India-China Border Tension and US redeployment in Asia: ‘China has bitten more than it can chew’

By: |
June 26, 2020 3:27 PM

Chinese have also been flying their fighter aircraft over Senkaku Islands and South Korean airspace. Their belligerence has extended to Australia with the Australians reporting major Cyber attacks.

The standoff between India and China is unlike any other dispute in the region., an expert said.The standoff between India and China is unlike any other dispute in the region., an expert said.

India is engaging in military and diplomatic level talks with China to resolve the stand-off at Ladakh. While both countries have tried to downplay the standoff and de-escalate the ongoing tension at the Himalayan border, the US has decided to recalibrate its defence commitments to counter emerging threats from China in Southeast Region. On Thursday, citing Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) recently clashes with India, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned three US aircraft carrier strike groups which include other ships being deployed in the Indo-Pacific zone in a show of force for the first time in about three years.

There are different views on this move by the US. While some experts welcome this move, there are others who feel under the present circumstances, issuing inflammatory statements will adversely impact the outcome. “This will only augment the existing mistrust and suspicion among the negotiating parties,” opined an expert.

Experts’ Views

Sharing his views, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd), (Former DGMO) & Director Centre For Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), says, “China is practising its tried and tested military coercion to impose its will on most of the 27 neighbours. And its forces are not only demonstrating an unprecedented aggressiveness along the India- China LAC, but also in the South China Sea, Taiwan, Korea, East Sea to an extent and the Koreas. India will need to discern China’s intent and the larger strategic signals emanating from Beijing, in the geopolitical domain. China’s aggressiveness is definitely not on account of the Darbuk – Shyok – DBO road.”

“China would not have waited all these years for the road to be completed and the threat to interdict it, he would have done so earlier. It has invested heavily in BRI and the CPEC, which is central to its dream of One Belt One Road. Any perceived threat to the CPEC is not likely to be acceptable to China,” opines the former DGMO.

According to Lt Gen Bhatia (retd), “The Redeployment of the American / NATO forces has to be seen in this larger context. They have to factor the emerging threats and challenges from a belligerent China, whose actions are indicative of its positions in a post COVID19 world order, wherein it challenges the rule-based global order, seeking a bipolar world. The US is preparing for future threats that are likely to emanate for China. The redeployment of forces by the US will force a rethink in Chinese strategy, for once China may have made a move too far and too early.”

“India’s resolve and resilience to ensure territorial integrity along the LAC may have surprised China, forcing him to carry out an unusual build-up at the cost of other theatres. China has bitten more than it can chew,” he concludes.

Brig SK Chatterji (Retd) while sharing his views says, “The redeployment of forces is a product the global threat appreciation of the Americans and also recognition of the fact that in the days ahead, it will be China which will pose a greater threat to the world as compared to Russia. Russia in any case is a declining great power, while the Chinese are on an ascendant graph. The Chinese military budget, COVID 19 notwithstanding, is still headed North.”

According to Chatterji, “The US reaction is not triggered merely by the Chinese aggressive posture along the Indo-Tibet border but is influenced by recent incidents in the South China Sea targeting Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. They have also intended enacting a National Security Law that will give them the powers to act much more authoritatively in Hong Kong. The one country two systems that were to be the basic plank of China-Hong Kong relationship was meant to last 50 years. However, it seems it could be dumped even before the halfway mark.

Chinese have also been flying their fighter aircraft over Senkaku Islands and South Korean airspace. Their belligerence has extended to Australia with the Australians reporting major Cyber attacks. Their interests extend to the Arctic region and they call themselves a ‘Near Arctic’ nation.

“The circumstances engineered by China calls for a relook in force deployment not just by the US but also the EU. China needs to be impeded in its manoeuvres across the globe and the military elements of such constraints should be applied as close to the Chinese shores, as possible,” Brig Chatterji opines.

In conclusion Chatterji says, “For India, heavier US deployment in South China Sea areas are definitely beneficial. India will have to, of course, be able to fight its battles along the Indo-Tibet borders on its own steam, however, a stronger Quadrilateral, reinforced by South China Sea majors, will also put restraints on Chinese ambitions in the Himalayas.”

According to Brig NK Bhatia (retd), “The US announcement on re-posturing of its assets from Europe towards Asia reflects on the changing geopolitical realities. It has come after China’s actions seem to be threatening the regional peace and stability of the region. US actions also reflect on its concerns of Chinese dominance which was earlier restricted to the South China Sea.”

“The standoff between India and China is unlike any other dispute in the region. India has not only withstood the pressures of Chinese leadership to join the Chinese Belt and Road but has gone a step further to denounce the nefarious axis between China and Pakistan to allow the use of occupied Indian Territory in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to be used for Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor.” Brig Bhatia says.

“India has responded with a resolute response which must have taken the Chinese by surprise. India is capable of looking after its interests must also be clear to the Chinese,” he observes.

In his opinion “There is no doubt that any escalation of conflict between the two sides will destabilise not only the status quo but will have an impact on the region as a whole. The first clear indication of the same should be seen in Pakistan’s statement to show solidarity with China and US statement confirming Pakistan as ‘Safe Haven’ for regionally focussed terrorist groups.”

“Chinese action also threatens to further destabilise the Middle East and Gulf region where Iran is waiting for an opportunity to show the US its rightful place.

The emerging China-Pakistan-Iran nexus is another reason for the US to recalibrate and re posture its assets,” concludes Brig Bhatia.

Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, says, “Just a few weeks ago, President Trump offered an unsolicited advice to offer a third-party-mediation, and now a sudden burst of generosity in protecting the interests of less-powerful countries. If the US were serious about protecting the interests of smaller countries, it could empower them by providing economic aid and technology, and not projecting them as vanguards in its own conflicts with China. Sadly, the Trump administration decided to stop offering the H-1 visa given to temporary workers. Indian students would face the maximum brunt due to such arbitrary policies.”

“New Delhi must tread its path cautiously. The US is a declining power, and its interests in the region do not necessarily converge with the interests of India. On the issue of Iran, Russia and Afghanistan, our stances are clearly opposed to the US interests. We should not allow the US to dictate terms of engagement or conflict in the region,” Prof Kumar urges.

According to Prof Kumar, “The statement of Pompeo can cause serious damage to India’s reputation. It clubs India in the league of Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. This shows how seriously India is taken by the Trump administration. Second, Washington believes that India needs an external support to protect its interests. This shows ignorance and conceit of American policy-makers. And finally, the timing of the statement when India and China are engaged in de-escalation.”

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