Chinese and Indian troops have reportedly been engaged in face-offs at locations along the Sino-Indian border — near the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, and near the border between Sikkim since the beginning of May. The fresh clashes on June 15/16 in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), that has persisted since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, opened the pandora’s box to the complicated and seemingly failed diplomacy between the two governments. The face-off cost India the lives of 20 brave soldiers while the casualties on the Chinese side was reported to be 43.
What caused the faceoff?
It seems the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, in August 2019, by the Indian government caused some trouble to the Chinese, which might have triggered the fight on June 15.
Another reason for this aggression might be China’s territory grabbing technique, aka ‘salami-slicing’, where they encroach small parts of another country’s territory slowly over time. The Chinese forces had reportedly raised concern over road construction in the Galwan River valley by India, whereas they are known to have extensively developed their infrastructure in many disputed border regions over years.
According to experts, the standoffs so far in 2020 are Chinese pre-emptive measures in responding to the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road infrastructure project in Ladakh. A similar situation had occurred in 2017 causing the Dokalm standoff. Also on 16 June, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and equipment began extending a road southward in Doklam, a territory claimed by both China and Bhutan. As part of Operation Juniper, Indian soldiers armed with weapons and bulldozers crossed the Sikkim border into Doklam to stop the Chinese troops from constructing the road, a couple of days later. The quick reaction from Bhutan’s ally did stop them from encroaching further into Bhutan. And eventually, in August, both the nuclear-powered nations announced their withdrawal of all their troops from the site in Doklam.
Besides this, China has land and water disputes with almost every neighbouring country — Bhutan, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Nepal.
Ripples of the faceoff
Fresh satellite images, dated June 22, from space technology company Maxar, show structures which appear to have been built by China overlooking the Galwan River and were not visible in aerial photographs earlier in June, Reuters reported.
Leading Indian defence analyst, Ajai Shukla, tweeted that “there is a large Chinese camp in the Galwan Valley, 1.5km into the Indian side of the LAC [Line of Actual Control]”.
As of June 26, Vikram Misri, Indian envoy to China, suggested that the only way to resolve military standoff along LAC is for China to stop erecting new structures.
While the Indian political parties and media organisations have indulged in blame game without thinking what to do next, the gravity of the situation seems far from the common man’s knowledge.
From friends to foes
Times of India quoted Yana Mir, editor-in-chief of The Real Kashmir News, saying, “China has started using strategic encircling against India. It started giving money to India’s neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the name of development. Pakistan already is under Chinese debt and it has already been fighting a proxy war against India for a long time. Islamabad has always had poor diplomatic relations with India since beginning. China is using the money and is successful in creating differences between India and its neighbours. China is forcing these countries to change their foreign policy with the strength of money.”
This explains the recent dispute between Nepal and India, when the government of Prime Minister Oli issued a new political map of Nepal, showing parts of the Indian territory within its borders. Earlier in May, Indian announced the inauguration of a Himalayan road link that passes through the disputed area of Kalapani. This had triggered Nepal to take the step, claims to own Kalapani as well. The Indian army chief, General Manoj Mukund Naravane had said the east of Kali river is Nepalese territory while the west is Indian territory, “There is no dispute about that. The road we have built is west of the river.” He further added, “There is a reason to believe that they might have raised this problem at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility,” suggesting that Nepal had acted at the behest of China.
Is this the cue to World War 3?
While almost every big nation has access to nuclear weapons, a ‘war’ war might not happen; as such a situation that might trigger any country to use nuclear weapon would result at the end of the planet. People of the 21st century know that well. But with a raging pandemic (COVID-19) that originated from China — whose information had been kept hidden for a fair amount of time, and caused the eventual death of hundreds of thousands across the globe — hasn’t a war of sorts already begun?
The widespread of coronavirus has crumpled the economy worldwide, have cost millions of children their right to education, and resulted in businesses shutting down and sole bread earners losing their jobs. Destroying decades of hard work and progress on economy and politics in a matter of months.
Will it be like the 2007-2009 recession all over again? Maybe so, maybe worse. Such is the situation that despite strong negative sentiments towards China, Indians claiming to boycott the neighbour’s products cannot successfully do so. Parts of every electronic gadget and automobile are manufactured in China, raw materials of numerous small businesses are imported from China. Needless to say, boycotting the largest manufacturer of raw materials and important machinery parts is next to impossible.
The cost of production of Indian manufacturers is higher as opposed to Chinese counterparts due to costly raw material, older techniques of production, and higher fixed costs. Also, as per the rules of the World Trade Organisation, it is not possible to impose a full ban on imports from any country even if there are no diplomatic, regional, and trade relations with that country.
However, India can impose an anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty on cheap Chinese products like electronic items and toys. With the imposition of these two duties, the prices of Chinese products might increase in the Indian market, allowing the concept of Atmanirbhyata or self-sufficiency to bloom, as Indian companies would get a chance to manufacture products and sell them in the country.
Neocolonialism via ‘Belt and Road’ initiative?
Sri Lanka fell into China’s debt trap as a result of public investment projects financed by a Chinese state-controlled company. And an important and strategically positioned port, Hambantota port, was leased to China Merchant Port Holdings Limited (CM Port) for 99 years for $1.12 billion in 2017 in exchange for debt relief. This scarily reminds how the British conquered India, the flag followed the trade. The history of British imperialism provides evidence of how economic projects can lead to building an empire.
China is also a major stakeholder in many African countries. They collectively owed China US$10 billion in 2010 and over $30 billion by 2016, as per a report by Jubilee debt campaign. China’s lending to African countries is part of a large-scale overseas investment boom forming part of the country’s quest to become an economic superpower.
Beijing funded an overseas investment boom in the past few decades to become an economic superpower. This expansion forms part of China’s multibillion-dollar ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI), a state-backed campaign for global dominance via Chinese investment around the world. The transcontinental development project launched by China’s president, Xi Jinping, in 2013 aims to improve infrastructure links between Asia, Europe and Africa, with the aim for China to reap the benefits from increasing levels of global trade, says a report from The Guardian.
As per an opinion piece by Jamil Anderlini in Financial Times, Pakistan is at risk of becoming a colony of China. In 2018, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that the BRI risks becoming a “new version of colonialism”. Despite being the second-biggest recipient of BRI investment, Mahathir cancelled or suspended more than $23B worth of ‘unfair’ Chinese contracts signed before he took office, said the article.
The question remains is what the future holds for us. Will this bully of a neighbour continue with their venture to seemingly colonize the world as the British did beginning from the 1600s in the name of trade, or will they face strong resistance and back off into their territories?