China’s Conflicting Approach Towards India

Indian and Chinese defence ministers met on Thursday in a rare high level interaction since the Galwan conflict in May 2020. Both the ministers met on the side lines of SCO ministerial meet scheduled on Friday. This was a significant interaction as both the countries are yet to resolve the border escalation since the conflict. Even after multiple military to military engagements and few ministerial meetings the conflict doesn’t seem nearing to any end. A situation which has forced both the countries to maintain enhanced level of operational readiness as well as maintain troops in an inhospitable terrain and weather. In a positive note it can be said that both the countries have maintained channels for direct communication at military and diplomatic levels. This is a good indication but the progress on de-escalation doesn’t seem near the horizon.

The lack of willingness for de-escalation from China’s end appears more as a calculated posturing towards India than to undertake military option for forcing territorial gains. India has been continuously matching Chinese deployment in the contested areas and trying to give a message that it is also prepared for a long haul. The recent Chinese overtures and statements appearing the media does give an indication towards Chinese willingness to carry on with mutual relation while accommodating ‘ground realities’. India has to be careful and so far it has not appeared to have fallen for the Chinese trap. In a firm retort Indian defence minister highlighted to his Chinese counterpart that the present situation has eroded basis of mutual relationship. India must continue with it’s firm endeavour to ensure complete status quo of pre May 2020 is restored before going back to normalising of mutual relationship.

China may not want to return to complete normalisation or the status quo. As it views keeping India on edge better suits it’s geostrategic position. India’s participation in QUAD, it’s growing ties with US and even perhaps to relieve pressure from it’s stated iron brother Pakistan in the western theatre could be the reasons behind it. But at the same time, it should be careful of not pushing the envelope too far. India which would have given up on China would eventually be much more unfavourable for it in the longer run. With bulk of China’s focus now hinged towards Taiwan, Japan and US manoeuvres in the waters claimed by it, China seems in a hurry to get along with business as usual. This would undoubtedly spell advantage China as it would hold the trouble lever in it’s hand while comfortably contesting US and it’s allies around Taiwan. But India must make it clear any progress on normalisation of ties has to follow logical steps of complete de-escalation and it cannot not be conditional.

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