Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Neither war nor peace between India and China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The article analyses the challenges in the India-China border dispute and the recent events of Chinese aggression.

Trust deficit

  • The recent Chinese actions have set back trust between the two countries by decades.
  • Trust made sense when both sides could assume that the other side either did not have the capacity or would not rapidly deploy troops in strategic positions at the border.
  • With the building of infrastructure on both sides, this trust was bound to break.
  • Even after temporary disengagement, both sides will now have distrust about the deployment of the other side.
  • An infrastructure-thick environment will require a permanent presence and closer deployments.


  •  At the level of the army, India seems to have consistently misread the PLA’s intentions.
  •  The closer the armies get, the greater the risks.
  • There is a political logic that does not bode well. There is still speculation on why the Chinese are taking an aggressive posture.
  • The very fact that we are not sure of Chinese motives means it is hard to know their endgame.

Chinese fears

  • At a basic level, they will want to secure their interests in CPEC.
  • Tibet issue has also been a sensitive issue for China.
  •  Chinese interest in Nepal is less to encircle India. It is to ensure Nepal is not used as a staging ground of resistance in Tibet.

Tibet issues in India-China relations

  • On Tibet issue India is in an awkward situation.
  • Due to the presence of the Dalai Lama in India, China will see it as a potential threat to its cultural hegemony in Tibet.
  • Ladakh and Tawang are also important pieces in that cultural consolidation.
  • The Sino-India peaceful relations were premised on keeping the Tibet issue in check.
  • But just as we are not sure of Chinese motives, they may not be sure of our motives either.

New paradigm in India’s foreign policy

  • India growing power means it needs a new paradigm of foreign policy.
  • This policy will supposedly safeguard India’s interests more assertively.
  • If diplomatically not well managed, this change also causes great uncertainty in the international system.
  • India’s Pakistan policy is premised entirely on keeping them guessing on what we might do, including possible military options and altering the territorial status quo.
  • Our domestic ideological articulation of India’s position ranges from reclaiming PoK to Aksai Chin.
  • We cannot abandon Tibetans.
  • This underscores a narrative of uncertainty over our intentions.


Our own trumpeted departure from the past, without either the diplomatic preparation, domestic political discipline, and full anticipation of military eventualities, does not make it easy for others to understand our endgame.

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