[op-ed snap] Making the Doklam standoff useful for India

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Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“Rather than resting on its laurels, India should be prepared with its diplomatic and military apparatus should China try another adventure” Discuss

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India-China relations


News

Context

  1. The India-China standoff in Doklam, came to an end on Monday after more than two months
  2. The Indian side has withdrawn from Doklam and China has ceased its road construction activities, which had triggered the standoff in the first place.
  3. China has saved face by portraying the endgame as India’s unilateral withdrawal to its domestic audience.
  4. The Indian withdrawal has come in exchange for the Chinese concession of not going ahead with the road construction.

What made Beijing budge from its position?

  1. India’s military advantage in the Sikkim sector that would have made any escalation costly for China
  2. Chinese concerns regarding the overhang of Doklam during the forthcoming Brics summit, which they will be hosting in Xiamen, must have also played a part.
  3. President Xi Jinping would also have wanted to ward off even a remote chance of an embarrassment before the 19th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party, to be held later this year.

Important lessons to be learnt from this standoff

  1. China’s tactical retreat should not lull India into a belief that the former will stop deploying its time-tested technique of using incursions into disputed or others’ territories
  2. China is now increasingly adept at changing the facts on disputed territories and waters to present rival claimants with a fait accompli
  3. But  India used denial tactics to physically prevent China from altering the facts on the ground
  4. China’s rise presents a daunting challenge to India’s primacy in South Asia.
  5. Beijing is well aware of its disadvantages in Chumbi Valley—but it was to create a rift between New Delhi and Thimphu. Thimphu maintained its calm endorsed India’s position by calling for a return to the status quo ante.
  6. But India’s relations with other South Asian neighbours are not as strong as with Bhutan. New Delhi has met with some limited success due to the presence currently of friendly regimes in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
  7. In Pakistan, China has facilitated the creation of a nuclear-armed state which deploys terrorists against India to achieve its territorially revisionist goals.
  8. Another challenge is headed India’s way through the activities of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean

Way forward

  1. India should be prepared with its diplomatic and military apparatus to prevent Doklam-type unilateral adventurism again.
  2. India should also exploit its advantages of geography and cultural affinities to present its economic growth as a veritable opportunity for neighbours through higher volumes of trade, greater investment flows and better connectivity.
  3. It is also time—in light of the changed circumstances that China’s rise presents—to discuss an even closer military partnership with the US and Japan.
  4. Such a move may have its downsides but it is important to weigh them against the benefits rather than continue debating the utility of concepts as outdated as non-alignment and as mythical as strategic autonomy
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China
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