Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India will have to manage its conflict on its own


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The Galwan incident marked the new low in the India-China relations. Following it, there have been talks of a closer alliance with the U.S. This article analyses the utility, potential and the limitations of this approach.

Exploring the strategic options

  • As the border stand-off with China deepens, India will have to think of all possible strategic options that gives it leverage.
  • One of the options is new arrangements with other powers.
  • This is the right moment to mobilise international opinion on China.
  • But can this be translated into concerted global action to exert real pressure on China?

Things India should consider while forming alliance with the US

  • International relations are formed in the context of a country’s development paradigm.
  • India’s primary aim should be to preserve the maximum space for its development model, if it can actually formulate one.
  • India is not unique in this respect.
  •  The question for India is not just whether the US has a stake in India’s development, which it might.
  • But it is, rather, to ask whether India’s development needs will fit into the emerging US development paradigm.
  • Will the very same political economy forces that create a disengagement with China also come in the way of a closer relationship with India?
  • Some sections of American big business might favour India.
  • But the underlying political economy dynamics in the US are less favourable.
  • Will the US give India the room it needs on trade, intellectual property, regulation, agriculture, labour mobility, the very areas where freedom is vital for India’s economy?
  • Will a US hell-bent on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US, easily gel with an “atma nirbhar” Bharat?
  • To see what is at stake, we just need to look how the development paradigm is driving tensions on trade, taxation and regulatory issues between the US and EU.

Why India avoided alignment with the US in the past

  •  But the drivers of this have often been legitimate differences over development, including climate change.
  • It has also been that, at various points, that alignment was against India’s other strategic commitments.
  • India was wise to stay out of the war in Iraq, it was wise not to upset Russia.
  • It is wise not to throw its weight behind the US’s Iran policy.
  • There is more maturity in the US to understand India’s position.

Global reluctance in collective action against China

  • It is an odd moment in global affairs, where there is recognition of a common challenge emanating from China.
  • But there is no global appetite to take concerted action.
  • An interesting example might be the global response to the BRI.
  • Many countries are struggling to meet their BRI debt obligations.
  • But it is difficult to see the rest of the international community helping all these countries to wean their regimes away from dependence on Chinese finance.
  • Similarly, there are now great concerns over frontier areas of conflict like cyber security and space.
  • It is difficult to imagine concerted global action to create rules in these area, partly because Great Powers like the US and Russia will always want to maintain their exceptionalism.

Limitations of global alliance and public opinion in solving local conflicts

  • 1) The international community has not been very effective in neutralising
  •  exercised by some powers.
  • This is the tactic Pakistan has used.
  • 2) Don’t count on the fact that the world will support an Indian escalation beyond a point.
  • The efforts of the international community, in the final analysis, will be to try and throw cold water on the conflict.
  • No one has a serious stake in the fate of the terrain India and China are disputing.
  • At the end of the day, India has to manage China and Pakistan largely on its own.


Even as we deal with the military situation on the border, the test of India’s resolve will be its ability to return to some first principle thinking about its own power.

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Arun Prasath
Arun Prasath
2 years ago

“It is true that the issue is an impending global one, but as of now India has to make a move without the intervention of a coalition. Rather than
waiting for external support, a move has to be made. I read about this from my favourite and most trusted resource for political updates”