— that PLA border patrols again began routinely made forays across the disputed 2,400-mile-long LoAC to try and establish new territorial claims. Indian military has recorded nearly 600 incursions over the last 3 years alone. For their part, Chinese officials deny any transgressions and accuse the Indian side of patrolling on the Chinese side of the LAC.

It’s therefore clear that some in China view the unresolved border dispute as working in Beijing’s favor. China’s aggressive patrolling along the unsettled border keeps India’s military forces tied down on multiple fronts, tests Delhi’s resolve, heightens its anxiety, exposes its strategic vulnerabilities, and diverts scarce resources away from its naval modernization.

Moreover, independent analysts see parallels between China’s land forces penetrating the LoAC into Indian Territory and China’s maritime forces attempting to expand its maritime presence eastwards. Also indicative of this trend is Chinese maritime forces harassment of Japanese, Vietnamese and Filipino forces well within their exclusive economic zones. Whether on the high seas or in the icy Himalayan ranges, the PLA does not shy away from using assertive military tactics and an implicit threat of force to seize what it claims to own. Belligerence, brinkmanship, intimidation, risk taking, and controlled escalation have long been part of Chinese diplomacy.

But by engaging in simultaneous territorial disputes and coercive diplomacy China has renewed fears across Asia over its wider territorial ambitions. This has led to discussions in regional strategic circles about a “Triple Entente involving Tokyo, Hanoi, New Delhi to counter the Chinese octopus spreading its tentacles all around Asian periphery.” There is a growing consensus in Asian capitals that a robust regional response to the PLA’s rejection of the territorial status quo may well be needed to maintain peace and stability in Asia.

Comments
52
Andrew
October 7, 2013 at 09:19

This article should be required reading for any student of the evolving perilous Asian strategic situation and the new "Great Game."

Sad to see the deceit on the part of Chinese military/CCPC leaders in all theatres of territorial contention, as their efforts continue to expand the nation's borders – by subterfuge and, frankly, … bully tactics.

Surely, such game-playing would "offend" that civilization's great emperors who would have recognized by now that only the goodwill that comes from negotiating an honourable and just peace with neighbouring states best serves the traditional desire for stability and prosperity. This current game of chicken and deceit isn't worthy of China, nor its people.

Mehtasaab
October 1, 2013 at 01:05

I aggree with Col. Jai Sigh. Please select Mr. Modi as a future prime minister of India. He will change map of India. British and China both played a game to destroy beautiful India. Whereever British left, they left problems. So they keep fighting and west will make money by selling weapons to those countries.

Jai ho Bharat Mata.

sandesh jopat
August 30, 2013 at 22:36

There is no question of even a single inch of indian territory to be ceded to china ,India is fully prepared to meet any eventuality with China,we are not interested in any foreign country intervention,but we will not allow any power to look towards india.

rakesh chowdhury
August 28, 2013 at 04:51

China clearly has an advantage in case a war happens between the two countries. But at the end of the day, the winner will be the one who keeps cool. We have to get forge allies to counter the chinese problem. Not only economic but also military partnership between different Indian sympathiser countries needs to be robusted as soon as possible. But before all this, we need to have complete control of our own land. we need to sort out the border as soon as possible and then advance to the next step.

Maxwell
August 26, 2013 at 08:19

China initialed but did not sign the Simla Agreement of 1914 mainly because of differences over the boundary demarcation between Inner Tibet and Outer Tibet, that is between China and Tibet, NOT – repeat not – because of disagreement over the boundary demarcated between Outer Tibet and India. Chinese propagandists need to get their historical facts right. They can fool Chinese masses but not the rest of the world.

Bill888
August 26, 2013 at 00:13

India's problem started when in 1914 when China refused to signe the Simla Accord to refuse the annexation by British India.  But the Hindu people had problem when it inherited British benefits but not obligation.  Aksai Chin is a fabricated story. 

Bill888
August 26, 2013 at 00:07

Why did the Hindu people claim that some one who speaks Bengali is also an Indian? 

COL.JAI SINGH.(RETD)
August 24, 2013 at 22:27

There is no question of even a single inch of indian territory to be ceded to china at any cost,India is fully prepared to meet any eventuality with China,in case Mr. Modi becomes the PM of India then the boarder problem with China will be sorted out very easily,and india will ensure that china never dares to look towards indian boarders.we are not interested in any foreign country intervention,but we will not allow any power to look towards india at any time at any cost.It should be amply clear to all countries of this world. Thanks. Col.Jai Singh(Retd) india.

captainjohann
August 24, 2013 at 20:48

The Indian forreign policy is now run from Washington and that is the crux of the problem.China does not buy C!&s , C130J Hercules or moth balled trenton warship but its leader gets the camp david treatment while Man mohan singh, an ex world bank employee is summoned to the Obama court

Kenneth Taylor.
August 23, 2013 at 15:40

If, and that is always the pivit point in any argument, the Western Powers had listened to Tibet way back in the late1940's /early 50's the situation between China and India would not have arrisen. Yes both Karia and Vietnam were major distractions at this time. But as has been witnessed and said, China will play her games on all fronts to creat an advantage. The West one day will have to front the Chinese and decide if which type  Deplomisy they are to engage her with. I am not a student of English or History. But I have lived, worked and observed the actions of the Chinese in Tibet for the past 30 years. They now control the rivers flowing from the Hymolayers, and have stripped the land of timber. It is a catastrophy waiting to happen.

T. Chatterjee
August 23, 2013 at 15:39

@ Beano: Forgot to mention this in my last reply to you. They DO speak Hindi in Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal consists of about 20 different tribes that each have their own indigenous language. For example, a tribal dialect spoken by a mountainous tribe in Arunachal is distinct from a tribal dialect spoken in the plains of Arunachal. They all speak Hindi when they need to communicate with each other as well as with people from other Indian states.

T. Chatterjee
August 23, 2013 at 15:23

Regarding Point 1: Fair enough.

Point 2: Again, fair. However, I was referring to Indian responsibilities towards Tibet from a cultural perspective. The Pakistanis waste no time in bashing India over even perceived "atrocities" committed by the Indian Army in Jammu & Kashmir (a dubious position, considering that J&K had been peaceful until Pakistan started re-directing the Taliban to Indian Administered Kashmir in 1988-89 after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan) and bearing that in mind, the Govt. of India was remarkably quiet when the Chinese Reds marched into Lhasa. India, in my opinion, should have done more to protect Tibet which has historically had very strong cultural affinities towards India.

I agree with the rest of your points and especially the one in which you have highlighted the fact that the Chinese have significantly greater infrastructure in Tibet than India in the border areas with China. The annexation of Tibet by China is an emotive subject for a majority of Indians and I hope I didn't sound overly harsh in my last post directed at you.

As ever, the development of the North East is critical. Let alone the North-Eastern states, even Bengal and Orissa are trailing in development. I'd wager that a strong and developed West Bengal will greatly facilitate a strong and developed North East. Then again, I've been wrong before.

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