Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Making sense of moves of China

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Galwan valley

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations, role of intelligence, limits of summit diplomacy

The role played by intelligence and emphasis on Summit diplomacy in relation with China are the two issues discussed in this article. So, what went wrong in Galwan incident from the intelligence point of view? And what are the perils of Summit diplomacy? Read to know...

Galwan-New and fractious phase

  • What occurred in the Galwan heights on June 15, must not be viewed as an aberration.
  • It would be more judicious to view it as signifying a new and fractious phase in China-India relations.
  • Even if the situation reverts to what existed in mid-April India-China relations appear set to witness a “new and different normal”.
  • China’s reaction has been consistent — India must move out of Galwan.
  • This is something that India cannot ignore any longer.
  • Galwan incident cannot be viewed as a mere replay of what took place in Depsang (2013), Chumar (2014) and Doklam (2017).
  • This is a new and different situation and India must not shrink from addressing the core issue that relations between India and China are in a perilous state.

Close and careful analysis of China’s claim is necessary

  • China’s assertion of its claim to the whole of the Galwan Valley needs close and careful analysis for following reasons-
  • 1) Point 14 gives China a virtual stranglehold over the newly completed, and strategically significant, Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road, which leads on to the Karakoram Pass.
  • 2) The strategic implications for India of China’s insistence on keeping the whole of the Galwan Valley are serious as it fundamentally changes the status quo.
  • 3) By laying claim to the Galwan Valley, China has reopened some of the issues left over from the 1962 conflict.
  • And this demonstrates that it is willing to embark on a new confrontation.

LAC and claim line of China

  • Ambiguity has existed regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in this sector.
  • The Chinese “claim line” is that of November 1959.
  • For India the LAC is that of September 1962.
  • In recent years, both sides had refrained from reopening the issue, but China has never given up its claims.
  • By its unilateral declaration now, China is seeking to settle the matter in its favour. India needs to measure up to this challenge.

Importance of Aksai Chin

  • The importance of Aksai Chin for China has greatly increased of late, as it provides direct connectivity between two of the most troubled regions of China, viz., Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • This does not seem to have been adequately factored in our calculations.
  • While Indian policymakers saw the reclassification of Ladakh as purely an internal matter.
  • They overlooked the fact that for China’s military planners it posited a threat to China’s peace and tranquillity.

Intelligence capabilities

  • Admittedly, the timing and nature of China’s actions should have aroused keen interest in intelligence circles about China’s strategic calculations.
  • The Chinese build-up in the Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Hotsprings-Gogra did not require any great intelligence effort, since there was little attempt at concealment by the Chinese.
  • India also possesses high-quality imagery intelligence (IMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities.
  • These capabilities are distributed between the National Technical Research Organisation, the Directorate of Signals Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence and other agencies.
  • Which made it possible to track Chinese movement.
  • Where intelligence can be faulted is with regard to inadequate appreciation of what the build-up meant, and what it portended for India.
  • This is indicative of a weakness in interpretation and analysis of the intelligence available.
  • And also of inability to provide a coherent assessment of China’s real intentions.
  • Intelligence assessment of China’s intentions, clearly fell short of what was required.
  • While India’s technological capabilities for intelligence collection have vastly increased in recent years, the capacity for interpretation and analysis has not kept pace with this.
  • Advances in technology, specially Artificial Intelligence have, across the world, greatly augmented efforts at intelligence analysis.

Who has the responsibility of intelligence assessment and analysis

  • The principal responsibility for intelligence assessment and analysis concerning China, rests with the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
  • To a lesser extent, it remains with the Defence Intelligence Agency.
  • The decision of the NSCS to dismantle the Joint Intelligence Committee has contributed to a weakening of the intelligence assessment system.
  • In the case of the R&AW, lack of domain expertise, and an inadequacy of China specialists might also have been a contributory factor.

Adverse impact of certain policy measures

  •  The preference given recently to Summit diplomacy over traditional foreign policy making structures proved to be a severe handicap.
  • Summit diplomacy cannot be a substitute for carefully structured foreign office policy making.
  • Currently, India’s Summit diplomacy has tended to marginalise the External Affairs Ministry with regard to policy making, and we are probably paying a price for it.
  • As it is, the Ministry of External Affairs’s (MEA) stock of China experts seems to be dwindling.
  • And MEA’s general tilt towards the U.S. in most matters, has resulted in an imbalance in the way the MEA perceives problems and situations.

Conclusion

Along with the other factors, India should also focus on intelligence analysis and interpretation and make sure there are enough China experts in the MEA.

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