A never ending nightmare on borders

America cannot find answers to India’s border issue with China
This trend is continuing and the standoff at LAC has the potential to become a major global concern as the situation has not reversed to the extent India would have liked to.
This trend is continuing and the standoff at LAC has the potential to become a major global concern as the situation has not reversed to the extent India would have liked to.Special arrangement

The United States has been a keen observer of Chinese posturing along Line of Actual Control, and has made certain comments on the issue on different occasions.

The theme, however, was the same that China’s expansionism should be resisted with all the might.

It has been making suggestions of direct intervention to resolve the issue with China, and has been more than forthright in assessing the situation, and delivering strategic lessons to its strategic partner India.

This trend is continuing and the standoff at LAC has the potential to become a major global concern as the situation has not reversed to the extent India would have liked to.

These concerns are rooted in fears of escalation of the conflict as the world media, particularly in the West, continues to point out that the two - China and India - are nuclear powers. They leave nothing to imagination.

American observations are about the situation along the LAC, especially in eastern Ladakh, where the military deployment is probably the biggest since 1962 war. These words were part of the remarks made by Foreign Minister S Jaishanker, during his keynote address reflecting on contours and contents of national security during Modi government’s eight years in office. He pointed out that China tried to unilaterally change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

“Where China is concerned, we are again very clear that we will not allow the Line of Actual Control to be changed unilaterally and in violation of the understandings that we have,” he said.

There are two aspects to these assertions – India knows about the intentions of China, and it is determined to foil designs of changing the borderline.

This is both past and future scenario at the LAC, where, it may be added that present is a story of stalemate in terms of military and diplomatic dialogue between the two countries.

The US has been making various proposals ever since the standoff began in Ladakh in April 2020, ranging from the direct intervention to facilitating talks between Beijing and Delhi, and now it is telling India what the situation is, and how it would play out in future.

This is typical of the American approach, particularly where China is involved. It is projecting itself as a great friend of India, reading for it Beijing’s moves, which it believes are inimical to India and its strategic interests in the long run.

When US defense Secretary Lloyd James Austin made a statement that China is hardening its position on India borders – he was making a couple of points borne out of the new reality along the LAC, in which the Chinese troops have forced a situation from where India is unable to find an escape route without having suffered the costs it has inflicted on the Indian military and psyche.

Austin stated: “In east China Sea, the PRC’s expanding fishing fleet is sparking tensions with its neighbours. In the South China Sea, the PRC is using outposts on man-made islands bristling with advanced weaponry to advance its illegal maritime claims.

We’re seeing PRC vessels plunder the region’s provisions, operating illegally within the territorial waters of other Indo-Pacific countries. And further to the west, we see Beijing continue to harden its position along the border that it shares with India.” This mapping of China’s expansive designs and goals are already known to India.

Basic point that needs to be understood is that the US is amplifying Chinese threat on Indian borders, based on what is already there and what it calculates for the future. It also fulfils its agenda items; telling India about greater threats China is poised to make in the region.

The word hardening has been used more as a phrase encompassing dangers which may unfold in weeks and months to come. Its military translation is that China will intensify its expansive tendencies with greater display of military strength and infrastructural aggression, to make things more difficult for India.

Inevitably, India will have to add bridges across Pangong Tso (lake) and other infrastructure building in the occupied territories, to its talking points; a maze of layers that will make the original issue pressed under the pile of new sub-issues.

India had lived in an illusion in believing that China will reciprocate the spirit of peace and tranquility on borders. It was shattered on many occasions in the past, when Chinese prevented Indian development works. Now it is constant nightmare on borders. This is what it translates to in the real-time.

America is indicating that this is going to be a prolonged nightmare for India. What, however, is not clear whether America is counselling India to watch Chinese moves more carefully or urging India to go in more in competition in aggression and for that it is offering its services.

There is a catch – Indian diplomacy has come of its age and knows how to steer through crisis, and therefore it should not fall in the trap of becoming a party to the US-China rivalries in the second Cold War era. The American role in getting things wrong about Russia-Ukraine is a lesson for the world.

This war has caused havoc, to put it mildly. All sorts of crises have hit the world. High inflation, worrying scenario of food insecurity and rising prices have hit many countries, the US suffering most because of all this.

The American diplomacy coupled with the threatening noises have brought the world to a brink. The conflict has triggered more dangerous spectres – the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons is not being ruled out by Moscow. Ukraine is running short of ammunition, and many of its territories are now under the control of Russia.

China-India is a different saga. India should, rather it must, follow its nose and seek to resolve matters with China in the manner in which it is seeking to do with certain improvisation.

Diplomacy is an evolving training, which needs to be changed to meet the new challenges. These are challenges, America is reemphasising to tell Delhi it is concerned. That’s okay, but India will have to devise its own strategic roadmap. America cannot find answers to India’s geo-strategic challenges.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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