Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Three pronged strategy to deal with China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China border dispute

The LAC has been exploited by China as leverage against India. And failure on our part to understand long-term strategic aims and objective of China makes the problem hard to solve. This article suggests a three-pronged approach to deal with China.

Incomprehension of aims and objectives

  •  There is incomprehension among our decision-makers of the long-term strategic aims and objectives that underpin China’s belligerent conduct.
  • We have not devoted adequate intellectual capital, intelligence resources and political attention to acquisition of a clear insight into China and its motivations.
  • Even when intelligence is available, analysis and dissemination have fallen short.

What China’s Defence White Papers suggest

  • These thematic public documents articulate China’s national security aims, objectives and vital interests and also address the “ends-ways-means” issues related to its armed forces.
  • The 11 DWPs issued so far are a model of clarity and vision, and provide many clues to current developments.
  • No Indian government since Independence has deemed it necessary to issue a defence white paper, order a defence review or publish a national security strategy.
  • Had we done so, it may have prepared us for the unexpected and brought order and alacrity to our crisis-response.

China uses LAC as strategic leverage

  • In order to show India its place, China had administered it a “lesson” in 1962.
  • And it may, perhaps, be contemplating another one in 2020, with the objective of preventing the rise of a peer competitor.
  • For China, the line of actual control or LAC, representing an unsettled border, provides strategic leverage.
  • Leverage it can use to keep India on tenterhooks about its next move while repeatedly exposing the latter’s vulnerabilities.

1993 Agreement didn’t benefit India

  • Our diplomats derive considerable satisfaction from the 1993 Border Peace & Tranquility Agreement.
  • This agreement, according to former foreign secretary, Shivshankar Menon, “…effectively delinked settlement of the boundary from the rest of the relationship”.
  • But by failing to use available leverage for 27 years, and not insisting on bilateral exchange of LAC maps, we have created a ticking time-bomb, with the trigger in China’s hands.
  • While “disengagement” may soon take place between troops in contact, it is most unlikely that the PLA will pull back or vacate any occupied position in Ladakh or elsewhere.
  • In which case, India needs to consider a three-pronged strategy.

What should be India’s three-pronged strategy?

1. Reinforce at ground level

  • At the ground-level, we need to visibly reinforce our positions, and move forward to the LAC all along.
  • We should enhance the operational-tempo of the three services as a measure of deterrence.
  • Indian warships should show heightened presence at the Indian Ocean choke-points.
  • Cyber emergency response teams country-wide should remain on high alert.
  • We should build-up stocks of weapons, ammunition and spares.
  • The Ministry of Defence should seize this opportunity to urgently launch some long-term “atma-nirbharta” schemes in defence-production.

2. At strategic level: Modus vivendi

  • At the strategic level, the government should consider sustained process of engagement with China at the highest politico-diplomatic echelons.
  • The negotiations should seek multi-dimensional Sino-Indian modus-vivendi; encompassing the full gamut of bilateral issues like trade, territorial disputes, border-management and security.
  • Simultaneously, at the grand-strategic level, India should initiate a dialogue for the formation of an “Indo-Pacific Concord for Peace and Tranquility”.
  • This Concord should involve inviting four members of the Quad as well as Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia.

3. Political pragmatism

  • As a nation, we need to be pragmatic enough to realise that neither conquest nor re-conquest of territory is possible in the 21st century.
  • Parliament should, now, resolve to ask the government, “to establish stable, viable and peaceful national boundaries”.

Consider the question “With changing relations with China, India needs to overhaul its strategy on the ground, strategic and political levels in dealing with China”


This three-pronged approach while comprehending the Chines objectives and goals can help India in dealing successfully with the challenge posed by China.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch