Chinese Attacks: How The Powerful Media Commented On The Crisis?

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After months of standoff between the two armies – that had agreed not to use weapons against each other, 20 soldiers including a Colonel were killed as 10 others including five officers were taken hostage and freed after many days in and around Galwan Valley. This is being as the lowest in the Sino-Indian relationship since they fought each other in 1962. The ruling BJP is caught in a peculiar situation after the Prime Minister’s speech to the all party meeting arranged virtually. How the powerful media institutions based in Delhi and elsewhere see the crisis. Here follow the series of editorials from different newspapers.

A satellite photograph showing the deployments from China and India in the Galwan valley

Decoding China’s Playbook

Until it converts words into deeds, India must be cautious

Hindustan Times, Delhi
June 11, 2020

India and China have taken baby steps to end the military standoffs along the Ladakh border. The recent announcements, following military level talks, mean that both countries have pulled back at the three points in or near the Galwan Valley. However, the more egregious Chinese intrusion at Pangong Tso remains unresolved with China in possession of the disputed northern shore of the lake. As long as the status quo in Pangong Tso is not restored, it will be a case of wishful thinking rather than cool-headed calculation to believe the present crisis is entering the home stretch. It is perfectly possible that the Pangong Tso issue could go on for months, if not years.

Beijing does not believe territorial disputes are a tea party and it is important that New Delhi does not treat them as such. If anything, any premature celebration on this side of the Line of Actual Control would encourage China to conclude that possession is nine-tenths of surrender. Reducing Indian forces in the region because a few tents have been removed and soldiers walked back a kilometre or two is not advisable. It is China that would like the new alignment to be the status quo and it must not look as if India is acquiescing to the same. Negotiated settlements with India’s northern neighbour must always be backed by firepower and hard-nosed diplomacy. In the iron-gloved world of Chinese foreign policy, an agreement to end a dispute is only a reflection of the power equation at the time, and can be changed without warning if that equation shifts — especially if it moves in Beijing’s favour.

“Trust but verify” was the motto of the protracted arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. It applies in spades, with possibly even less trust, to relations between India and China. The Cold War rivals were both status quo powers by the time they began such talks. India and China are emerging powers with rising economic and military capacities. Their sense of national interest keeps changing as their concerns and capabilities keep expanding. This has been strikingly with China which keeps adding new items to its list of “core interests” — and then expects others to adjust. New Delhi must be cautious about declaring successes, even small ones, until there is clear evidence on the ground that Beijing has converted words into deeds.

China And The UT 

Gloves Are Off
With the Galwan valley clash, China pushed too hard. India must push back

The Times of India, Delhi
June 17, 2020

In the most serious incident at the LAC in 45 years, several Indian soldiers – including a colonel – were killed in clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan valley. Sources say there were casualties on the Chinese side too but numbers are unclear. The skirmish appears to have been physical in nature without shots being fired. Nonetheless, they were brutal enough to dash any hopes of restoring the status quo ante on the LAC.

Servant of The Sahibs, the cover of the book by legendary caravan guide

The timing of the Chinese aggression and Beijing’s assertive claims in the Galwan valley appear to be part of a strategy to remind India of its vulnerabilities. The run-up to the 1962 war had also seen New Delhi and Beijing accuse each other’s troops of trespassing in Galwan valley. Thus, Beijing could be using the latest Galwan valley standoff to push India’s psychological buttons by reminding it of 1962. It could be a warning to India not to join the diplomatic chorus, absolutely legitimate, for an independent investigation of coronavirus’s origins. By getting New Delhi to kowtow to its diplomatic positions, Beijing would also be sending a strong signal to other neighbouring countries about who holds the whip hand in Asia, and get them to fall in line.

If this is the case then India, as a proud nation, should do exactly what the Chinese don’t want and undertake diplomatic countermeasures against Beijing. It could denounce the revocation of Hong Kong’s autonomy, and criticise human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet. It could rapidly raise official diplomatic engagements with Taipei. And it must work more closely with Indo-Pacific democracies trying to balance Chinese power across the region.

Additionally, we should give China a taste of its own medicine and weaponise trade by imposing sanctions against Chinese imports. Beijing can’t kill our soldiers at the LAC and expect to benefit from our huge market. Meanwhile, pressing Beijing on Covid-19 at the WHO was anyway necessary and New Delhi as the new chair of the global health body’s executive board should fully back this initiative. Finally, since Beijing itself has violated the 1993 agreement to maintain peace and tranquility at the LAC, and has not been serious about demarcating the border despite numerous rounds of talks, it is time for the Indian army too to have operational plans in place to respond to Chinese encroachments with its own cross-LAC manoeuvres.

Reset Ties With China

Beijing crossed a threshold. India must be strong

Hindustan Times, Delhi
June 17, 2020

With its aggression in the Galwan Valley, Ladakh, China has crossed a threshold and pushed the relationship with India to a dangerous low, with long-lasting consequences. Chinese soldiers used the opportunity of a negotiated withdrawal operation to viciously attack a supervisory Indian contingent. The first Indian military casualties along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in 45 years, and the seeming manner of their deaths, are a tragedy. While the present crisis in Ladakh was unusual in terms of the number and size of Chinese intrusions, it appeared to have similarities with past patterns of intimidation. Beijing would intrude; there would be some pushing and shoving; then it would withdraw, feeling a message had been sent. Not this time. Galwan Valley indicates there has been a dramatic shift in Chinese tactics, one that will require an equally drastic re-evaluation of India’s position.

First, it is important to diagnose the roots of Beijing’s behaviour. At the macro-level, it is clear that China — under President Xi Jinping — believes the time has come to assert its power on the international stage. This has translated into China violating international norms and law (South China Sea); engaging in predatory, almost colonial, economic practices (Belt and Road Initiative); being brazen, rather than introspective and transparent, about its role in causing crises with global impact (the coronavirus pandemic); encroaching upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighbours (Japan and India); intervening in the politics of democracies (from European nations to Australia); exporting its own ideological worldview to other countries (especially in South Asia); and becoming even more repressive at home (Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong).

In this backdrop, China wants to limit New Delhi’s power and ambition; it wants India to accept Beijing’s primacy in Asia and beyond; it wants to impose costs on India for deepening ties with the United States (US); and it wants to continue using Pakistan, which has now becoming almost its client State with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, to inflict terror on India. Concerned about India’s upgradation of border infrastructure and motivated by a desire to change facts on the ground, with its recent actions, China has violated every border pact signed in the last three decades to maintain peace and tranquillity and engaged in unacceptable aggression.

India will have to respond. But it must do so strategically, not emotionally. There have to be two layers of response.

The first priority has to be to restore status quo ante at the border as it existed in April. This will require both a display of military strength at the border by standing up to Chinese aggression, and diplomatic work by making it clear to Beijing that its intervention will lead to heavy costs across all spheres of the relationship. The political leadership, while providing strategic guidance, must give all the support the armed forces need at this moment and carefully examine the possibility of inflicting costs on China in other theatres (including business and trade) while keeping the conflict within limits. It must also mobilise international opinion to expose Chinese aggression at a time when a humanitarian, economic and health crisis (originating in China) has engulfed the world.

But more fundamentally, India will have to reconsider its entire geopolitical posture. Engagement with China is essential and should continue. But there can be no appeasement. Policymakers need to go back to the drawing board and examine ways to build leverage against Beijing. India should consider taking a stronger position on Tibet. It must double down on its partnership with the US, make Quad (which also includes Japan and Australia) a more permanent arrangement, and be a part of any club that seeks to contain Chinese power. India needs to economically re-examine its trade, technology and investment ties with China, for all these appear to have benefited Beijing more than Delhi. It needs to ramp up its military modernisation, identify vulnerabilities across sectors, and prepare for a two-front situation — which may have seemed unthinkable some years back but will need to be considered now.

India will also have to invest more in South Asia, ensure there are friendly governments in neighbouring capitals, and push back on Chinese efforts to encircle Delhi. The government will also, domestically, need to take the Opposition into confidence (an all-party meeting scheduled for Friday is a positive development) and prepare public opinion. As India battles the coronavirus pandemic and a recession, the security threat from China has added to the challenge. But India has to display strength and wisdom and defend itself.

An Inflection Point

LAC violence breaches understanding of Modi-Xi meetings. Delhi must proceed with calm resolve, keeping lines to Beijing open

The Indian Express, Delhi
June 17, 2020

India’s political illusions about China are becoming increasingly unsustainable and Delhi has arrived at an inflection point in its policies toward Beijing.

The brutal killing of 20 Indian soldiers by the Chinese Army in the deadliest escalation of violence between India and China on the LAC in nearly four and half decades puts a heavy question mark on an already fraught process. It has the potential to vitiate and undermine the disengagement agreed upon only a few days ago between senior military officers on both sides and harden the standoff between the two countries. The provocation is grave — this is not the toll taken by an act of terror by a non-state actor, but a clash between two armies. Yet India must keep a clear and determined head. It needs to respond with calm deliberation and steely resolve. It must be fully prepared to escalate but it must not embark on such a course without a full assessment of what transpired on the ground, or without hearing out what the Chinese leadership has to say — and being mindful of what lies ahead.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating Home Minister Amit Shah after the passage of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill in Lok Sabha on August 6, 2019.

When two armies are fully mobilised and standing eyeball to eyeball, there is always the possibility of an accident that triggers an escalation that neither side wants. Monday night’s clashes came after both sides had publicly stated that the situation was under control and that disengagement had begun in the Galwan area. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused the Indian Army of violating the consensus that the two sides arrived at, and New Delhi has accused Beijing of doing the same. Clearly, much is being lost in translation even as Chinese adventurism breaches the understanding underlined in several meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. New Delhi should activate all political lines of communication with Beijing, including the ones between the special representatives to the border negotiations and the foreign ministers, to make this point and take it forward.

Many in Delhi have been lulled into complacency by previous diplomatic successes in defusing military crises in Depsang (2013), Chumar (2014) and Doklam (2017). But Delhi can’t ignore the profound change in Beijing’s worldview and the new sense in Beijing that it can afford to take on all comers. Nor can Delhi turn a blind eye to President Xi Jinping’s political swagger, China’s growing assertiveness in the territorial disputes with its neighbours, its simmering Cold War with the United States, and the PLA’s aggressive postures on the ground. In other words, India’s political illusions about China are becoming increasingly unsustainable and Delhi has arrived at an inflection point in its policies toward Beijing. China, on its part, would be unwise to underestimate India’s political resolve, its capacity to come together amid a national crisis and the international coalition in its favour. If Beijing refuses to restore the status quo ante on the frontiers, it will push India irrevocably towards a comprehensive and long-term political, diplomatic and military strategy of responding purposefully.

Disorder At The Border: On India-China Face-off

Agreements with China on disengagement at LAC have lost meaning in the brutal clashes

The Hindu, Chennai
June 18, 2020

With the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers, and reports of Chinese soldier casualties in clashes at the Galwan valley in Ladakh, India and China have entered uncharted territory on the Line of Actual Control, the first combat deaths since 1975, and the first such in the Galwan Valley since the 1962 war. The brutality of the clashes, with severe injuries and deaths incurred despite the fact that no shots were fired, is all also unheard of thus far. The deaths occurred when the two armies had agreed to “disengage” and “de-escalate” the month-long stand-off, which makes the clashes particularly shocking. China has now claimed sovereignty over the entire Galwan Valley, indicating that it is unlikely to pull back from this crucial and hitherto non-contentious area, unless it is forced to. In his talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to countenance this new position, and even called on India to “punish those responsible” for crossing the LAC, prompting India to accuse China of attempting to “alter” the LAC with this “premeditated and planned action” by its forces. Meanwhile, reports that Chinese troops continue to be well entrenched in the Fingers area (Finger 4-8) or the ridges around Pangong Tso (lake) that India has always patrolled, and remain inside the LAC at Nakula Pass are worrying indicators of a hardening Chinese position. While Prime Minister Modi’s strong statement on Wednesday of a “befitting reply” and of the sacrifices of the soldiers that “would not go in vain”, is a much needed expression of the national sentiment, simply extracting revenge does not appear to be the answer to the altered situation across the LAC.

In order to prepare its response appropriately, the first step the government must take is to apprise the nation of exactly what has occurred since late April along the LAC, including incidents in Ladakh and Sikkim. Monday’s clashes have put an end to claims that Chinese troops have not entered Indian territory (they have), that troops have disengaged, and that the situation was being de-escalated. The government must conduct a full investigation of the Galwan clash and put out clearer details of the lives lost. A true tribute to those soldiers will not only include ensuring accountability from Beijing but also enforcing a full troops withdrawal from all the areas occupied in the last few weeks. Both the MEA and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs have reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue as a means of restoring peace. Both sides must also acknowledge that the situation is precarious, and that the recent days in particular have undone decades of painstakingly negotiated confidence-building mechanisms. Without a full restoration of the status quo ante, reparations for the casualties, as well as some honest commitment to abide fully by any agreement, talks with Beijing at this point might not mean more than empty words.

Throwback to Mao

New Delhi must make a clear-eyed assessment of the new, militaristic China

The Times of India, Delhi
June 18, 2020

The brutal killing of 20 Indian soldiers by Chinese troops in Galwan valley, on a scale altogether different from past skirmishes along the LAC, should settle the debate about whether this is a different, more militaristic China we are dealing with today than in the recent past. The signs are all evident. Beijing is turning up the heat with most of its neighbours – including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan – even as it revoked Hong Kong’s autonomy. Prior to the killings of the jawans, Beijing asked its citizens to leave India. Thus this is no longer about “different perceptions of the LAC”, a formula often used to explain past skirmishes between Indian and Chinese soldiers.

A TV grab showing soldiers from China and India engaged in a brawl.

It’s apparent now that Beijing isn’t serious about demarcating the India-China border or even the LAC, but wants to keep the situation ambiguous to enable its salami slicing tactics. But if Beijing is in a race to establish itself as the undisputed hegemon of Asia through displays of brute power, then – leaving aside the fate of Hong Kong residents – India has turned out to be one of its worst victims.

In this situation, New Delhi must make a clear-eyed assessment of this new reality and frame a response factoring it in. It’s just as well that, in describing the Chinese action as “premeditated and planned”, foreign minister S Jaishankar has chosen to be forthright and called a spade a spade. The ball is in the court of China’s top leadership now. It must realise that it’s on the verge of losing India for at least a generation, if it doesn’t make quick recompense. The coming geopolitical fault lines will be between those interested in a rules based international order on the one hand, and China with surrogates on the other. If India definitively joins the former camp, it will be Beijing’s loss not New Delhi’s.

The Red Line

India must keep its focus on the primary objective — to restore status quo ante on the northern frontiers

The Indian Express, Delhi
June 18, 2020

A rash military response to the unacceptable incident at Galwan could inevitably lead to military escalation at multiple points on the contested frontier where the two armies are standing toe to toe.

As the details of Monday night’s encounter in the Galwan Valley come into view, there is growing national outrage at the killing of the Indian soldiers who went on a disengagement mission. Adding insult to injury, senior Chinese military officials, diplomats and the political leadership have put the blame squarely on India. But as the South Block statement put it, it was the PLA that sought to alter the status quo and a more responsible approach on Beijing’s part would have avoided significant number of deaths on both sides — Chinese soldiers took “pre-meditated and planned action” that was directly responsible for Monday’s clash, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has told his China counterpart Wang Yi in a phone conversation. While blaming the Indian Army for the unfortunate confrontation on Monday night and warning Delhi that it is prepared for further escalation, Beijing continues to offer talks to defuse the situation. This classic Chinese ploy that combines military aggression with appearances of political moderation calls for a sophisticated Indian response.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor at Gwadar, Karachi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief remarks on Wednesday, the first since the crisis broke out on the border in early May, sought to balance India’s desire for peace and de-escalation on the one hand and its determination to vigorously respond to Chinese provocations on the border. India’s leadership is fully conscious of the demands at home for retribution similar to the Indian bombing of a terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan last February following a terror attack on Indian soldiers at Pulwama in Kashmir. But it understands that reactions based on anger, however legitimate it might be, cannot be part of any sensible Indian strategy. India faces a very different set of circumstances on the northern frontiers with China than the one it faces on its western borders. Unlike Pakistan, which is much weaker than India and was vulnerable to multiple pressures, China is a much stronger military power than India.

A rash military response to the unacceptable incident at Galwan could inevitably lead to military escalation at multiple points on the contested frontier where the two armies are standing toe to toe. The economic costs of such an escalation would indeed be substantive and the political consequences severe. That does not mean Delhi should accept the new facts on the ground created by the People’s Liberation Army. The principal political objective of the Indian statecraft today is to restore the status quo that prevailed in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere before China’s expansive forward push in April. A three-fold strategy is critical for the realisation of that goal. One is the political will to escalate the military confrontation if it becomes necessary; second is the closing of domestic ranks and the demonstration of national resolve to bear the economic and political costs of escalation; and finally, the commitment to a sustained dialogue to complete the process of disengagement that was agreed upon earlier this month. In short, Delhi’s message to domestic and international audiences must be a simple yet credible one — that India will do whatever it takes to restore the status quo ante on the northern frontiers.

Given The Threat From China, India and US Have To Hang Together or Hang Apart

The Times of India, Delhi
June 19, 2020

US President Donald Trump has just signed into law a legislation that condemns human rights violations of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province. The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, 2020 paves the way for imposing sanctions against senior Chinese officials. This is a welcome move because China has incarcerated more than a million Uighurs in Xinjiang in its bid to Sinify the minority ethnic community. India should openly support the US move and add its own condemnation of China’s treatment of Uighurs.

NSA Ajit Doval with Chinese Foreign Minister in Delhi in December 2019

After the Galwan Valley skirmish in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and another 10 were captured — now released — by Chinese troops, India should leave no stone unturned to raise the diplomatic pressure on China. In this regard, coordination with the US is important. New Delhi’s and Washington’s interests vis-a-vis China have significant convergence today. Both see an assertive China as detrimental to a rules based order. A militaristic China can also impose conflict on both nations. Thus, it makes sense for India and the US to deepen their military and strategic alliance.

That said, a strategic alliance without an economic alliance lacks substance. Therefore, it is welcome that the US is considering restoring India’s beneficiary status under its Generalized System of Preferences programme as part of trade negotiations. Washington must realise that it needs India as its strategic ally to counter China and therefore should provide New Delhi with some leeway on trade.

China poses the biggest strategic challenge of the 21st century for both India and the US. Thus, New Delhi and Washington must work more closely to counter the Chinese threat.

Danger on LAC

 A sophisticated, multi-pronged strategy is needed to take on the China-Pakistan axis

The Times of India, Delhi
June 19, 2020

The phone conversation between foreign minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi appears to have yielded an agreement to de-escalate matters and deal fairly with the situation on the LAC. The key problem here is that there is no commonly agreed definition of the LAC, and the most pressing issue therefore is to arrive at one. But Beijing, which has demonstrated a marked propensity to change facts on the ground, may not be in a hurry to do so.

If a shooting war does break out, an excited Pakistan could jump into the fray as well. Pakistani guns and mortar opened up on Kupwara soon after the Galwan valley killings. Most Indian strategists and politicians tend to see the military threat from Pakistan in isolation. However, if a two front war with China and Pakistan does happen, then the invisible hand that props up Pakistan in its anti-India endeavours will have shown itself.

Once we reset our strategic lens to see the security threat from Pakistan as a subset of that from China, it’s evident that there is a power differential between India and the China-Pakistan axis. To address this, India cannot afford to be isolated. In the medium term, it will need to get into closer security alignments with the US and other major Western powers (Russia is likely to be neutral or even pro-China). In the short term, India should strengthen whatever positions it controls on the LAC, based on a realistic assessment, and prepare for any Chinese adventurism. It should also launch a strong diplomatic campaign in world capitals, highlighting Beijing’s aggressive and interventionist positions in territorial disputes with other nations, which threaten world peace.

It’s welcome that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called an all-party meeting to discuss the China issue. We certainly need national unity to face the Chinese threat. But fundamentally, we also need to bridge the power asymmetry with China by expanding our capacities. India’s second generation of reforms failed to take off under both UPA and current NDA governments, although there are some promising signs following the Covid crisis. Can the country just do what’s been known for a long time needs to be done, but has fallen through due to lack of political will? This will not only bridge the power gap with China, it would also make India a more prosperous and respected nation. Perhaps the PM can aim for a consensus on this.

Beijing Should Note

Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany believed they were unstoppable too. China is not the first power to be overwhelmed by hubris.

The Indian Express, Delhi
June 20, 2020 10:39:18 am

Appealing to China’s better angels at this juncture, then, might be futile. Yet, the CCP should know that China is not the first power to be overwhelmed by narcissism and hubris.

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump

In pushing India to a tipping point, China is close to losing the hard-won trust of the world’s second most populous nation and a large neighbour. If the 1962 war saw the freezing of bilateral relations for the next quarter of a century, the current crisis could lead to a chill that lasts longer. Keeping India’s trust, however, might look like a trivial matter to the current Chinese Communist Party leadership. India might be the world’s fifth largest economy, but it is one-fifth the size of China’s. Beijing is acutely sensitive to power differentials, and sees an India that is struggling to find an effective response to the Chinese manoeuvre in Ladakh. Of course, Communist China’s disdain is not exclusively for India. Beijing, which once benchmarked itself against Washington, is now contemptuous of the US and more broadly of the West that has found it hard to cope with the COVID crisis and seems at odds with itself. The CCP is telling itself that “Xi Jinping Thought” is the essence of “twenty-first century Marxism” and that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has triumphed over Western capitalism.

By all accounts, Beijing feels confident that it can confront all the major powers simultaneously. It bets that economic interdependence and political influence operations can easily break up any potential hostile coalition that might emerge within and among them. Coming to the Asian neighbours, the CCP believes that it owes no explanation for taking territories and waters that it claims as its own. It is convinced that China’s “historic rights” take precedence over international law and good neighbourliness — whether it is in the South China Sea or in the Himalayas. The sensitivities of its neighbours — from Japan to Indonesia and Philippines to India — hardly make an impression on the Chinese sense of entitlement today.

Appealing to China’s better angels at this juncture, then, might be futile. Yet, the CCP should know that China is not the first power to be overwhelmed by narcissism and hubris. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany believed they were unstoppable in Asia and Europe in the run-up to the Second World War. Soviet Russia, too, believed in the late 1970s that America was in irreversible decline after its humiliating defeat in Vietnam and a string of socialist revolutions, from Cambodia to Namibia and from Afghanistan to Mozambique. But the tide eventually turned against all the three great powers that ended up in history’s dustbin. Just as India struggles to understand the power impulses that drive China, the CCP could never fathom India’s political culture. It has been easy for Beijing to underestimate India’s strategic resilience that produces unity amidst crises. The CCP might also be under-estimating India’s tradition of “non-cooperation”. If Beijing does not step back and restore the status quo ante that existed prior to the crisis that began in May, it will compel Delhi to embark on a radical reorientation of its China policy. The CCP ought to have no doubt that the Indian people can and will step up to such a recalibration.

The Chinese Wall: Sino-Indian Economic Ties In Peril

The grim truth is that India accounts for less than 2 per cent of exports out of China. So a ban on Chinese products will not hurt Beijing

The Telegraph, Kolkata
June 20, 2020

The Narendra Modi government seems to have taken a battering ram to economic policy-making while hardening its resolve to retaliate against China for slaughtering 20 ‘unarmed’ Indian soldiers in Ladakh. The Centre is clearly being jolted into action by a rising clamour from hotheads within and outside the establishment to punish Beijing by boycotting Chinese products. This is easier said than done. China is one of India’s biggest trading partners and many businesses in India depend on the supply of goods and services and the flow of credit from China to keep their factories running. In the absence of alternatives, any policy amendment that targets Beijing by erecting tariff and non-tariff barriers will only undermine India’s economic interests.

Reports suggest that the Centre is reviewing its options and that the strictures it comes up with will severely circumscribe the extent of the Sino-Indian economic ties. China has a massive trade surplus with India, amounting to over $48 billion in 2019-20. The government intends to chip away at this surplus by raising duties on a host of products that Indian businesses source from China. In April, the Centre had changed the foreign direct investment policy by deciding to subject equity fund flows from nations sharing a border with India to close scrutiny: this was a thinly-disguised attempt to stop China from grabbing control of stressed Indian companies whose valuations had been gouged by the pandemic. But after the skirmish in the Galwan Valley, the gloves are off.

The shoguns in industry have already started to voice concerns that the Centre may adopt measures that can scupper any chance of recovery in the manufacturing sector while clawing out the prospects of the services sector in areas like telecommunications. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has already been directed to rethink plans to secure telecom equipment from China when it upgrades its network. The axe is also likely to fall on a telecom equipment vendor like Huawei, which has been allowed to participate in the 5G trials in India. More than 100 Chinese companies are involved in infrastructure projects in India and any attempt to stop imports will wreck completion schedules with no recourse to force majeure reliefs. The start-ups in the technology sector have all raised money from Alibaba and Tencent Holdings and their future could turn horribly bleak if they cannot rustle up investors in the next round of funding. Indian companies operating in China — especially those in the technology sector like Infosys and TCS — and carmakers like the Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover could face retaliation if India decides to pull the trigger. The grim truth is that India accounts for less than 2 per cent of exports out of China. So a ban on Chinese products will not hurt Beijing. India, however, sources close to 14 per cent of all its imports from China. And then there is Hong Kong — the staging post for all investors who wish to do business with mainland China. Any attempt to snare the dragon will also queer the pitch for Indian businessmen who have operated out of the Chinese enclave for decades.

Restoring India’s Case, Credibility

PM must make a new, clear statement on China

Hindustan Times, Delhi
Jun 22, 2020

On Saturday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a much-needed clarification about Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s statement, on Friday, that there was no (external) presence in Indian territory. It said that PM was referring to the situation pertaining to the Galwan Valley, where Indian Army personnel had bravely foiled China’s attempts to erect structures and transgress on June 15. The clarification came a day after the PM’s statement, at an all-party meeting, created a political and diplomatic row. The original statement, read independently, had the potential of undermining India’s sovereign claims and its negotiating position, confusing India’s friends, providing diplomatic ammunition to China, and appearing contradictory to earlier positions of the external affairs and defence ministries. It also seemed contrary to reports about the situation in Pangong Tso — namely Chinese occupation of a central portion of the shore that was behind the Indian claims line, but is disputed and not under the sovereign control of either country. It also prompted other questions. If there had been no intrusion in Galwan Valley, what led to the violence on June 15? What is the restoration of status quo ante that India wants if there is no transgression?

This is Pangong lake through which the Line of Actual Control (LAoC) passes between China and India in Ladakh. It is on the banks of this lake that the tensions rise quite often. KL Image: Umer Asif

While the clarification has helped, Beijing will throw the original statement back at the Indian side during the coming negotiations. The considerable support India has overseas can potentially get eroded as friendly governments presume New Delhi is prepared to concede land. Domestically, the PM’s remark deepened political polarisation and led to accusations about government being less than transparent.

The PM has been remarkably sure-footed in the international arena and Friday’s statement was not in character. It is impossible to know whether it was a slip, or whether it was a strategic message meant to China to offer room for quiet de-escalation, or whether it was a political counter to the Opposition’s critique that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) had been breached, or whether, as the clarification noted, it was only about Galwan Valley. But irrespective of the motivations, the message sent out an ambiguous signal. The PM must speak again, and categorically address three issues: on Chinese transgression across the LAC, if any, in recent months; whether China is attempting to change the facts on the ground in Pangong Tso; and the current status in Galwan Valley. It is important to establish that the area that India has always claimed as its own is firmly under Indian control. There is sometimes value to strategic ambiguity in international politics. But this isn’t one of those. A new statement will help restore India’s stand.

Lost In Clarifications: On Modi’s LAC Statement

PM Modi’s remarks on the border clash are symptomatic of the govt’s poor messaging

The Hindu, Chennai
June 22, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments to an all-party meet on Friday, claiming there had neither been any intrusion by China nor was any intruder present, expectedly caused a political storm. Not only was the violence on the night of June 15 that claimed 20 Indian soldiers triggered by China erecting structures on India’s side of the LAC in the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops still remain present on Indian territory elsewhere in Ladakh, including on the northern bank of Pangong Lake. After the problems with his remarks were highlighted by the Opposition, the Prime Minister’s Office was moved to issue a much needed clarification on Saturday, stating the PM was only referring to the situation in the Galwan Valley “as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces” that foiled a Chinese transgression. Even if the PMO attributed the political storm to “a mischievous interpretation”, it is more than clear that the PM did not choose his words carefully. In fact, his remarks have already been seized upon by the Chinese state media, and were seen as endorsing Beijing’s claims that its troops did not cross the LAC and justifying the People’s Liberation Army’s recent actions. The MEA issued its own statement on Saturday, reiterating that the Chinese had crossed the LAC and erected structures across the line.

While it should be obvious that any speech that requires no less than two clarifications has serious problems with its messaging, the controversy has only underlined the government’s poor communication on the border issue. The tragic loss of lives followed more than six weeks of tensions in the Galwan Valley. During this time, the public was kept in the dark about what was transpiring along the LAC. True, sharing every detail in the public domain is not possible when it comes to negotiating sensitive issues of national security. Indeed, the solution to the current crisis, and the disengagement that is needed urgently at various points along the LAC, can make progress only through diplomacy. At the same time, a blanket of silence hardly serves the government’s interests. The absence of timely and credible information will only fuel speculation and alarm. The silence has also triggered unseemly domestic politics and a blame-game, at a time when India is confronting possibly its biggest national security challenge since Kargil. Friday’s all-party meet was certainly a step in the right direction, even if it perhaps came a few weeks too late. India’s China policy may be approaching as significant an inflection point as 1988, which marked the normalisation of ties after 1962. Crafting the way ahead for the relationship after the worst violence since 1967 will require a measured appraisal of how to purposively engage India’s biggest and most powerful neighbour. This cannot happen by being in denial or by attempting to obscure facts. The first step to a solution is a realisation of the nature and the magnitude of the problem.

A Long Game

In the contest with China it’s important to be strategic, not over-emotional

The Times of India, Delhi
June 22, 2020

It still remains murky what transpired recently along the LAC, including that fateful night last Monday when at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Galwan valley. Prime Minister Narendra Modi told an all party meet that no intruder is present on the Indian side, but it was clarified later that the statement applies only to Galwan valley. There have also been conflicting statements from government and BJP sources on whether the Indian soldiers in the fatal encounter were armed or unarmed. Probability points to the latter – as if they had firearms it’s very unlikely they would not have used them in mortal danger.

The government’s dilemma is understandable, as complete transparency may not be possible in a situation like this. Popular nationalism is constructed in a cartographic way, that is, it demands every inch of territory claimed on a map – no matter whether inhabited or very remote – be physically controlled by the government. However, this isn’t feasible in every situation.

In a way, the government is back to India’s pre-1962 situation vis-à-vis China. It has limited options at present – with a broken economy, coronavirus raging in the country, military spending and a defence-industrial complex inferior to China’s. Modi banked on his relationship with Xi much as Nehru banked on his relationship with Mao and Zhou; consequently, the focus was on the threat from Pakistan and not that from China. Now, metaphorically speaking, Modi may have to choose between two Nehrus: the one who told Parliament that Aksai Chin was a region where ‘not a blade of grass grew’ (wisely in retrospect, although he was widely reviled for it at the time), or the Nehru who, stymied by nationalist outrage, ordered a ‘forward policy’ and asked the army to ‘throw the Chinese out’ (the disastrous 1962 war happened thereafter).

Army convoy moving along Srinagar-Leh national highway, at Gagangeer in Kashmirs Ganderbal district on June 17, 2020. The road is safest road link to Ladakh where Chinese incursions have taken place. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

None of this is to say that New Delhi shouldn’t counter Beijing’s ‘salami slicing’ tactics along the LAC, or defend what it controls. But decisions have to be made depending on the balance and disposition of forces in every case, both military and diplomatic. It’s important here to be strategic, not emotional. To adopt a cricketing metaphor, this isn’t a T20 match where India will hit some sixers and defeat China. This is a Test match, which may last a generation or more. There are many more moves to come from China, in its bid to contain India. Perhaps it’s about this that the government should be transparent, and prepare a strategy.

All’s Unwell: Trouble On The LAC

Should PM’s assurance of territorial sovereignty being intact be read as tacit confirmation of the Chinese position on the matter?

The Telegraph, Kolkota
June 22, 2020

All’s not quiet on the Chinese front. The prime minister, however, thinks otherwise. At an all-party meeting — did it not come a bit late in the day? — Narendra Modi declared that no intrusion has taken place on Indian territory and ruled out the possibility of Indian posts being occupied by any adversary. The reality, as is often the case during Mr Modi’s regime, may offer a different, worrying picture. Twenty brave Indian soldiers lost their lives in an unprecedented confrontation with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley. If what Mr Modi says is true — India has not suffered any incursions — what led to the conflagration and the tragic fatalities on the Indian side? The Prime Minister’s Office has clarified that the statement reflected ground realities after the clash. This has only added to the confusion. Already, the Chinese embassy is on record saying that the Galwan Valley falls on the other side of the line of actual control, even though the site has been in India’s possession without any dispute for years. Should the prime minister’s assurance of territorial sovereignty being intact then be read as a tacit confirmation of the Chinese position on the matter? This can only mean that Mr Modi is not averse to redrawing the Sino-Indian map. Astoundingly, the prime minister and the foreign ministry seem to be talking at cross-purposes. After the martyrdom of Indian soldiers became public, the foreign ministry had clearly stated that all ‘activities’ — infiltration, presumably- had taken place on the Indian side of the line of actual control. This, along with several other statements, is consistent with reports that have been trickling in for a while, suggesting a massive Chinese presence in the area.

Northern Army Commander Visits Forward posts in Western Ladakh

Mr Modi has been elected prime minister by the people of India. He is mandated to inform the nation about the details of not just the death of India’s courageous jawans but also the status of the LAC. His evasiveness on a matter so crucial to national security is unpardonable. The responses to the searching questions posed by the Opposition, especially by Sonia Gandhi, during the course of the deliberations were unsatisfactory. It must be remembered that Mr Modi excels at the game of smoke and mirrors. After the terrorist attack in Pulwama, the prime minister — he had an election to win on that occasion — had ordered surgical strikes. The outcome of that raid remains a matter of conjecture. Moreover, there is no clarity yet on the lapses that led to the Pulwama attack in the first place.

China, unlike Pakistan, is a different kettle of fish altogether. Retaliation, whether military or economic, is not a feasible option. India, therefore, must fall back on diplomacy. Sadly, Mr Modi’s performance in diplomacy has been disastrous. In spite of several meetings with the Chinese premier, India is now staring at losses — of lives and, possibly, territory. Mr Modi has also managed to isolate most of India’s allies in the neighbourhood. Indians must reflect on Mr Modi’s solemn pledges at such a critical hour.

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