Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Postscript to a tragedy at Galwan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Galwan valley.

Mains level: Paper 2- India-China relations

The article suggests the approach that India should adopt in its policy toward China. Long term view of the situation is crucial. But some short term steps is also necessary.

Prelude to 1962 War

  • Revolt in Tibet and granting asylum to the Dalai Lama in March 1959 can be seen as start of tensions in relations.
  •  In October 1959, there was a face-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Kongka La.
  • With the conflict in 1962,  there was very little room for a reasoned, negotiated settlement on the boundary question between the two countries.

2020 is not same as 1959 for both India and China

  • Both nations have grown immensely in strength and stature on the world stage – even military wise.
  • Their relations have substance and a diversity of content in a manner absent in the 1950s – like the economic relations.
  • Hence, there is a need to not blame each other and find solutions instead of descent towards a full-blown conflict with China.

Weighing the options carefully

  • India at present is struggling at multiple fronts:
  • 1) COVID-19 crisis demands the full attention of the government.
  • 2) Economy is stagnant and needs recovery.
  • 3) Tensions on other fronts – Pakistan persist and Nepal dispute in the Lipulekh/Kalapani area.
  • Thus, the call by warmongers should be evaluated, that too critically.

Evolving comprehensive China policy

  • Strong political direction, mature deliberation and coherence are keys to handling the situation.
  • Army’s role can involve tactical adjustments and manoeuvres to deter the Chinese.
  • But comprehensive China strategy should be left to those tasked with national security policy.
  • Chinese transgressions in Sikkim and Ladakh can provide learning lessons for our future strategy.
  • A complete strategy would involve military, diplomatic and political levels.

Future plan of action – Defence

  • India should take the initiative on a timely and early clarification of the LAC.
  • Identify areas of conflict and mark such areas as demilitarized by both sides through joint agreement.
  • At the same time, India must stand resolute and firm in the defence of territory in all four sectors of the border.
  • Contacts between the two militaries — joint exercises and exchanges of visits of senior Commanders — should be scaled down for short term future.
  • Diplomatic channels must continue to be open and should not be restricted in any way as they are essential in the current situation.
  • A border settlement is part of long term strategy.

Future of business, trade and investment between two countries

  • Indian businesses in China and Chinese business operations in India can expect tougher future.
  • The scenario on trade and investments could encounter similar obstacles.
  • Areas of on national security, as in the cyber field and in telecommunications (5G) should take necessary reduction in import of Chinese items.

 India should strengthen alliances

  • The events in Galwan Valley should be a wake-up call to re invent it’s South and easAsia policy.
  • This is an opportunity for India to align its interests much more strongly with the U.S. as a principal strategic partner.
  • India should also infuse more energy into its relations with Japan, Australia, and the ASEAN.
  • The time has also come for India to reconsider its stand on joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
  • To disengage from economic involvement with China, and build the capacities and capabilities it needs in manufacturing, and in supply chains networks closer home, India has to think in the long terms.

Consider the question “The context of changing relations with China has forced India to reconsider the depth of its engagement with other countries. In light of this examine the changes India’s foreign policy adopt in dealing with other countries.”


Galwan incident is a wake up call for us. In every aspect, engagement with China needs a re look. And that also includes an increased level of engagement in South Asian neighborhood.

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