After National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to each other, the two sides “agreed” it was “necessary to ensure at the earliest complete disengagement of troops along the LAC” and “de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquillity.” The two sides have decided to “not allow differences to become disputes.” Even as some preliminary disengagement seems to have begun, it is a long road before a certain degree of normalcy will be restored to Sino-Indian ties. It can be assumed that now India’s ties with China will never be the same again even though the two sides will try their best to sound reassuring.
India’s new moves
Building adequate deterrence would be India’s highest priority. It has signalled that it is willing to bear economic costs with its decisions to keep Chinese companies out of government contracts, infrastructure and critical strategic sectors. Its decision last week to ban Chinese apps was a symbolic move to underscore that in the absence of a resolution to the boundary problem, economic and trade ties will not continue as before. PM Narendra Modi’s message from Ladakh was equally categorical that India was preparing for the long haul.
A new consensus seems to be evolving globally that China’s challenge to the basic norms of the extant global order cannot go unchallenged as the costs of inaction might be too high in the future. (Photo: Reuters)
China has its own set of calculations to make. While India’s assertion on multiple fronts is a new reality, Chinese policy-makers must confront, it is happening in a wider global context. From the West to the East, a new consensus seems to be evolving that China’s challenge to the basic norms of the extant global order cannot go unchallenged as the costs of inaction might be too high in the future. The global landscape, which till a few months back looked benign for China, has now turned against the Middle Kingdom in a manner that Chinese policymakers can ill afford to ignore.
While it started with the Communist Party of China’s mishandling of the pandemic, it has morphed into a worldwide concern about Beijing’s reluctance to abide by the basic norms of global conduct. China has been making its contempt clear for those who find in these norms a sanctity essential to preserve global stability. However, China’s revisionism is too stark to be managed by the liberal idealism of norms and institutions.
The institutional collapse was reflected in the way the WHO was manipulated by China during the initial phase of the Covid-19 crisis. The growing divide between China and the rest of the world was reflected in the inability of institutions like the UN Security Council and the G-20 to come up with a coherent response to one of the most significant human security issues of our times. Even as the world was trying to come to grips with Covid-19, China found an opportunity to enhance its geopolitical interests by targeting countries it thought were too vulnerable to respond. From the maritime frontiers of the South China Sea to the Himalayan frontiers, from the internal vicissitudes of the European Union to the legal framework of Hong Kong, everything has been fair game for the Chinese Communist Party’s desire to strengthen its hold on a domestic population that was weathering a downturn in the economy and a mismanaged health crisis.
Global political realities changed dramatically for China in a matter of months. Today, the pushback against Chinese aggression is at its sharpest. The Scott Morrison government in Australia has unveiled a more aggressive defence strategy which targets the threat from China, warning that “coercion, competition and grey-zone activities directly or indirectly targeting Australian interests are occurring now.” Even as China has been intruding into Japan's territorial waters more regularly, Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force training ships conducted exercises with Indian naval vessels in the Indian Ocean and Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono made it clear that China was “trying to change the status quo at the India border, in Hong Kong and in the East China Sea, South China sea.”
A reality check
Last month, the ASEAN underlined the limits of Beijing’s assertiveness by reaffirming “that the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) is the basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones, and the 1982 UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.” The US has piled up pressure on China with diplomatic engagements and an unprecedented show of force. For the first time since 2014, two US aircraft carrier groups are in the South China Sea soon after the People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) concluded its five days of drills around the contested Paracel Islands.
All this doesn’t imply that the CCP will relent just as a limited de-escalation exercise doesn’t mean that China will be giving up its enhanced claims along the LAC anytime soon. But the pressure is increasing and the message is clear: nations will stand up to coercion and challenge China’s thirst for power. The world must brace for its rise but China should also brace itself for a world that will not easily acquiesce to Beijing’s revisionism.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)