Can India-China ties get back on track?

Can India-China ties get back on track?

In a bid to resolve the year-and-a-half long ongoing stand-off on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India and China are likely to hold the 14th round of Corps Commander Talks in the second half of December. Both sides are looking to resolve mainly the Hot Springs friction point which emerged after the Chinese aggression last year. Despite several rounds of military and diplomatic talks, any progress in military disengagement is hardly seen and there is a deployment of 50,000-60,000 troops on each side of the LAC. According to the Pentagon report, “In 2020, the PRC built a large 100-home civilian village inside disputed territory between the PRC’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC.” China claimed that its village construction in Arunachal Pradesh was “beyond reproach” since it “never recognized” Arunachal Pradesh.

India has also lost access to at least nine patrol points in the fingers area and south of Demchok in Ladakh as listed by a senior Indian defence analyst, Lt. Gen. Panag. These areas were not under control of either India or China. But now China has moved its forces forward and cut off access to Indian patrolling. The border standoff combined with tensions over the COVID-19 outbreak pushed India to decouple from China. India banned many of Beijing’s mobile applications and limited Chinese investment in Indian tech companies. At the same time, India has renewed its commitment to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and become more active in Indian Ocean maritime security.

In November, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held a trilateral meeting of the Russia-India-China grouping and joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting that includes China. The multilateral meetings offer a platform for bringing tensions down, but the contradictions seem unsustainable in the long run.

This border dispute marks an implacable decline in India-China ties. The very basis of relations that emerged after former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in 1988 has been shaken, if not destroyed. All in all, it doesn’t seem likely that the latest phase of Sino-Indian tensions that began last year will end anytime soon. As the PRC’s strategy aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, it appears that China is not particularly keen on finding a middle ground either.

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- By Vasundhara Rajput