China and India – August 2020

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China and India

What Pangong means for Asian geopolitics
If disengagement leads to a border pact, the deal is prudent. If Beijing uses it as a tactical pause, then New Delhi may regret concessions
By C Uday Bhaskar
Will the disengagement and the acceptance of a temporary suspension by India of patrolling rights in one area lead to greater malleability in managing LAC and provide a road map for transiting to an agreed border?
Defence minister Rajnath Singh announced the consensual disengagement of troops by both China and India at the contested Pangong lake in Parliament on February 11. This development, and the gradual pullback of tanks and the dismantling of infrastructure that has taken place by both militaries in a synchronised and verified manner, are cause for modest satisfaction.
…if this is only a brief pause for Beijing and President Xi Jinping as China prepares for a major political event — the July centenary celebrations of the Communist Party of China — and the PLA subsequently reverts to its pattern of territorial assertiveness at LAC, then … Delhi may rue the accommodations it has made in the current disengagement process. Any intractable issue, such as the impasse on Pangong, needs some give and take to find a way ahead. But Indian military commanders must remain acutely aware of the tactical and strategic stakes involved and proceed in a prudent manner with fallback plans for the less desirable exigency of LAC morphing into another Line of Control. This would be an unfortunate outcome and the price extracted would be substantial.

15 February
India the vaccine superpower
“What we see is that the countries that prefer Chinese vaccines are the ones that have supported the Belt-and-Road Initiative, meaning that as a whole, they’re favourable to growing Chinese influence,” said Ong, referring to Beijing’s ambitious global trade infrastructure strategy.
“Quite a number of countries in the regions are quite receptive to Chinese vaccines, as they are to Chinese investment.”
But some Asian countries have preferred to deal with a different giant: India.
India can’t compete with China militarily or economically — but India produces more than half of the world’s vaccine output.
Not only is India producing vast quantities of AstraZeneca’s vaccine under license, it also has its own Covaxin — which, like Sputnik V, was rushed to market under a somewhat dubious process but still seems to work.
And India is giving its vaccine away to neighbouring countries free of charge. It gifted millions of doses in January to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius and the Seychelles, among others — a gesture of generosity so far unique in the world.
Indian officials have made no secret of the fact that they hope to burnish their nation’s image at China’s expense. Relations between the two countries are at a low point following deadly clashes on the Himalayan border last June.
That might explain why, as January ended, India also sent two million doses to Brazil and plans on shipping more. It’s a gesture calculated to highlight the contrast with CoronaVac — which is not only of doubtful efficacy but is also surprisingly expensive.

2020

20 October
From 1962 to 2020, India’s China error
A make-believe frame of reference has guided India on China, leading consistently to mistakes
C. Uday Bhaskar
(Hindustan Times) October 20, 1962, is embedded in collective Indian memory as a day of national humiliation when Beijing “surprised” Delhi and Chinese troops launched what the then defence minister, VK Krishna Menon, described as “an aggressive war” over disputed territory in the Ladakh region and NEFA areas (now Arunachal Pradesh). At one point in the month-long war, it seemed as if Assam was being abandoned by a bewildered, panic-stricken Delhi and many inadequacies in India’s higher defence management and military preparedness were laid bare.

23 September
China Is Paying a High Price for Provoking India
For Xi Jinping, the COVID-19 pandemic – which has preoccupied the world’s governments for months – seemed like an ideal opportunity to make quick progress on his expansionist agenda. But by provoking India, he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
By Brahma Chellaney
(Project Syndicate) China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, recently declared that aggression and expansionism have never been in the Chinese nation’s “genes.” It is almost astonishing that he managed to say it with a straight face.
For Xi, the COVID-19 pandemic – which has preoccupied the world’s governments for months – seemed like an to make quick progress on his agenda. So, in April and May, he directed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to launch furtive incursions into the icy borderlands of India’s Ladakh region, where it proceeded to establish heavily fortified encampments.It wasn’t nearly as clever a plan as Xi probably thought. Far from entrenching China’s regional preeminence, it has intensified the pushback by Indo-Pacific powers, which have their security cooperation.
This includes China’s most powerful competitor, the United States, thereby escalating a bilateral strategic confrontation that has technological, economic, diplomatic, and military dimensions. The specter of international isolation and supply disruptions now looms over China, spurring Xi to announce plans to hoard mammoth quantities of mineral resources and agricultural products.But Xi’s real miscalculation on the Himalayan border was vis-à-vis India, which has now abandoned its toward China.

22 September
China’s “5-Fingers” Approach to Strangling India | Cleo Paskal
The India China border dispute continues to spiral out of out control as clashes between both sides turn deadly. But it’s part of a much bigger strategy by China, part of what’s called strategic national power, to strangle India, by gaining influence in countries surrounding India, like Nepal and Pakistan, as well as disputed border territories along the Line of Actual Control like Ladakh, the Galwan Valley, and the Arunachal Pradesh. Joining us on this China Unscripted podcast is Cleo Paskal is an Associate Fellow in both the Asia-Pacific program and the Energy, Environment and Resources department at Chatham House, as well as a Non-Resident Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific in the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

12 September
Cautious optimism as India, China agree to ease border tensions
Foreign ministers of the nuclear-armed Asian rivals agree for troops disengagement after months-long standoff.
(Al Jazeera) …the shadow of war seems to have ended for now after foreign ministers of nuclear-armed rivals late on Friday announced their troops must disengage and take steps to restore “peace and tranquillity” at the disputed border.
“The two Foreign Ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” a joint statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.

2 September
China’s military deceit in the Himalayas could spell disaster for the region
Opinion by Barkha Dutt
(WaPo) Tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian troops are facing off in the uppermost reaches of the Himalayas, on the precipice of a possible war between the two major countries.
China’s incursions into eastern Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control that separates it from India should be seen as part of its global pattern of bad behavior. If left unchallenged, China’s provocative and perfidious military actions along the border with India could destabilize South Asia.
China’s massive buildup of troops and infrastructure in pockets across the border not only violates bilateral agreements, but also forces Indians to confront a new reality. India has spent decades of emotional, political and military capital on Pakistan. But the bigger adversary was always China.
… Dialogue is not working. For Indians, the turning point came this summer after China’s duplicitous decision to violate a negotiated agreement on withdrawing their men from the Galwan valley on the Indian side of the LAC. Instead of removing their tents as agreed, Chinese troops turned barbarically on the Indians, using wooden rods mounted with nails as weapons.

16 August
C. Uday Bhaskar: The ‘Asian Century’ depends on China and India working together
How Beijing engages with Delhi after recent border tensions will have long-term implications for continental harmony
The bilateral relationship between China and India has now entered a post-Galwan phase and both nations are aware that what is at stake is not just contested territoriality – but the texture and tenor of the emerging Asian strategic framework with larger global implications.
This was outlined by the Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who earlier in the month noted: “We are seeing the parallel but differential rise of the two countries. To my mind, what it does is it puts a huge premium on reaching some kind of equilibrium or understanding between the two.” Highlighting the point that this equilibrium would have to be in the interests of both countries, he added: “How to do that is one of the big challenges that we face.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic has led to considerable uncertainty about the global economic recovery, it is expected that over the next decade, the world will see the emergence of three major single-state economies: China, the US and India, with the European Union being the fourth node.

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