China and India August 2020-

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China and India

29-30 March
C Uday Bhaskar writes in SCMP Ukraine war: how India-China cooperation can help remove nuclear threat and ease tensions between US and Russia
Even as border disputes and other issues remain unresolved, Asia’s two major powers have a mutual interest in bringing about a ceasefire in Ukraine and ending the threat of nuclear war
India and China are unlikely to arrive at a modus vivendi on the LAC soon, and how they manage their trade and economic ties after the Ukraine war remains uncertain. Globalisation and current trade protocols are in danger of being jettisoned, given the severity of the sanctions levied against Russia.
The economic consequences of the Ukraine war and the collective effort it will take to repair and rewire globalisation as it is now understood will be colossal. Both China and India will be buffeted by this turbulence and have to decide how much of their national resources and prestige they wish to expend over relatively barren geography and pursue competition rather than cooperation.
Cleo Paskal: India-China Power Struggle Could Determine Russia’s Future (video)
(China Unscripted) India and China have long been at odds with one another over territory they both claim on their shared border. Russia and China are close allies, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that India is leaning toward Russia and away from the West. In this episode of China Unscripted, we talk about how the India-China power struggle could determine Russia’s future, what China might try to do in an invasion of Taiwan, and how Ukraine and Taiwan and similar and different.

25 March
China woos India as both face Western ire over Ukraine
By Gerry Shih, Niha Masih and Eva Dou
(WaPo) As the war in Ukraine enters its second month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi struck a conciliatory note on Friday toward longtime rival India and urged the two Asian giants to speak “with one voice” in his first visit to New Delhi since a tense border standoff began two years ago.
But his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, downplayed the prospects for an immediate rapprochement with China and said the border talks were “works in progress.” Relations could not return to normal so long as the territorial disputes remained unresolved, Jaishankar told reporters on Friday after a three-hour meeting with Wang.
Wang’s visit, initiated by China, came at a sensitive moment for both countries: Beijing has faced Western pressure, and the possibility of sanctions, over its support for an increasingly isolated Russia. India, meanwhile, has also drawn criticism from Western capitals over its continued refusal to condemn Russia or cut off its purchases of Russian arms and oil, despite India’s growing role as a partner to Washington.
During a meeting with Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval on Friday, Wang pitched China and India as two Asian powers that should stand together. Both countries sought national rejuvenation but should not pose a threat to the other, he said, according to a readout provided by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

5 January
China: An abiding challenge for India
As the LAC challenge heightens, India must evolve a resolute and effective holding strategy to prevent further salami-slicing by PLA
By C Uday Bhaskar
India’s abiding security challenges in 2022 and beyond will be the 3C distillate — Covid-19 in its latest Omicron variant, the climate crisis, and China. They will unfold with different degrees of urgency, but temporal concurrence along all three tracks is likely to be a central feature and will test the policy acumen of the national leadership.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis are complex issues triggered by the accretion of ecological distortions and have a direct bearing on human security. These two challenges go well beyond the domestic framework and are being addressed in a larger global context — alas, ineffectually, as evidenced in the Covid-19 vaccine nationalism on display, and at Glasgow, in relation to the climate deliberations.
However, it is China that is the more critical concerning national sovereignty and territorial integrity, given the Galwan setback of mid-2020 and the impasse that has followed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

2021

8 December
How India and China Can Keep the Peace
Better Diplomacy and Stronger Guardrails Can Prevent War
By Shivshankar Menon
(Foreign Affairs) India and China, for their part, could begin stabilizing ties by establishing crisis management mechanisms to deal with unforeseen incidents on the border. New Delhi and Beijing need to improve communication, including by engaging in a high-level bilateral strategic dialogue to identify each other’s core interests, determine which are complementary and which are in conflict, and then decide how to manage their relationship.
Over 100,000 Indian and Chinese troops are preparing to spend another brutal winter confronting each other at high altitudes along the Indian-Chinese border. A year and a half after Chinese soldiers seized territory on the boundary, preventing Indian patrols from going where they had gone for years, both sides have increased military deployments, accelerated the construction of permanent infrastructure throughout the Himalayas, and asserted control over disputed areas. There are credible reports of China building new villages in territory India considers its own. After 13 rounds of military commander talks, there is little sign that the standoff will end.
Beijing’s actions on the border have alienated Indian public opinion, and New Delhi has been driven into self-strengthening and counterbalancing actions against China. The country is tightening military and security links with Washington, and as part of the [Quad], it is working with Australia, Japan, and the United States to take a much more active role in maritime Asia. It is fast-tracking trade negotiations with Australia, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. The prospects of a negotiated solution between India and China have clearly receded, and the countries’ relations will be more antagonistic for some time to come.
Both Beijing and New Delhi have other preoccupations and should not want to be locked in conflict. China today faces disputes along much of its periphery, not just with India. And India wants to transform itself into a modern, prosperous, and secure country, something that fighting with Beijing distracts from and delays. To avoid getting sidetracked, New Delhi will need to develop a grand strategy that addresses an increasingly assertive and nationalist China, not just on the border but across political and economic issues. And for the foreseeable future, both states will have to prepare themselves for a combination of engagement and competition.

27 November
It’s not shipshape
India needs to do a lot more to realise its natural maritime potential
C Uday Bhaskar
(The Tribune) THE commissioning of two naval platforms in Mumbai over the past week — the guided-missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam and the diesel submarine INS Vela is a significant punctuation in India’s warship building effort and is to be welcomed. The 7,400-tonne destroyer, with some state-of-the-art features, is a tribute to the professional acumen of India’s indigenous warship design capabilities and the submarine, built with French collaboration, will enhance a strategic niche competence.
This modest addition to India’s depleted naval inventory must be seen against the backdrop of China. In the period that India was commissioning naval platforms, media reports indicated that China was building a secret military facility in the UAE port of Khalifa and that this was being done furtively without the knowledge of the host country.
The Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is steadily increasing. Beijing acquired a military base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2017 and is heavily invested in ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In essence, from Galwan to Gwadar, the military challenge from China is an abiding factor for the Indian security planner.

11 October
India, China army talks to defuse border tensions fail
(AP) — Talks between Indian and Chinese army commanders to disengage troops from key friction areas along their border have ended in a stalemate and failed to ease a 17-month standoff that has sometimes led to deadly clashes, the two sides said Monday.
The continuing standoff means the two nations will keep troops in the forward areas of Ladakh for a second consecutive winter in dangerously freezing temperatures.
India’s defense ministry, in a statement, said it gave “constructive suggestions” but the Chinese side was “not agreeable” and “could not provide any forward-looking proposals.” A statement from a Chinese military spokesperson said “the Indian side sticks to unreasonable and unrealistic demands, adding difficulties to the negotiations.”

C Uday Bhaskar: LAC and the India-China stalemate
(Hindustan Times) LAC is fragile, and India has to deal with a more complex geopolitical situation than in October 1962
Almost six decades after the war of October 1962, India and China are yet to arrive at a modus vivendi on an intractable territorial issue, which, at its core, is a manifestation of major power contestation within the Asian grid.
… While the texture of the US-China relationship will have implications for all the major powers, it is of heightened relevance for India and Russia — and their own bilateral relationship. Moscow today has a lower composite weight in the major power matrix, but is a critical swing factor in the US-China dyad, in much the same way that Beijing was during the Cold War when the primary strategic contestation was between Washington and Moscow. The India-Russia relationship has a history and resilience that is valuable to both nations. This may prove to be a constraint in the trajectory of the US-India bilateral.
China’s intimidation of Taiwan is illustrative of the inflexible resolve that Xi Jinping has brought to bear in the pursuit of territoriality. The Galwan experience and the rhythms of October 20, 1962 should serve as a wake-up call for PM Modi about the chicanery that he has to deal with along the LAC. India must be honest with itself.

5 July
C. Uday Bhaskar: What Xi Jinping’s speech marking the Communist Party centenary means for the world
• Xi painted a benign image of China as a ‘peace-loving’ nation, but he also delivered an unambiguous warning to its adversaries
• While India and contemporary Russia were not mentioned in the speech, they will affect Beijing’s options in managing the hegemony of the US and its allies
(SCMP) India and contemporary Russia find no mention in the Xi address. However, the triangular relationship among the three Eurasian powers will shape Beijing’s options in managing what it sees as the hegemony of the US and like-minded nations in the run-up to the 2049 centenary of the People’s Republic.
The recent  Biden-Putin summit  has led to a lowering of the US-Russia discord; the possibility of a US-led coalition that will seek to reduce dependency on and engagement with China can be an impediment for Beijing.
For India,  the altercation  with the People’s Liberation Army in the Ladakh sector of the contested Line of Actual Control in June 2020, where both sides lost lives, is a stark reminder of the fragility of the current uneasy stalemate. Almost  100,000 troops  from both sides are in proximity, and the military build-up is on a steady uptick.
How Moscow  will orient itself  in the tussle between the two Asian giants will be critical for both Beijing and New Delhi. In this context, Russia’s new security policy released on June 3 is instructive for its nuanced approach. While the new policy seeks to develop a comprehensive partnership with China, it also aims to further expand strategic cooperation with India.
Concurrently, the new policy makes an elliptical reference to the prevailing Sino-Indian tension in Ladakh by dwelling on the “risks associated with armed conflicts escalating into local and regional wars involving the world’s nuclear powers”.
Whether China can begin “a new journey towards realising the second centenary goal” in defiance of the larger global orientation and sanctity of norms will be dependent on the policy choices made by Xi. The period from now to 2049 can be more animated for China and its principal interlocutors than envisioned, as regional and global challenges coalesce and collapse in the contemporary geopolitical churn.  Climate change   and Covid-19 are just the tip of the iceberg.

28 June
India moves 50,000 troops to border with China and assumes offensive military posture
The redeployment will allow Indian commanders more options to attack and seize territory in China if necessary in a strategy known as ‘offensive defence’
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
(Bloomberg News) India has redirected at least 50,000 additional troops to its border with China in a historic shift toward an offensive military posture against the world’s second biggest economy.
Although the two countries battled in the Himalayas in 1962, India’s strategic focus has primarily been Pakistan since the British left the subcontinent, with the long-time rivals fighting three wars over the disputed region of Kashmir. Yet since the deadliest India-China fighting in decades last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has sought to ease tensions with Islamabad and concentrate primarily on countering Beijing.
Over the past few months, India has moved troops and fighter jet squadrons to three distinct areas along its border with China, according to four people familiar with the matter. All in all, India now has roughly 200,000 troops focused on the border, two of them said, which is an increase of more than 40% from last year.

from OUTLOOK June 21, 2021
Beard the Lion to Bell the Cat
By C. Uday Bhaskar
[T]he current pattern of global trade and investment may not allow for either side to totally sever ties with the other. Like PM Nehru after the 1962 debacle, PM Modi will have to confront the reality about China and its hegemonic ambitions and resolve to progressively re-build India’s comprehensive national capability and the well-being of its citizens against the ravages wrought by the Covid pandemic.
The lapses that led to Galwan have many lessons for India’s security apex and these should not be buried or white-washed for reasons of short-term political expediency.

In June 2020, India was ‘surprised’ by China’s military actions across the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Lives were lost on both sides. The strained bilateral relationship took another beating and a tense military stand-off ensued. The tactical situation is unresolved and remains brittle a year later, and this is an opportune moment to review the chequered trajectory of Sino-Indian relations since the heady period of the 1950s.
Media reports earlier this year indicated that the strategic-security community in China had been deliberating upon India as a security challenge to Beijing’s long-term objectives and specific reference was made to a 2013 document ‘The Science of Military Strategy’ published by the Academy of Military Sciences (AMS). This was the third iteration of a text first released in 1987 and revised in 2001. Interestingly (from a one-year-after-Galwan perch), it was reported that an English translation of the 276-page document was released in 2013 and is available in the public domain. This document was resurrected in February by a US think-tank and was in turn reported in India.
Security think-tanks and specialised academies studying the ‘adversary’ is par for the course and the AMS apart, even the Chinese National Defence University issues similar reports. Given the HR investment that China has made in studying India in a holistic manner, it is likely that many institutes and organisations would be similarly engaged.
What is instructive is that the 2013 report makes a recommendation for Beijing to stop India from “nibbling” at Chinese territory and also draws attention to India’s expanding maritime reach. The central question that arises a year after Galwan is whether the Indian higher defence management ecosystem with its many tentacles had taken note of these reports and if so, how were these inputs processed?

3 May
Gravitas: China celebrates India’s suffering
Who celebrates the sight of burning pyres? China. Many in China are seeing India’s suffering as an opportunity to mock it with a sickening sense of humour.

16 February
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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