Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Significance of India’s talks with NATO


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : India-NATO relations

It has been learnt that India had held its first political dialogue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Brussels on December 12, 2019.

The idea was to ensure the dialogue was primarily political in character, and to avoid making any commitment on military or other bilateral cooperation.

What is NATO?

  • NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.
  • Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • NATO has spread a web of partners, namely Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland.

Why was it founded?

Ans. Communist sweep in Europe post-WWII and rise of Soviet dominance

  • After World War II in 1945, Western Europe was economically exhausted and militarily weak, and newly powerful communist parties had arisen in France and Italy.
  • By contrast, the Soviet Union had emerged from the war with its armies dominating all the states of central and Eastern Europe.
  • By 1948 communists under Moscow’s sponsorship had consolidated their control of the governments of those countries and suppressed all non-communist political activity.
  • What became known as the Iron Curtain, a term popularized by Winston Churchill, had descended over central and Eastern Europe.

Ideology of NATO

  • NATO ensures that the security of its European member countries is inseparably linked to that of its North American member countries.
  • It commits the Allies to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • It also provides a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation across the Atlantic.

Key feature: Article 5

  • Article 5 was a key part of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, or Washington Treaty, and was meant to offer a collective defence against a potential invasion of Western Europe.
  • It states: (NATO members) will assist the party or parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
  • However, since then, it has only been invoked once, soon after the 9/11 attack in the United States.

What is the significance of India’s talks with NATO?

  • India’s talks with NATO hold significance given that the North Atlantic alliance has been engaging both China and Pakistan in bilateral dialogue.
  • There was a view here that given the role of Beijing and Islamabad in New Delhi’s strategic imperatives, reaching out to NATO would add a key dimension to India’s growing engagement with US and Europe.
  • Until December 2019, NATO had held nine rounds of talks with Beijing, and the Chinese Ambassador in Brussels and NATO’s Deputy Secretary General engaged with each other every quarter.
  • NATO had also been in political dialogue and military cooperation with Pakistan; it opened selective training for Pakistani officers and its military delegation visited Pakistan in November 2019 for military staff talks.

Was there any common ground?

  • In New Delhi’s assessment, there was a convergence in the perspectives of both India and NATO on China, terrorism, and Afghanistan, including Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.
  • The first dialogue, it is learnt, revealed three critical issues on which India expected only limited common ground with NATO:
  1. NATO’s perspective: It was not China, but Russia whose aggressive actions continued to be the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and NATO had faced difficulties to convene meetings of the NATO-Russia Council due to Russian refusal to place issues such as Ukraine and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on the agenda.
  2. Divergence among NATO countries: NATOs view on China was seen as mixed; while it did deliberate on China’s rise, the conclusion was that China presented both a challenge and an opportunity.
  3. Divergences over Taliban: In Afghanistan, NATO saw the Taliban as a political entity, which was not in line with India’s stance. This was almost two years before the Taliban announced an interim government in Afghanistan in September 2021.

India-NATO talks: Is there a common ground on China?

  • In its first round of talks with NATO, New Delhi realised it did not share a common ground with the grouping on Russia and the Taliban.
  • With NATO’s views on China are mixed, given the divergent views of its members, India’s Quad membership is aimed at countering Beijing.
  • Otherwise, the alliance’s engagement with China and Pakistan separately would leave it with lopsided perspectives on regional and global security matters of concern to India, sourced said.

What are the next steps?

  • NATO delegation have expressed interest to continue engagement with India on a mutually agreed agenda.
  • In NATO’s view, India, given its geo-strategic position and unique perspectives on various issues, was relevant to international security and could be an important partner in informing the alliance about India’s own region and beyond.
  • As far as India is concerned, it was felt New Delhi may consider proposals emanating from NATO, if any, on bilateral cooperation in areas of interest to India, based on the progress achieved in the initial rounds.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Lessons for India from the Taiwan standoff


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Lessons for India in China-Taiwan crisis


The brief visit by the United States House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan, against stern warnings issued by China, has the potential to increase the already deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China. For those of us in India watching the events as they unfold around Taiwan, there are valuable lessons to be learnt.


  • The crisis that began with the visit of Ms. Pelosi to Taipei is still unfolding and there is little clarity today on how it will wind down.
  •  For China, its claims about a rising superpower might ring hollow if it is unable to unify its claimed territories, in particular Taiwan.
  • For the U.S., it is about re-establishing steadily-diminishing American credibility in the eyes of its friends and foes.
  • For Taiwan, it is about standing up to Chinese bullying and making its red lines clear to Beijing.
  • Lessons for India: To be fair, there is growing recognition in New Delhi that it is important to meet the challenge posed by a belligerent China, but there appears to be a lack of clarity on how to meet this challenge.
  • To that extent, the Taiwan crisis offers New Delhi three lessons, at the very least.

Takeaways for India

1] Articulate red lines

  • The most important lesson from the Taiwan standoff for policymakers in New Delhi is the importance of articulating red lines and sovereign positions in an unambiguous manner.
  •  New Delhi needs to unambiguously highlight the threat from China and the sources of such a threat.
  • Any absence of such clarity will be cleverly utilised by Beijing to push Indian limits, as we have already seen.
  • Stop confusing international community: Even worse, ambiguous messaging by India also confuses its friends in the international community.
  • If India does not clearly articulate that China is in illegal occupation of its territory, how can it expect its friends in the international community to support India diplomatically or otherwise?
  • In other words, India’s current policy amounts to poor messaging, and confusing to its own people as well as the larger international community, and is therefore counterproductive.

2] Avoid appeasement

  • Taiwan could have avoided the ongoing confrontation and the economic blockade during Chinese retaliatory military exercises around its territory by avoiding Ms. Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, or perhaps even keeping it low key.
  • Appeasement of China, Taiwan knows, is not the answer to Beijing’s aggression.
  •  India’s policy of meeting/hosting Chinese leaders while the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continue(d) to violate established territorial norms on the LAC is a deeply flawed one.
  • Unilaterally catering to Chinese sensitivities even during the standoffs between the two militaries is a mistake.
  • For instance, the parliamentary delegation visits and legislature-level dialogues between India and Taiwan have not taken place since 2017.
  • Soft-peddling of the Quad was a mistake: During the 2000s, India (as well as Australia) decided to soft-peddle the Quad in the face of strong Chinese objections.
  • It is only in the last two years or so that we have witnessed renewed enthusiasm around the Quad.
  • In retrospect, appeasing Beijing by almost abandoning the Quad was bad strategy.

3] Economic relationship is a two way process

  • Given that the economic relationship is a two-way process and that, as a matter of fact, the trade deficit is in China’s favour, China too has a lot to lose from a damaged trade relationship with India.
  • More so, if the Taiwan example (as well as the India-China standoff in 2020) is anything to go by, trade can continue to take place despite tensions and without India making any compromises vis-à-vis its sovereign claims.
  • India for sure should do business with China, but not on China’s own terms.


The recent crisis offers valuable lessons for India in its dealing with China.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s problem with top US senator visiting Taiwan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : US meddling in China-Tawian friction

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, landed in Taiwan, ignoring Chinese threats and a warning by President Xi Jinping to “not play with fire”.

Why in news?

  • Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is the highest-level visit by an American official to the island in a quarter century.
  • The senior US politician has been critical of China on multiple fronts over the decades.

US defiance of One China Policy

  • The US has maintained a ‘One China’ policy since the 1970s, under which it recognises Taiwan as a part of China.
  • But it has unofficial ties with Taiwan as well — a strategy that is known as strategic or deliberate ambiguity.
  • Beijing considers Taiwan a part of China, threatens it frequently, and has not ruled out taking the island by military force at any time.

Why does China have a problem with Pelosi visiting Taiwan?

  • For China, the presence of a senior American figure in Taiwan would indicate some kind of US support for Taiwan’s independence.
  • This move severely undermined China’s perception of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Brief history of China-Taiwan Tensions

  • Taiwan is an island about 160 km off the coast of southeastern China, opposite the Chinese cities of Fuzhou, Quanzhou, and Xiamen.
  • It was administered by the imperial Qing dynasty, but its control passed to the Japanese in 1895.
  • After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the island passed back into Chinese hands.
  • After the communists led by Mao Zedong won the civil war in mainland China, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the nationalist Kuomintang party, fled to Taiwan in 1949.
  • Chiang Kai-shek set up the government of the Republic of China on the island, and remained President until 1975.
  • Beijing has never recognised the existence of Taiwan as an independent political entity, arguing that it was always a Chinese province.

Taiwanese stance

  • Taiwan says that the modern Chinese state was only formed after the revolution of 1911.
  • It was not a part of that state or of the People’s Republic of China that was established after the communist revolution.
  • While the political tensions have continued, China and Taiwan have had economic ties.
  • Many migrants from Taiwan work in China, and China has investments in Taiwan.
  • No doubt, cultural ties are indispensable.
  • In recent years, Taiwan’s government has said only the island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their future and that it will defend itself when attacked.
  • Since 2016, Taiwan has elected a party that leans towards independence.

How does the world, and US, view Taiwan?

  • The UN does NOT recognise Taiwan as a separate country; in fact, only 13 countries around the world — mainly in South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and the Vatican — do.
  • In June, President Biden said that the US would defend Taiwan if it was invaded, but it was clarified soon afterward but America does not support Taiwan’s independence.
  • While the US has no formal ties with Taipei, it remains Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Taiwan between giants


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Taiwan issue


The US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan evoking strong protest from China.

Brief history of China-Taiwan Tensions

  • Taiwan is an island about 160 km off the coast of southeastern China, opposite the Chinese cities of Fuzhou, Quanzhou, and Xiamen.
  • It was administered by the imperial Qing dynasty, but its control passed to the Japanese in 1895.
  • After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the island passed back into Chinese hands.
  • After the communists led by Mao Zedong won the civil war in mainland China, Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the nationalist Kuomintang party, fled to Taiwan in 1949.
  • Chiang Kai-shek set up the government of the Republic of China on the island, and remained President until 1975.
  • Beijing has never recognised the existence of Taiwan as an independent political entity, arguing that it was always a Chinese province.

The US and One-China Principle

  • With the shifting geopolitics of the Cold War, the PRC and the U.S. were forced to come together in the 1970s to counter the growing influence of the USSR.
  • This led to the US-China rapprochement demonstrated by the historic visit of then US President Richard Nixon to PRC in 1972.
  • The same year, the PRC displaced ROC as the official representative of the Chinese nation at the UN.
  • Diplomatic relations with the PRC became possible only if countries abided by its “One China Principle” — recognizing PRC and not the ROC as China.

Why does China have a problem with Pelosi visiting Taiwan?

  • For China, the presence of a senior American figure in Taiwan would indicate some kind of US support for Taiwan’s independence.
  • This move severely undermined China’s perception of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China’s reaction

  • Increased military exercises around Taiwa : Military exercises around Taiwan have been expanded, with Chinese aircraft intruding more frequently across the informal median line which defines the zone of operations on each side.
  • Increased naval presence: Chinese naval ships are cruising within the Taiwan Straits and around the island itself.
  • Economic sanctions have been announced, prohibiting imports of a whole range of foodstuffs from Taiwan.
  • One item which will be left out is semi-conductors, a critical import for a range of Chinese high-tech industries.
  • Taiwanese firms like the Taiwan Semi-Conductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) are world leaders in the most sophisticated brands of chips imported by a large number of countries.
  •  The main target of China’s escalating response will be Taiwan.
  • Taiwan is indeed caught in the crossfire between China and the US and being a proxy in a fight between giants.

Implications for East Asia and South East Asia

  • Forced into making a choice: Just as Taiwan is caught in a crossfire between the US and China, so are the East Asian and South East Asian countries.
  • Prefer US military presence: They feel reassured by the considerable US military presence deployed in the region and tacitly support its Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • Strong economic ties with China: However, their economic and commercial interests are bound ever tighter with the large and growing Chinese economy.
  • This having it both ways strategy is beginning to fray at the edges with the escalating tensions between the US and China.
  • Most do not wish to be forced into making a choice.

What should be India’s approach?

  • Advantageous for India: In one sense, China’s preoccupation with its eastern ocean flank of the Yellow Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea is good for India.
  • It diminishes Chinese attention toward the Indian Ocean, India’s primary security theatre.
  • Adhere to One China Policy: Prudence demands that India hew closely to its consistent one China policy even while maintaining and even expanding non-official relations with Taiwan.
  • For the US, Japan and Australia, members of the Quad, Taiwan is a key component of the Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • It is not for India.


One should use the opportunity to expand India’s naval capabilities and maritime profile in this theatre before the Chinese begin to look to our extended neighbourhood with renewed interest and energy.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Taiwan Crisis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : One-China Principle

Mains level : India-Taiwan Relations

As US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived upsetting China, India was keenly watching the developments, although it has not yet commented on it.

What is the ‘One China’ policy?

  • It is the diplomatic acknowledgment of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government.
  • Taiwan’s government was set up by the Kuomintang, whose party logo is reflected in Taiwan’s flag
  • Initially, many governments including the US recognised Taiwan as they shied away from Communist China.
  • But the diplomatic winds shifted as China and the United States saw a mutual need to develop relations beginning in the 1970s, with the US and other countries cutting ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing.

Why is China obsessed with Taiwan?

  • Taiwan is the largest producer of electronic chips, which are supplied to almost all the industries, from phones to laptops, watches to game consoles, industrial equipment to automotive, and aircraft and fighter jets.
  • TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is the largest foundry in the world and holds around 65 percent of the global production of chips.
  • Any potential conflict with China would completely disrupt the entire supply chain of TSMC and labor availability, and could cause major shortage of electronic chips.
  • Additionally, China controls five percent of the global production of chips, which could also be affected.
  • This could further impact the already existing supply-demand gap for electronic components.

India- Taiwan Relations


  • India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan yet, as it follows the One-China policy.
  • However, during then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in December 2010, India did not mention support for the One-China policy in the joint communique.
  • In 2014, when PM Modi came to power, he invited Taiwan’s Ambassador Chung-Kwang Tien, along with Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration to his swearing-in.

Diplomatic ties

  • While following the One-China policy, India has an office in Taipei for diplomatic functions — India-Taipei Association (ITA) is headed by a senior diplomat.
  • Taiwan has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center (TECC) in New Delhi. Both were established in 1995.
  • Their ties focus on commerce, culture and education.
  • Now in their third decade, these have been deliberately kept low-profile, owing to China’s sensitivities.
  • For example, parliamentary delegation visits and legislature-level dialogues have stopped since 2017, around the time the India-China border standoff happened in Doklam.

The new push

  • Any significant development in India-Taiwan relations runs the risk of meeting with a likely stern reaction from Beijing.
  • This explains India’s steady, albeit slow, outreach to Taiwan.
  • Given that India-China relations are not likely to witness a return to normalcy in the near future, India should consider adopting a bold, comprehensive and long-term approach to engage Taiwan.



Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

UN panel tells Hong Kong to repeal National Security Law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Honkong, Taiwan

Mains level : Honkong, Taiwan issue

Hong Kong’s controversial national security law should be repealed, experts on the UN Human Rights Committee said, amid concerns the legislation is being used to crack down on free speech and dissent in the former British colony.

Why in news?

  • Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly used the NSL imposed by Beijing in 2020 to restore stability after the city was rocked for months by sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019.
  • The committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by state parties, released its findings on Hong Kong following a periodic review.
  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a signatory to the ICCPR but China is not.

About Hong Kong

  • A former British Colony and Autonomous Territory: Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, in south-eastern China.
  • It became a colony of the British Empire at the end of the First Opium War in 1842.
  • Sovereignty over the territory was returned to China in 1997.
  • Special Administrative Region (SAR): As a SAR, Hong Kong maintains governing power and economic systems that are separate from those of mainland China.
  • The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration guarantees the Basic Law for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty.
  • It does not specify how Hong Kong will be governed after 2047.
  • Thus, the central government’s role in determining the territory’s future system of government is the subject of political debate and speculation in Hong kong.

What is this law all about?

  • Hong Kong was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.
  • So this is about China stepping in to ensure the city has a legal framework to deal with what it sees as serious challenges to its authority.
  • The details of the law’s 66 articles were kept secret until after it was passed. It criminalises any act of:
  1. Secession – breaking away from the country
  2. Subversion – undermining the power or authority of the central government
  3. Terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people
  4. Collusion–  with foreign or external forces

What provisions do fall under the law?

  • The law came into effect at 23:00 local time on 30 June 2020, an hour before the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China from British rule.
  • It gives Beijing power to shape life in Hong Kong it has never had before.
  • Its key provisions include:
  1. Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison
  2. Damaging public transport facilities can be considered terrorism
  3. Those found guilty will not be allowed to stand for public office
  4. Companies can be fined if convicted under the law
  5. This office can send some cases to be tried in mainland China – but Beijing has said it will only have that power over a “tiny number” of cases
  6. In addition, Hong Kong will have to establish its own national security commission to enforce the laws, with a Beijing-appointed adviser
  7. Hong Kong’s chief executive will have the power to appoint judges to hear national security cases, raising fears about judicial autonomy
  8. Importantly, Beijing will have power over how the law should be interpreted, not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body. If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law takes priority
  9. Some trials will be heard behind closed doors.
  10. People suspected of breaking the law can be wire-tapped and put under surveillance
  11. Management of foreign non-governmental organizations and news agencies will be strengthened
  12. The law will also apply to non-permanent residents and people “from outside [Hong Kong]… who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong“.

What has changed in Hong Kong since the law was introduced?

  • Hundreds of protestors, activists and former opposition lawmakers have been arrested since the law came into force.
  • The arrests are an ominous sign that its crackdown on Hong Kong is only going to escalate.
  • Beijing has said the law is needed to bring stability to the city, but critics say it is designed to squash dissent.

Why did China do this?

  • Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997.
  • But under a unique agreement – a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called “one country, two systems” principle.
  • They are supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights – freedoms that no other part of mainland China has.
  • Under the same agreement, Hong Kong had to enact its own national security law – this was set out in Article 23 of the Basic Law – but it never happened because of its unpopularity.

How can China do this?

  • Many might ask how China can do this if the city was supposed to have freedoms guaranteed under the handover agreement.
  • The Basic Law says Chinese laws can’t be applied in Hong Kong unless they are listed in a section called Annex III – there are already a few listed there, mostly uncontroversial and around foreign policy.
  • These laws can be introduced by decree – which means they bypass the city’s parliament.
  • Critics say the introduction of the law this way amounts to a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is so important to Hong Kong – but clearly, it is technically possible to do this.

Must read:

[Burning Issue] National Security Law debate in Hong Kong


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Understanding the nature of US-Taiwan Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Taiwan as a new global flashpoint

The US President made a controversial statement on whether the US will come to the aid of Taiwan militarily in case of an invasion by China.

What is the Taiwan issue?

  • Taiwan is an island territory located off the coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait.
  • After their defeat to the communist forces in the Chinese civil war (1945-1949), the ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist) government of China fled to Taiwan.
  • They transplanted the Republic of China (ROC) government in Taiwan, while the Communist Party of China (CPC) established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the mainland.
  • Since then, the PRC considers the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification by peaceful means, if possible.

Game changer: Cold war affiliations

  • Meanwhile, the ROC retained its membership at the United Nations and its permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC).
  • The cross-strait relations became strained as a result of the Cold War, with the PRC allying itself with the Soviet Union (USSR) and ROC with the U.S.
  • This resulted in the two Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s.

The US and One-China Principle

  • With the shifting geopolitics of the Cold War, the PRC and the U.S. were forced to come together in the 1970s to counter the growing influence of the USSR.
  • This led to the US-China rapprochement demonstrated by the historic visit of then US President Richard Nixon to PRC in 1972.
  • The same year, the PRC displaced ROC as the official representative of the Chinese nation at the UN.
  • Diplomatic relations with the PRC became possible only if countries abided by its “One China Principle” — recognizing PRC and not the ROC as China.

Rise of Taiwan

  • Taiwan transitioned from a single party state to a multi-party democracy.
  • At the same time that China reformed its economic system under Deng Xiaoping, and by the end of the Cold War they became economically entangled.
  • Nevertheless, they continue to compete for international recognition and preparing themselves for the worst possible scenario.

How has the US’s stance on the Taiwan question evolved vis-à-vis China?

  • The very foundation of the US rapprochement as well as its recognition of the PRC is a mutual understanding on the Taiwan question.
  • This has been outlined in three documents — the Shanghai Communique (1972), the Normalisation Communique (1979) and the 1982 Communique.
  • According to the 1972 communique, the US agreed to the ‘one China principle’, with an understanding that it “acknowledges” and “does not challenge” that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait.
  • It maintained that there is one China and Taiwan is a part of China.
  • However, the US also established unofficial relations with Taiwan through this communique in the name of the people of both the countries.

 Why is the issue significant today?

  • As Taiwan’s democracy flourished, the popular mood drifted towards a new Taiwanese identity and a pro-independence stance on sovereignty.
  • The past decade has seen considerable souring of ties across the Strait, as the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) became the most powerful political force in Taiwan.
  • The DPP government has been catering to the pro-independence constituency in Taiwan and seeks to diversify economic relations away from China.
  • China has always seen Taiwan as a territory with high geopolitical significance.
  • This is due to its central location in the First Island Chain between Japan and the South China Sea, which is seen as the first benchmark or barrier for China’s power projection.

Why is China so obsessed with Taiwan?

  • Taiwan is at China’s geostrategic calculus.
  • Moreover, its reunification will formally bury the remaining ghosts of China’s “century of humiliation”.
  • China under Xi Jinping seems to have lost its patience and currently sees very slim chances of a peaceful reunification.
  • China usually makes aerial transgressions in Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).
  • Also, this build-up of tensions is happening simultaneously and drawing parallels with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Is US strategy towards Taiwan witnessing a major transformation?

  • The US strategy towards Taiwan in light of the unresolved nature of the cross-Strait relations has been marked by what has been called “strategic ambiguity”.
  • This is under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979.
  • As per the TRA, the US has stated clearly that the establishment of bilateral relations with the PRC rests upon “the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means”.
  • It also states the US policy to maintain the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardise the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.
  • Hence, there is no clear guarantee here that the US will militarily involve in a situation where China attempts to invade Taiwan, short of supplying “defensive weapons”.

Enjoying the ambiguity

  • The US has for long utilized this strategic ambiguity with its own interpretation of the ‘one China principle to maintain its strategic interests in the Western Pacific.
  • It is in this context that Mr. Biden’s statements have made controversy.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Illegal fishing by China in the Indo-Pacific


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : QUAD

Mains level : IIU fishing and related issues

In order to check China’s illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific region, the Quadrilateral Security Alliance (Quad) has planned to launch a satellite-based surveillance initiative.

What is the news?

  • The leaders of Quad are reported to be getting ready to unveil a maritime surveillance initiative to protect exclusive economic zones in the Indo-Pacific against environmental damage.

How will the proposed maritime surveillance system work?

  • The initiative will use satellite technology to connect existing surveillance centres in India, Singapore and the Pacific.
  • This will help establish a tracking system to combat illegal, unregulated and unprotected (IUU) fishing.
  • The satellite-enabled dragnet will track IUU fishing activities from the Indian Ocean and South-east Asia to the South Pacific.
  • The idea is to monitor illicit fishing vessels that have their AIS (automatic identification system) transponders turned off to evade tracking.
  • The move by the Quad security group is also seen to be aimed at reducing the small Pacific island nations’ growing reliance on China.

Why is illegal fishing seen as such a big threat?

  • The unregulated plunder of global fishing stock poses a grave threat to the livelihood and food security of millions of people.
  • Globally, fish provide about 3.3 billion people with 20% of their average animal protein intake.
  • According to an FAO report, around 60 million people are engaged in the sector of fisheries and aquaculture.
  • While the economic loss from illegal fishing has been difficult to precisely quantify, some estimates peg it around USD 20 billion annually.

Threats posed by IUU Fishing

  • Illegal fishing has now replaced piracy as a global maritime threat.
  • In the Indo-Pacific region, like elsewhere, the collapse of fisheries can destabilise coastal nations.
  • It poses a much bigger security risk, as it can fuel human trafficking, drug crime and terror recruiting.

Why is China in the dock?

  • The 2021 IUU Fishing Index, which maps 152 coastal countries, ranked China as the worst offender.
  • China is considered responsible for 80% to 95% illegal fishing in the region after having overfished its own waters.
  • It, in fact, is known to incentivise illegal fishing with generous subsidies to meet its growing domestic demand.

China and distant-water fishing (DWF)

  • China’s DWF fleet has almost 17,000 vessels and is the largest in the world.
  • Vessel ownership is highly fragmented among many small companies and the fleet includes vessels registered in other jurisdictions.

Issues with Chinese IUU Fishing

  • Chinese are often accused of pillaging ocean wealth with great sophistication and with little regard for maritime boundaries.
  • China also uses them to project strategic influence and to bully fishing vessels from weaker nations.
  • China uses destructive practises such as bottom trawling and forced, bonded and slave labour and trafficked crew, alongside the widespread abuse of migrant crewmembers.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

What is China’s Global Security Initiative?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GSI

Mains level : Chinese counter to Western Indo-Pacific strategy

Chinese President Xi Jinping last week proposed a “Global Security Initiative” to promote security for all in the globe.

What is Global Security Initiative?

  • Conceived as a global public good, the initiative seeks to promote world peace and stability by fostering equity and justice among nations.
  • To do this, Xi defined his proposal in six areas:
  1. Stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and work together to maintain world peace and security;
  2. Stay committed to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, uphold non-interference in internal affairs, and respect the independent choices of development paths and social systems made by people in different countries;
  3. Stay committed to abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, reject the Cold War mentality, oppose unilateralism, and say no to group politics and bloc confrontation;
  4. Stay committed to taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously, uphold the principle of indivisible security, build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, and oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security;
  5. Stay committed to peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, support all efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of crises, reject double standards, and oppose the wanton use of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction;
  6. Stay committed to maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains, and work together on regional disputes and global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity, and biosecurity.

It is quite ironic that China has never adhered to any of the above-stated lofty principles and now is preaching them to the world.

Key propositions made by Xi

  • China opposes the wanton use of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction, appearing to refer to Western sanctions.
  • He said “some countries” were “eager to engage in exclusive ‘small circles’ and ‘small groups’”, terms Chinese officials have used previously to describe the Quad and the AUKUS (Australia-U.K.-U.S.) security pact.
  • He firmly opposed the use of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy to divide the region and create a ‘new Cold War’, and the use of military alliances to put together an ‘Asian version of NATO’.
  • According to him, China upholds true spirit of multilateralism.

A critical assessment of Xi’s speech

  • The idea of a world-encompassing security mechanism sounds like what China’s ancient emperors might have proposed.
  • Diplomats are under pressure to dissect the meaning but are having a hard time: Xi’s speech contained only abstract Chinese words and idioms.
  • One thing is very clear, China always comes out with an excessively large framework that nobody objects to.
  • The idea is that even if countries don’t agree wholeheartedly, at least they can’t fully oppose it.


  • Chinese criticism of unilateralism, hegemony and double standards is usually aimed at the U.S.
  • Xi envisions a gradually weakening America replaced by a multipolar world in which China is a major player.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Nepal’s dwindling Forex Reserves


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forex reserves, BoP

Mains level : Economic crisis in India's neighbourhood

In an unusual development, the Nepali PM sacked the head of its central bank accusing him of leaking sensitive information and for failing to perform his duties.

What is the news?

  • Nepal’s forex reserves have plummeted by 18.5% to $9.58 billion in March from $11.75 billion in July 2021.
  • The current forex reserves are not enough to pay the government’s import bills beyond the next seven months or so.
  • Nepal’s central bank recently announced a ban on the import of vehicles and other luxury items, citing liquidity crunch and declining foreign exchange reserves.
  • It is rumoured that the Nepali economy will go into a crisis like Sri Lanka.

Why have Nepal’s forex reserves fallen?

  • Nepal’s forex reserves situation appears healthy as of now as the country, unlike Sri Lanka, is not burdened by external debt.
  • There are, however, concerns that the lower middle-income economy is being battered repeatedly by external factors and that may precipitate a crisis sometime soon.
  • Nepal which is blessed with one of the finest tourism sectors in South Asia, because of the Himalayan mountain range, suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic as global tourist flow fell.
  • This is followed by the global energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • This has put extraordinary inflationary pressure on the economy.

How bad is the situation?

  • Nepal’s economy is highly dependent on imports as the country buys a range of merchandise goods apart from fuel.
  • The prevailing weak economic indicators mean that Nepal is spending from its forex reserves faster than it can save.
  • Economists contend that Nepal will soon have double-digit inflation. All economic indicators are declining.
  • The real shortfall in forex reserves is because of the decline in foreign remittances which suffered during the pandemic when the Nepalese workforce abroad suffered job losses.

Can the energy scene in Nepal escalate economic woes?

  • Nepal’s history shows that any uncertainty regarding fuel can trigger serious internal problems as was visible during the 2015-16 blockade when disruption of fuel supply from India.
  • Nepal’s primary supplier of energy is Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).
  • Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) pays IOC in two installments every month, on the 8th and the 23rd.
  • The NOC has been in crisis for months as high global prices depleted the company’s savings, prompting it to approach the government for a lifeline.
  • The Government of Nepal has agreed to provide NOC the necessary amount to continue supplies from IOC.
  • NOC’s financial status makes it unattractive for banks and as a result the public sector company does not enjoy confidence in the market.

Paradoxical situation

  • The government is in a paradoxical situation: It has to control imports of products from which it earns the highest amount of tax revenue.
  • Luxury items are the country’s major source of revenue.
  • If revenue shrinks, an economic crisis could be imminent.

Impact on elections

  • Nepal will hold local level polls next month which will be followed by general elections towards the end of the year.
  • The election process requires considerable financial allocation and Nepal has received support in the past for elections from international donors like the USAID.
  • These donors help in carrying out pre-election staff training and logistics that are part of any democratic process.
  • But there are uncertainties considering the bleak financial situation.
  • It will require at least 10 billion Nepali rupees for the election process and that will mean diversion of a large amount of resources for the democratic process.

Quick recap: Sri Lankan Crisis

  • Like Nepal, Sri Lanka is a country with a small economy. The Sri Lankan economy is around 1.5 times bigger than Nepal’s.
  • Sri Lanka’s economic crisis was in the making since it suffered a terrorist attack in 2019 which hit its tourism industry, a major contributor to the GDP.
  • Then came the pandemic, which further wiped out tourism incomes. Then there were debt burdens in dollars.
  • The political leadership failed to act to address the looming crisis.
  • The Rajapaksha dynasty made some wrong moves—it cut taxes and started printing money, hugely devaluing the currency.
  • In what looked like a well-intentioned move towards organic farming, the county banned imports of chemical fertilisers. Paddy production failed. The country ran out of money to pay its bills.

Is Nepal really going the way of Sri Lanka?

  • In Nepal, the situation is not as bleak.
  • Nepal’s current forex reserves are enough to pay for imports of goods and services for about seven and a half months.
  • Tourism, one of the major foreign currency earners, was hit hard by the pandemic, but its gradual revival has given a glimmer of hope.
  • Since Nepal’s currency is pegged to the Indian rupee, a massive devaluation shock is unlikely. Tourism is also rebounding, giving a fillip to foreign currency reserves.

Back2Basics: Foreign Exchange Reserves

  • Foreign exchange reserves are important assets held by the central bank in foreign currencies as reserves.
  • They are commonly used to support the exchange rate and set monetary policy.
  • In India’s case, foreign reserves include Gold, Dollars, and the IMF’s quota for Special Drawing Rights.
  • Most of the reserves are usually held in US dollars, given the currency’s importance in the international financial and trading system.
  • Some central banks keep reserves in Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, or Chinese yuan, in addition to their US dollar reserves.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Centre extends relief to Tibetan Committee by 5 years


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE)

Mains level : India's asylum to Tibetans

The Union government has extended the scheme to provide ₹40 crore grants-in-aid to the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) for another five years, up to fiscal year 2025-26.

Do you think that India’s support for the Tibetan cause is the root cause of all irritants in India-China relations?

What is CTRC?

  • The Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) was formed and registered as Charitable Society under Indian Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860.
  • It effectively acts as the Relief and Development Wing of Home Department, Central Tibetan Administration.
  • All the CTRC activities are carried out with consent and support from Board of Directors and approval from TPiE (Tibetan Parliament in Exile).

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE)

  • The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE) has its headquarters in Dharamsala, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • According to the Green Book of the Tibetan government-in-exile, over 1 lakh Tibetans are settled across India.
  • The remaining are settled in United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Mongolia, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland and various other countries.

Working of the TPiE

  • The Speaker and a Deputy Speaker head the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
  • It includes two members from each of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.
  • Other representatives are from the Tibetan Communities in North America and Europe; and from Australasia and Asia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan).
  • Till 2006, it used to be called as Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (ATPDs) with the chairman as its head and a vice-chairman.

Tibetan Constitution

  • The Central Tibetan Administration exists and functions on the basis of the Constitution of the Tibetan government called the ‘The Charter of the Tibetans in Exile’.
  • In 1991, The Constitution Redrafting Committee instituted by the Dalai Lama prepared the Charter for Tibetans in exile. The Dalai Lama approved it on June 28, 1991.
  • In 2001, fundamental changes happened with the amendment of the Charter that facilitated the direct election of the Kalon Tripa by the Tibetans in exile.
  • The Kalon Tripa is called Sikyong or president of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The Kashag (Cabinet)

  • The Kashag (Cabinet) is the Central Tibetan Administration’s highest executive office and comprise seven members.
  • It is headed by the Sikyong (political leader) who is directly elected by the exiled Tibetan population.
  • Sikyong subsequently nominates his seven Kalons (ministers) and seeks the parliament’s approval. The Kashag’s term is for five years.

A backgrounder: Democracy for Tibet

  • The Dalai Lama began democratization soon after he came to India during the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising.
  • He reportedly asked Tibetans in exile to choose their representatives through universal adult suffrage, following which polls were held for electing Tibetan Parliamentarians in 1960.
  • Democracy for the Tibetans, thus, began in exile.
  • The Dalai Lama, however, continued to remain the supreme political leader. On March 14, 2011, he relinquished his political responsibilities, ending a 369-year-old practice.

Is TPiE officially recognized by any country?

  • Not exactly, it is not recognised officially by any country, including India.
  • But, a number of countries including the USA and European nations deal directly with the Sikyong and other Tibetan leaders through various forums.
  • The TPiE claims its democratically-elected character helps it manage Tibetan affairs and raise the Tibetan issue across the world.
  • The incumbent Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay, was among the guests who attended the oath-taking ceremony of our PM in 2014, probably a first.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Delinking Depsang from the ongoing Ladakh border crisis is worrying


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aksai Chin

Mains level : Paper 2- Border conflict with China


In a recent television interview, the Indian Army Chief, General M.M. Naravane, argued that “out of the five or six friction points (in Ladakh), five have been solved”.

Friction points in Ladakh

  • ‘Friction point’ are the points of Chinese ingress into hitherto India-controlled territory in Ladakh, where this control is exercised by the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) through regular patrols to the claimed areas.
  • These ‘friction points’ are Depsang, Galwan, Hot Springs, Gogra, North bank of Pangong Tso, Kailash Range and Demchok.
  • By asserting that only one of the friction points is remaining to be resolved —  Hot Springs or PP15, Army Chief implicitly ruled out Depsang as an area to be resolved.
  • This attempt to delink the strategically important area of Depsang from the ongoing Ladakh border crisis is worrying.

Significance of Depsang

  • Depsang is an enclave of flat terrain located in an area the Army classifies as Sub-Sector North (SSN), which provides land access to Central Asia through the Karakoram Pass.
  • The Army has always identified Depsang plains as where it finds itself most vulnerable in Ladakh, devising plans to tackle the major Chinese challenge.
  • SSN’s flat terrain of Depsang, Trig Heights and DBO — which provides direct access to Aksai Chin — is suited for mechanised warfare but is located at the end of only one very long and tenuous communication axis for India.
  • China, in turn, has multiple roads that provide easy access to the area.
  • This leaves SSN highly vulnerable to capture by the PLA, with a few thousands of square kilometres from the Karakoram Pass to Burtse, likely to be lost.
  • Nowhere else in Ladakh is the PLA likely to gain so much territory in a single swoop.
  • SSN lies to the east of Siachen, located between the Saltoro ridge on the Pakistani border and the Saser ridge close to the Chinese border.
  • On paper, it is the only place where a physical military collusion can take place between Pakistan and China — and the challenge of a two-front war can become real in the worst-case scenario.
  • If India loses this area, it will be nearly impossible to launch a military operation to wrest back Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan.

Dangers of delinking Depsang

  • Invalidation of Indian claims: The biggest danger of delinking Depsang from the current border crisis in Ladakh, however, is of corroborating the Chinese argument, which invalidates the rightful Indian claim over a large swathe of territory. 
  • In sparsely populated areas like Ladakh, with limited forward deployment of troops, the only assertion of territorial claims is by regular patrolling. 
  • By arguing that the blockade at Y-junction predates the current stand-off — a ‘legacy issue’ that goes back years — the Chinese side can affirm that Indian patrols never had access to this area and thus India has no valid claim on the territory.


As was demonstrated by China in the aftermath of the 1962 War, there should be no holding back in painstakingly asserting one’s claims when it comes to safeguarding the territory.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The Indo-Pacific opportunity


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AUKUS

Mains level : Paper 2- Indo-Pacific challenge


The geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific, which is changing fast. As it moves into 2022, the region will carry the imprint of the past five years, and will have to chart a course through inter-state tensions and crises, using both diplomacy and military preparedness.

What will shape the geopolitics and geoeconomics of the Indo-Pacific?

  • Key players in the region: The region is central to world economy and peace, and nine countries are key players: the US, China, Japan, India, Germany, the UK, Russia, Australia and France.
  • The geopolitics and geo-economics of the Indo-Pacific will be largely shaped by the interplay of relations among these nations.
  • US-China relations: Of paramount importance is the US-China equation.
  • Expect this relationship to be marked by continually adversarial, competitive and cooperative traits.
  • Beijing’s south/east China policy, aggressive postures towards Taiwan, human rights violations in Xinjiang, the subjugation of Hong Kong’s citizenry and assertive economic outreach in the Indo-Pacific — these will weigh heavily on US-China relations.

A significant role of groupings and individual nations

  • In this standoff, the role of new groupings and individual nations is significant.
  • Role of Quad: Foremost are the Quad, a strategic partnership between the US, India, Japan and Australia and the militaristic AUKUS (Australia, UK, US). 
  • India-Australia ties: Meanwhile, India and Australia are on track to deepen ties, not only bilaterally but also with the other two Quad powers.
  • The next Quad summit, probably hosted by Japan, will cement the grouping.
  • EU’s role: The EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy, announced last September, aims at increasing its economic and security profile in, and linkages with, the region.
  • UK’s role: Only by being more strategic and less mercantilist, more candid and assertive with China, and more cooperative with partners such as India, can the EU — and its former member the UK — hope to become vital players in the Indo-Pacific.
  • ASEAN, located in the middle of the Indo-Pacific waters, faces the heat of China’s aggression and the sharpening great power rivalry.
  •  It must enhance its realism and shed its tendency of wishing away problems.

Suggestions for India

  • 1]Strengthen the Quad – especially by ensuring that the grouping fulfils its commitment to deliver at least one billion vaccine doses to Indo-Pacific nations by December 2022.
  • India must protect its established relationship with Russia, and show some resilience in dialogue with Beijing.
  • 2] Enhance relations with ASEAN nations: It must enhance cooperation with key Southeast Asian partners —Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand — while humouring ASEAN as a grouping.
  • 3] Give attention to African and Indian Ocean island states: The eastern and southern planks of Africa and the Indian Ocean island states need continued high policy attention and financial resources.
  • A clear economic and trade agenda to follow the flag in this vital region, is certain to yield long-term dividends.

Consider the question “Indo-Pacific will present India strategic and economic opportunities that India must not miss. However, the region will have to chart a course through inter-state tensions and crises. Comment.”


India has done well by fulfilling its humanitarian duties during the pandemic. Learning how to convert them smartly into economic and strategic opportunities in its periphery is the focused task for the nation in 2022.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The Chinese challenge


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- China challenge


Nearly 20 months after the border crisis began in Ladakh, China has pressed on with aggressive diplomatic and military gestures against India.

Recent anti- India moves by China

  • Beijing recently renamed 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, following the six it had done in 2017.
  • China justifies the renaming as being done on the basis of its historical, cultural and administrative jurisdiction over the area — these old names existed since ancient times which had been changed by India with its “illegal occupation”.
  • On January 1, 2022, Beijing’s new land border law came into force, which provides the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with full responsibility to take steps against “invasion, encroachment, infiltration, provocation” and safeguard Chinese territory.

India’s response

  • Delhi has run out of proactive options against Beijing that will force the Chinese leadership to change course on its India policy.
  • The two countries have an increasingly lopsided trade relationship driven by Indian dependency on Chinese manufacturing, a situation further worsened by the Government’s mishandling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • To restore the status quo ante on the LAC as of April 2020, India undertook internal balancing of its military from the Pakistan border to the China border and external rebalancing through a closer partnership with the United States in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Because of the China factor, the U.S. is currently looking away even as India mistreats its minorities and its democracy stands diminished.
  •  India’s difficult diplomatic and military engagement with China is going to leave it more dependent on U.S. support, rendering India more vulnerable to American pressure on ‘shared values’.
  • With a rising China as its neighbour and a more self-centred U.S. – which is uncomfortable with India’s reliable partner, Russia — as its friend, Delhi continues to face difficult choices.


Put under the harsh glare, India has been found wanting in its ability to deal with future challenges. The immediate challenge, however, remains China. It cannot be wished away and must be tackled.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s new land boundary law fits in with its expansionism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chumbi Valley

Mains level : Paper 2- What China's new boundary law mean for India?


The latest in the series of aggressive Chinese actions is the use of lawfare through the passing of the “Land Boundary Law” on October 21 which became effective this week.

Background of the Chinese approach

  • The last residue of the Qing dynasty was wiped out in the 1911 revolution when China was established as a republic.
  • The republic was again overthrown in 1949 by the Chinese Communist Party.
  • Three successive Chinese governments in China refused to delineate or demarcate the boundary with either Tibet or India.
  • British archival records, many declassified points to attempts made by Imperial Britain to formally formulate a boundary with China.
  • Yet, all three regimes were united in their refusal to accept a formal limiting of China’s territorial expanse and kept their response ambiguous.
  • Even during the Simla Convention of 1913-14, when the Republic was ascendant in China, there was a vehement refusal to recognise any demarcation of boundaries between Tibet and China.

Strong-arm tactics against India

  • Having operated from a maximalist position to settle its borders with 12 of its 14 neighbours so far, China has attempted to use the same strong-arm tactics with both India and Bhutan.
  • It has offered to forgo its claims in the larger parts of North Bhutan in lieu of gaining a relatively smaller area in West Bhutan.
  • Threat to Siliguri corridor: This seeming magnanimity is calculated to expand into the Chumbi Valley in the South, threatening the narrow and strategic Siliguri corridor in India.
  • In its latest move, China has made a new claim on Sakteng sanctuary in Bhutan which may form a launchpad for future operations against Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • China has also strengthened its collusion with Pakistan.
  • There is a deliberate attempt by China to physically link with Pakistan in the Northern Areas by removing the Indian wedge of DBO, the doorway to the Karakoram Pass.
  • A Training Mobilisation Order (TMO) issued by Xi Jinping in January 2020 called for “confrontational training” for its troops and officers to assess their preparedness, especially in light of the new reforms undertaken by the PLA.
  • These factors seem to be the tactical beginnings of China’s grand strategy which also saw China flexing in the South China Sea and Taiwan, almost simultaneously.

China making use of lawfare and implications for India

  • The latest in the series of aggressive Chinese actions is the use of lawfare through the passing of the “Land Boundary Law”.
  • Formalises and legalises land Chinese grab: The law formalises and legalises China’s geographic creep towards Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh and parts of eastern Ladakh and creates conditions for using newly-constructed border villages close to the LAC for claiming sovereignty over disputed areas.
  • The import of the law is most critical for India but will affect China’s disputes with other countries too.
  • What China has done, therefore, is convert a territory dispute over borders into a sovereignty dispute which precludes any give or take of territory.
  • China will attempt to settle its Han population in the Tibetan regions, reversing established demographic patterns and at the same time.
  •  Future negotiations over territory, if they occur, will then refer to the Border Defence Cooperation Agreements of 2005 and 2012 which call for border settlements to be done keeping in mind the local population in the border regions.

Way forward

  • A deliberate thought process needs to be evolved to offset our disadvantages as purely military actions may not solve the situation in the long term.


What emerges clearly is that by adopting the Land Boundary Law, in conjunction with its physical actions on the LAC, China has consolidated its position in eastern Ladakh and kept possibilities open in Arunachal Pradesh.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s bridge over Pangong Tso


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pangong Tso

Mains level : LAC ambiguities

China is building a bridge across the Pangong Tso area connecting the North and South Banks which will significantly reduce the time for moving troops and equipment between the two sides.

About Pangong Tso

  • Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m.
  • It is 134 km long and extends from India to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China.
  • Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies within the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
  • The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604
  • During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water.
  • It is not a part of the Indus river basin area and is geographically a separate landlocked river basin.
  • Earlier, Pangong Tso had an outlet to Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River, but it was closed off due to natural damming.

Tactical significance of the lake

  • It lies in the path of the Chushul approach, one of the main approaches that China can use for an offensive into Indian Territory.
  • During the 1962 war, this was where China launched its main offensive — the Indian Army fought heroically at Rezang La under Maj. Shaitan Singh.
  • Not far away, to the north of the lake, is the Army’s Dhan Singh Thapa post, named after Major Dhan Singh Thapa who was awarded the country’s highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.
  • Major Thapa and his platoon were manning the Sirijap-1 outpost which was essential for the defense of the Chushul airfield.

Connectivity in the region

  • Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along their banks of the Pangong Tso. This points to the importance accorded by the Chinese to the area.
  • Even during peacetime, the difference in perception over where the LAC lies on the northern bank of the lake makes this contested terrain.
  • In 1999, when the Army unit from the area was moved to Kargil for Operation Vijay, China took the opportunity to build 5 km of a road inside the Indian Territory along the lake’s bank.
  • From one of these roads, Chinese positions physically overlook Indian positions on the northern tip of the Pangong Tso Lake.

What is the importance of the bridge over Pangong Tso?

  • The bridge over Pangong Tso is located around 25 kms ahead of the LAC in Chinese territory and will significantly reduce the time for movement of Chinese army.
  • The Indian Army gained tactical advantage over the PLA on the south bank in end August 2020 by occupying several peaks lying vacant since 1962 gaining a dominating view.
  • This has prompted China to build deep alternate roads behind the friction points away from the line of sight.

How is India responding to developments on the ground?

  • The bridge is well within Chinese territory.
  • The implications of this new bridge will have to be factored in the Indian Army’s operational planning for the future.
  • On its part, over the last few years India has been focusing on infrastructure development in forward areas and improving connectivity to the forward areas.
  • Large-scale construction of roads, bridges and tunnels is underway all along the LAC.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s new Border Law and India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : LAC disputes

China’s new law on land borders has come into effect on January 1.

Key takeaways of the Border Law

China passed the law for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas”.

  • Sacrosanct nature of Borders: Under the law, “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are sacred and inviolable”.
  • Border defense: It mandates the state to take measures “to strengthen border defense, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas.
  • Habitation near borders: It seeks to improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, encourage and support people’s life and work there.
  • Consultations with neighbors: The law asks the state to follow the principles of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighboring countries.

Why did China bring it?

Several factors may have led to China’s move.

  • Aggressive actions: The new law is a tool the Chinese government will use if it wants, as its actions have been aggressive even before this law.
  • Maritime assertion: This law reflects Beijing’s renewed concerns over the security of its land border while it confronts a slew of unsettled disputes on its maritime front (in the South China Sea).
  • Land boundary issues: The confrontations on the Sino-Indian borders in recent years may have reminded Beijing about this law.
  • Fear of radicalization: Afghanistan under the Taliban may become a hotbed for terrorism and extremism that could spread to Xinjiang amongst Uyghurs.
  • One-China Policy: China officially (constitutionally) claims mainland China and Taiwan as part of their respective territories. It has similar assertions for Hong Kong.

Does it concern India?

  • No specific mention: Although the law is not meant specifically for India, it is bound to have some impact.
  • May hamper disengagement:  The date for the round meeting is still awaited, amid concerns that the Chinese delegation can use the new law to try to bolster their existing positions.
  • Possible misadventures: The new law provides for the construction of permanent infrastructure close to the border. This has been observed in Arunachal Pradesh.

What impact can it have on India-China relations?

  • Onus on China: The view is still divided. Much depends on China’s actions, regardless of the new law.
  • Unilateral action: The new law might be the latest attempt by China to unilaterally delineate and demarcate territorial boundaries with India and Bhutan.
  • Maintain status-quo: The new law will make China dig its heels in, on the ongoing standoff as well as for the resolution of the larger boundary issue.
  • Permanent demarcation of borders: There is also a possibility that Beijing appears to be signaling a determination to resolve the border disputes on its preferred terms.

Recent mis-adventures

  • China has been building “well-off” border defense villages across the LAC in all sectors, which the new law encourages.
  • President Xi visited a village in Tibet near the border with Arunachal Pradesh followed by renamings.
  • China has constructed a bridge in Eastern Ladakh connecting the North and South Banks of Pangong Tso.


  • The law only “states the obvious” as “every country is in the business of protecting its territorial integrity.
  • The big question is what your territory is, and there we don’t agree with each other.


[RSTV Archive] India-China Ties Post-Galwan

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China issues ‘official’ names for 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : McMahol Line, Shimla Convention

Mains level : India-China Border Issue

China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs has issued standardized names for 15 places in the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh, to be used henceforth on official Chinese maps.

MEA clarification

  • The Ministry of External Affairs has dismissed the Chinese “invention”.
  • Arunachal Pradesh has always been, and will always be, an integral part of India, said MEA.

Why is China giving names to places that are in India?

  • China claims some 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.
  • It calls the area “Zangnan” in the Chinese language and makes repeated references to “South Tibet”.
  • Chinese maps show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, and sometimes parenthetically refer to it as “so-called Arunachal Pradesh”.
  • China makes periodic efforts to underline this unilateral claim to Indian territory.
  • Giving Chinese names to places in Arunachal Pradesh is part of that effort.

Earlier unilateral renamings

  • This is the second lot of “standardized” names of places in Arunachal Pradesh that China has announced.
  • Earlier in 2017, it had issued “official” Chinese names for six places spanning the breadth of Arunachal Pradesh

What is China’s argument for claiming these areas?

  • The PRC disputes the legal status of the McMahon Line, the official boundary under the ‘Convention Between Great Britain, China, and Tibet’ — of 1914 (Simla Convention).
  • China was represented at the Simla Convention by a plenipotentiary of the Republic of China, which had been declared in 1912 after the Qing dynasty was overthrown.
  • The present communist government came to power only in 1949, when the People’s Republic was proclaimed.
  • The Chinese representative did not consent to the Simla Convention, saying Tibet had no independent authority to enter into international agreements.

What is the McMohan Line?

  • The McMohan Line, named after Henry McMahon, the chief British negotiator at Shimla, was drawn from the eastern border of Bhutan to the Isu Razi pass on the China-Myanmar border.
  • China claims territory to the south of the McMahon Line, lying in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • China also bases its claims on the historical ties that have existed between the monasteries in Tawang and Lhasa.

Intention behind these renamings

  • This renaming is a part of the Chinese strategy to assert its territorial claims over Indian territory.
  • As part of this strategy, China routinely issues statements of outrage whenever an Indian dignitary visits Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Beijing keeps harping on its “consistent” and “clear” position that the Indian possession of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • These claims have been firmly established and recognized by the world, as “illegal”.

Arunachal not all-alone

  • Laying aggressive claims to territories on the basis of alleged historical injustices done to China is a part of Beijing’s foreign policy playbook.
  • The claim on Taiwan is one such example, as are the consistent efforts to change the “facts on the ground” in several disputed islands in the South China Sea.
  • The aggression is at all times backed in overt and covert ways by the use of China’s economic and military muscle.

Also read:

[RSTV Archive] India-China Ties Post-Galwan


Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The ‘diplomatic’ Olympic boycott


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : US-China Rivalry

The US Government has decided not send any official representation to the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing announcing what is being called a “diplomatic boycott” of the games.

What is a ‘diplomatic boycott’?

  • A “diplomatic boycott” means no US official will be present at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
  • This stops short of a complete boycott, which would have meant the non-participation by US athletes.
  • As such, the absence of official representation will not impact the games as much as an athletic boycott would have.

What led to the US boycott?

Ans. Uyghurs Genocide

  • The decision was taken because of China’s gross human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang.
  • This is the latest clash adding to a long list of differences on trade, Taiwan, human rights and the South China Sea.
  • Xinjiang Uyghurs have been sent by Chinese authorities to “re-education” camps, a network of which were constructed beginning in 2016 to house thousands of detainees.
  • Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, but subsequently claimed the centres were for “vocational training”.

Who else is ‘diplomatically boycotting’ the games?

  • So far, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have also announced that their officials will not be present at the games.
  • None, however, has said their athletes will not attend, which means the games themselves are unlikely to be impacted.
  • It remains to be seen if the boycott will gain traction beyond US allies and partners.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics.
  • China has been garnering support from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

How is China reacting to the boycott?

  • Beyond the statements decrying the “politicization” of sports, there is certainly a domestic political undercurrent to the games.
  • China’s media, meanwhile, has been largely playing down the reports of the boycotts, underlining how the authorities are going all-out to ensure the games are conducted without a hurdle.

What will be the impact on US-China relations?

  • Much recently, the US and Chinese Presidents committed to “responsibly” managing their growing competition amid increasing conflicts.
  • Both nations called common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.
  • China emphasized the “need to treat each other as equals” and warned against “drawing ideological lines”, calling on the US “to meet its word of not seeking a ‘new Cold War’”.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Beijing’s aggressive regional policies and its implications


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AUKUS

Mains level : Paper 2- Implications of China's aggressive policies for geopolitics


One of the many consequences of China’s assertive posture in Asia has been the emergence of geopolitical coalitions to limit the prospects for Beijing’s regional dominance.

Two new coalitions forcing China rethink

  • Quad and AUKUS: Two new coalitions that have got a lot of political attention are the Quadrilateral framework involving Australia, India, Japan and the US, and the AUKUS, which brings together Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Until recently, China was quite contemptuous of the new political formations.
  • It had compared the Quad to “seafoam” that is here now but gone in a second.
  • China’s dismissive attitude has now yielded place to denunciation.

US’s policy forcing China to rethink

  • Two big factors are behind China’s rethinking.
  • Consensus in the US on Challenging China: One was the surprising emergence of American domestic political consensus on challenging China.
  • Beijing believed that Donald Trump was an exception to the longstanding US policy of deeper economic integration with China and sustained political engagement. But Biden has simply reinforced Trump’s strategy.
  • US making alliances critical element of China policy: Trump thought that alliances are a burden on US taxpayers.
  •  Biden, in contrast, has made alliances a critical element of his China strategy.
  • The idea was to create “situations of strength” vis-a-vis China by rebuilding US alliances and developing new coalitions.
  • In Asia, the Biden administration moved quickly to strengthen the traditional security ties with its allies in northeast Asia — Japan and South Korea.
  • Elevating the Quad to leaders-level: It also elevated the Quad to the leaders-level within weeks after Biden took charge and had a physical summit in Washington six months later.
  • AUKUS: It also announced the AUKUS.
  • Biden travelled to Europe in June this year to revitalise the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
  • Summit with Russia: Biden also decided on an early summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place in Geneva at the end of his European tour.
  • Rebalancing relations: Biden’s team believed that the greatest strength of the US was its wide network of allies and partners.
  • And that mobilising them was the key to rebalancing relations with China.

How China is making alliances and partnerships?

  • While China’s economic reach is now global and deep, political and military alliances have not been part of Beijing’s tradition.
  • Relations with Russia at peak: Beijing’s ties with Moscow have never been as close as they are.
  • Relations with N. Korea and Pakistan: China also has strong alliance-like relations with North Korea and Pakistan.
  • But there can be little comparison though between the kind of strengths that American allies bring to the table with those of China’s partners.

Is Asian geopolitical structure turning in China’s favour?

  • Beijing was betting on the proposition that the Asian geopolitical structure was turning, irretrievably, in China’s favour.
  • This is based on a number of propositions.
  • Location of the US: America, located far from Asia, will have trouble overcoming the tyranny of geography in a conflict with China.
  • The economic and military power of China: China’s hard power — both economic and military — relative to the US is growing rapidly and shifting the local balance of power in its favour.
  • Location of China: The proximity of China and Asian regional integration have made Beijing the most important economic partner for the whole region.
  • Beijing believed that few Asian nations would want to spoil their commercial relations with China and align with Washington.
  • Power imbalance: The vast imbalance in military power between Beijing and its neighbours it presumed would dissuade most Asian states from considering armed confrontations with China
  • Breaking up coalition: China counted on the fact that it is easier to break up coalitions than build them.

Implications of China’s aggressive policies

  • Making the US unfriendly prematurely: Chinese policies have driven the US towards an unanticipated internal consensus on containing Beijing.
  • Making a friendly America into an enemy prematurely could go down as one of Xi Jinping’s egregious strategic errors.
  • Driving regional countries towards the US: China’s aggressive regional policies are driving many countries like Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, towards the US.
  • Neighbouring countries pursuing stronger national military capacities: While the military balance of power in Asia has certainly turned in China’s favour, it has not cowed down its neighbours.
  • Many are pursuing stronger national military capabilities to limit some of the threats from China.
  • Stoked nationalism: China, which never stops to emphasise its own nationalism, appears to have underestimated the depth of similar sentiment in other Asian states.
  • Today, it is driving many of China’s neighbours into the US camp.
  • It is America and not China that today talks about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Asian nations.

Consider the question “One of the many consequences of China’s assertive posture in Asia has been the emergence of geopolitical coalitions to limit Beijing’s regional dominance. Critically analyse.”


It has been quite fashionable in the West as well as in the East, to proclaim that China’s hegemony is inevitable, American decline is terminal, and Asian coalitions are unsustainable. Those conclusions are premature at best. For Xi Jinping has squandered many of China’s natural geopolitical advantages.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s missile tests could have Sputnik-like effect


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HGV missile

Mains level : Paper 2- HGV test by China and its implications


On October 27 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, reacted to China testing its nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons system by drawing an analogy with a Sputnik moment.

How US’s Ballistic Missile Defence led to the recent Sputnik moment

  •  Since the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002, both Russia and China have been wary of Washington’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme.
  • It undermines strategic stability: Missile defence is inherently destabilising — it undermines “strategic stability”.
  • A robust BMD would compromise the second strike capability of the adversary by neutralising the surviving incoming missiles in case of a near-decapitating first strike
  • Both Russia and China thus view the US BMD as undermining their deterrence and have sought ways to restore their retaliatory strike capability by investing in new technologies such as Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGVs).
  • HGVs can escape the missile defence systems.
  • HGVs fly at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles, which means they could potentially escape early warning systems, aided by the earth’s curvature.

Implications of Chinese test

  • It can set off competition: The Chinese tests have the potential to set off an aggressive competition among the nuclear powers to modernise their nuclear arsenals and add new, potentially destabilising capabilities to their arsenal.
  • Global and regional arms race: In the present era of minimal arms control measures, the Chinese hypersonic missile system test will trigger an intense arms race both at the global and regional levels.
  • With the Chinese test, the US may be forced to expand its hypersonic programme and further modernise its missile defence systems.

What should be the course of action for India

  • China’s nuclear-tipped hypersonic weapon systems, though not particularly India-focused, could nudge New Delhi to adopt two courses of action.
  • Missile program: First, accelerate its hypersonic missiles programme.
  • Develop missile defence system: Second, consider erecting an equally robust missile defence.
  • Chinese advancement in stealth technologies will drive New Delhi to seek similar capabilities but also develop effective countermeasures.
  • This can then set off a regional arms race, a sign that is not particularly encouraging for regional peace.

Consider the question “Examine the implications of recent hypersonic missile test by China for the region and global arms race control efforts? What should be the course of action for India? “


China’s hypersonic missile test may not have come with a Sputnik-like surprise, but it has the potential to set off a post-Sputnik-like arms race that does not augur well for the strategic stability both at the global and regional level.

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Back2Basics: Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGVs)

  • A hypersonic missile is a vehicle that achieves a speed five times faster than the speed of sound, crossing Mach 5.
  • These missiles travel at a speed of around 6,115 km per hour, with a combination of technology and manoeuvrability of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS)

  • A Fractional Orbital Bombardment System is a warhead delivery system that uses a low earth orbit towards its target destination.
  • Just before reaching the target, it deorbits through a retrograde engine burn.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s new land border law and Indian concerns


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : China's territorial expansionism

China has recently passed a new land law for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas”.

Land Border Law: Key Takeaways

  • The law states that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are sacred and inviolable.
  • It asks the state to take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines these.
  • The state can take measures to strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas.
  • It seeks to improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, encourage and support people’s life and work there.

Other features

  • In effect, this suggests a push to settle civilians in the border areas.
  • The law also asks the state to follow the principles of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighbouring countries.

China’s land borders

  • China shares its 22,457-km land boundary with 14 countries including India, the third-longest after the borders with Mongolia and Russia.
  • Unlike the Indian border, however, China’s borders with these two countries are not disputed.
  • The only other country with which China has disputed land borders is Bhutan (477 km).

Why is it significant for India?

  • China claims up to 90,000 square kilometres in Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector.
  • It has illegally occupied 38,000 square kilometres of Aksai Chin in the western sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • While recent tensions in the western sector have been centred on Ladakh, both sides have lately clashed in Uttarakhand as well.

A signal to India

  • The law is not meant specifically for the border with India.
  • However, this could create hurdles in the resolution of the 17-month-long military standoff at LAC.
  • There is also a clear distinction that PLA will do border management but it will make negotiations a little more difficult.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A ‘bubbles of trust’ approach to globalisation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emerging Technology Working Group

Mains level : Paper 2- Bubble of trust approach to globalisation


An asymmetric globalisation favouring China allowed Beijing to attain power. It is now using that power to undermine liberal democratic values around the world.

What is Globalization?

Globalization is a process of increasing interdependence, interconnectedness and integration of economies and societies to such an extent that an event in one part of the globe affects people in other parts of the world.


 Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, organizations, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.

Asymmetric globalisation

  • The Chinese market was never open to foreign companies in the way foreign markets are to Chinese firms.
  • This is particularly true in the information and communications technology sector: foreign media, technology and software companies have always been walled out of Chinese markets.
  • Meanwhile, Chinese firms rode on the globalisation bandwagon to secure significant market shares in open economies.

Global retreat from globalisation and role of Quad

  • We are currently witnessing a global retreat from the free movement of goods, services, capital, people and ideas.
  • But this should not be understood as a reaction to globalisation itself, but of its skewed pattern over the past four decades.
  • The Quad countries – Japan, India, Australia and the U.S. – have an opportunity to change tack and stop seeing engagement with China through the misleading prism of free trade and globalisation.
  • It will be to their advantage to create a new form of economic cooperation consistent with their geopolitical interests.
  • Indeed, without an economic programme, the Quad’s geopolitical and security agenda stand on tenuous foundations.

Economies inside bubbles of trust

  • Policies of self-reliance: The popular backlash against China – exacerbated by the economic disruption of the pandemic – is pushing Quad governments towards policies of self-reliance.
  • But while reorienting and de-risking global supply chains is one thing, pursuing technological sovereignty is inherently self-defeating.
  • Worse still, inward-looking policies often acquire a life of their own and contribute to geopolitical marginalisation.
  • There is a better way.
  • A convergence of values and geopolitical interests means Quad countries are uniquely placed to envelop their economies inside bubbles of trust, starting with the technology sector.
  • The idea of ‘bubbles of trust’ offers a cautious middle path between the extremes of technological sovereignty and laissez-faire globalisation.
  •  Unlike trading blocs, which tend to be insular and exclusive, bubbles tend to expand organically, attracting new partners that share values, interests and economic complementarities.
  • Such expansion will be necessary, as the Quad cannot fulfil its strategic ambitions merely by holding a defensive line against authoritarian power.

Way forward

  • The U.S. is a global leader in intellectual property, Japan in high-value manufacturing, Australia in advanced niches such as quantum computing and cyber security, and India in human capital.
  • This configuration of values, interests and complementary capabilities offers unrivalled opportunities.
  • The Quad’s Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group, announced in March 2021, is well placed to develop the necessary ‘bubbles of trust’ framework, which could be adopted at the next Quad summit.
  • To be successful the Working Group must seek to strengthen geopolitical convergences, increase faith in each member state’s judicial systems, deepen economic ties and boost trust in one another’s citizens.
  • There are fundamental differences between authoritarian and liberal-democratic approaches to the information age.
  • The Quad cannot allow differences of approach on privacy, data governance, platform competition and the digital economy to widen.


This agenda cannot be about substituting China. Rather, the approach would allow Quad countries to manage their dependencies on China while simultaneously developing a new vision for the global economy.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Bhutan-China Border Agreement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Bhutan-China Border Agreement

In a step towards resolving their boundary disputes, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a three-Step roadmap to help speed up talks to “break the deadlock” in negotiations.

Bhutan-China Border Issues

Bhutan shares an over 400-km-long border with China.

  • Doklam: China wants to exchange the valleys to the north of Bhutan with the pasture land to the west (including Doklam), totalling 269 square kilometres.
  • Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys: located near Tibet to Bhutan’s North, which measure 495 sq. kms.
  • Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary Project: China claims this area (near to Arunachal Pradesh) in eastern Bhutan as its own.

What is the recent agreement?

  • The roadmap “for Expediting the Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations”, is expected to progress on the boundary talks process that has been delayed for five years.
  • It was stalled due to the Doklam standoff in 2017, and then by the Covid Pandemic.
  • Although China and Bhutan do not have official diplomatic relations they have engaged in 24 rounds of ministerial-level talks to resolve their border dispute.

Implications for India

The boundary issue between China and Bhutan is special because it not only relates to Bhutan but also has become a negative factor for China-India ties.

  • China control much of the Doklam: Since the 2017 stand-off with India, Beijing has already strengthened its de facto control over much of the Doklam plateau, located strategically along the India-China-Bhutan trijunction.
  • Bhutan supports it: This agreement has been equally endorsed and appreciated by Bhutan and China.
  • Deadlock at LAC talks: Its timing is particularly significant New, given India-China border talks on their 17-month-old standoff at the Line of Actual Control appear to have hit an deadlock.
  • India’s strategic risks: This has big implications for India, since the Doklam swap would have given China access to the strategically sensitive “chicken neck” of the Siliguri corridor.

India’s interest

(a) Doklam

  • The Doklam plateau remains hugely critical for India due to the Siliguri Corridor that lies to the south of Doklam.
  • The corridor, also known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, is a 22-km wide major arterial road connecting mainland India with its northeastern states and thus it is a highly sensitive area for China.

(b) Sakteng: the hotspot

  • The Sakteng sanctuary adjoins West Kameng district and Tawang disticts in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state.
  • Its strategic value lies in its proximity to Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims around 90,000 sq km of Indian territory.
  • Tawang, the major bone of contention between India and China in the eastern sector of their border dispute, lies to the northeast of the Sakteng.


  • Bhutan has to balance its ties with India as well as China.
  • We need to explore channels that India can activate with Bhutan when it comes to the highly sensitive matter of settling the boundary dispute between them and China.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Explained: Patrolling Points along LAC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Patrolling Points along LAC

Mains level : LAC issues

The standoffs between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where initial steps towards disengagement have taken place, are around a number of patrolling points or PPs in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra areas.

What exactly are Patrolling Points?

  • PPs are patrolling points identified and marked on the LAC, which are patrolled with a stipulated frequency by the security forces.
  • They serve as a guide to the location of the LAC for the soldiers, acting as indicators of the extent of ‘actual control’ exercised on the territory by India.
  • By regularly patrolling up to these PPs, the Indian side is able to establish and assert its physical claim about the LAC.

Are all the Patrolling Points numbered?

  • Some of the PPs are prominent and identifiable geographical features, such as a pass, or a nala junction where no numerals are given.
  • Only those PPs, where there are no prominent features, are numbered as in the case of PP14 in Galwan Valley.

Are all on the Patrolling Points bang on the LAC?

  • Mostly, yes. Except for the Depsang plains in northern Ladakh, where PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13 – from Raki Nala to Jivan Nala – do not fall on the LAC.
  • These are short of the LAC, on the Indian side.

Are these Patrolling Points not manned?

  • The PPs are not posts and thus not manned.
  • Unlike on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, the border with China is not physically held by the Army all along.
  • They are just physical markers on the ground, chosen for their location and have no defensive potential or tactical importance for the Army.

If the Patrolling Points are not manned, how is the claim actually asserted?

  • The claim is asserted by the Army or joint Army-ITBP patrols as they show more visible presence in these areas.
  • This is done by physically visiting PPs with a higher frequency, as the deployment has moved closer to the LAC and due to improved infrastructure.
  • As the Chinese may not see when the Indian patrols visit these PPs, they will leave come cigarette packets or food tins with Indian markings behind.
  • That lets the Chinese know that Indian soldiers had visited the place, which indicates that India was in control of these areas.

Who has given these Patrolling Points?

  • These PPs have been identified by the high-powered China Study Group, starting from 1975 when patrolling limits for Indian forces were specified.
  • It is based on the LAC, after the government accepted the concept in 1993, which is also marked on the maps with the Army in the border areas.
  • But the frequency of patrolling to PPs is not specified by the CSG – it is finalised by the Army Headquarters in New Delhi, based on the recommendations made by the Army and ITBP.

What is this frequency?

  • The frequency of reaching various PPs are given in the annual patrolling programme.
  • Based on the terrain, the ground situation and the location of the LAC, the duration for visiting each PP is specified – it can vary from once a month to twice a year.

Major friction area: Hot Springs

  • Hot Springs lies in the Chang Chenmo River valley, close to Kongka La, a pass that marks the Line of Actual Control.
  • India’s Patrolling Point 15, it is not a launchpad for any offensive action though the area did see action before and during the 1962 war.
  • China’s unwillingness to pull back its platoon-sized unit from Hot Springs is a sign of the difficulties that lie in normalising the situation.
  • The PLA has traditionally had a major base east of Kongka La.
  • The pass also marks the border between two of China’s most sensitive provinces — Xinjiang to the north and Tibet to the south.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A ‘Taiwan flashpoint’ in the Indo-Pacific


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Taiwan issue and implications for the Indo-Pacific region


If the rising confrontation between the United States and China erupts into a clash of arms, the likely arena may well be the Taiwan Strait.

Historical background of the Taiwan issue

  • The Guomindang (KMT) forces under Chiang Kai-shek lost the 1945-49 civil war to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949. forces under Mao Zedong.
  • Chiang retreated to the island of Taiwan and set up a regime that claimed authority over the whole of China and pledged to recover the mainland eventually.
  • The CCP in turn pledged to reclaim what it regarded as a “renegade” province and achieve the final reunification of China.
  • Role of the U.S.: Taiwan could not be occupied militarily by the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) as it became a military ally of the United States during the Korean War of 1950-53.
  • This phase came to an end with the U.S. recognising the PRC as the legitimate government of China in 1979, ending its official relationship with Taiwan and abrogating its mutual defence treaty with the island.
  • Strategic ambiguity policy of the US: Nevertheless, the U.S. has declared that it will “maintain the ability to come to Taiwan’s defence” while not committing itself to do so.
  • This is the policy of “strategic ambiguity”.
  • The PRC has pursued a typical carrot and stick policy to achieve the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland.
  • It has held out the prospect, indeed preference for peaceful reunification, through promising a high degree of autonomy to the island under the “one country two systems”.
  • The “one country two systems” formula first applied to Hong Kong after its reversion to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

China-Taiwan economic links

  • Taiwan business entities have invested heavily in mainland China and the two economies have become increasingly integrated.
  • Between 1991 and 2020, the stock of Taiwanese capital invested in China reached U.S. $188.5 billion and bilateral trade in 2019 was U.S. $150 billion, about 15% of Taiwan’s GDP.
  • By the same token, China is capable of inflicting acute economic pain on Taiwan through coercive policies if the island is seen to drift towards an independent status.

Prospects for peaceful reunification

  • Taiwan has two major political parties.
  • The KMT, dominated by the descendants of the mainlanders remains committed to a one-China policy.
  • The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other hand, is more representative of the indigenous population of the island, and favours independence.
  • Faced with aggressive threats from China and lack of international support, the demand for independence has been muted.
  • Ever since the DPP under Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential elections in 2016, China has resorted to a series of hostile actions against the island, which include economic pressures and military threats.
  • One important implication of this development is that prospects for peaceful unification have diminished.
  • Sentiment in Taiwan in favour of independent status has increased.

Role of the US

  • While the U.S. does not support a declaration of independence by Taiwan, it has gradually reversed the policy of avoiding official-level engagements with the Taiwan government
  • The first breach occurred during the Donald Trump presidency.
  • The Joe Biden officials have continued this policy.
  • The Taiwanese representative in Washington was invited to attend the presidential inauguration ceremony (Biden), again a first since 1979.
  • Reports have now emerged that U.S. defence personnel have been, unannounced, training with their Taiwanese counterparts for sometime.

Implications for Quad and India

  • The recent crystallisation of the Quad, of which India is a part, and the announcement of the AUKUS, with Australia being graduated to a power with nuclear-powered submarines, may act as a deterrent against Chinese moves on Taiwan.
  • But they may equally propel China to advance the unification agenda before the balance changes against it in the Indo-Pacific.
  • For these reasons, Taiwan is emerging as a potential trigger point for a clash of arms between the U.S. and China.

Consider the question “What are the implications of Taiwan issue and the US involvement in it for India?”


In pursuing its Indo-Pacific strategy, India would do well to keep these possible scenarios in mind.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A strategy for India in a world that is adrift


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Distortions in the Global Order

This article discusses new situations prompted by the tectonic shifts in India’s internal and external environment to take another look at India’s path to power in a world between orders.

New global order: No Order

  • Multipolarity: The world is today adrift. We are neither in a bipolar Cold War nor in a multipolar world, though perhaps tending towards a world of several power centres.
  • Lack of cohesion: The lack of a coherent international response to the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of an absence of international order and of the ineffectiveness of multilateral institutions.
  • Climate ignorance: So is the ineffective international response to climate change and other transnational threats.

What are the major shifts in global order?

  • Secular stagnation
  • Retreat from globalisation
  • Regionalisation of trade
  • Shifting balance of power
  • Rise of China and others
  • Structural China-United States strategic rivalry

All above factors have shifted the geopolitical and economic centres of gravity from the Atlantic to Asia.

Major Concerns

  • Chauvinism: Inequality between and within states has bred a narrow nationalism and parochialism.
  • Existential threats: We are entering a new polarised information age, and face ecological crises of the Anthropocene, making climate change an existential threat.

Asia as the nucleus: With focus on China

  • Shift of focus by the US: Over the next decade we expect Asia to remain the cockpit of geopolitical rivalries, and that the US remains the most formidable power, though its relative power is declining.
  • China at the centre: China sees a window of opportunity but acts in a hurry, suggesting that she believes that window may close or is already closing due to push back from the West and others.

China’s expansionism

  • China’s crowded geography constrains her both on land and at sea.
  • Hence it expects her profile and power to continue expanding, particularly in our periphery.
  • The result is likely continued friction, some cooperation, and quasi-adversarial relations between India and China, which others will take advantage of.
  • Overall, we do not expect conventional conflict between the great powers in Asia, though other forms and levels of violence and contention in the international system will rise, with Taiwan a special case.

Opportunities in disguise for India

  • The uncertainty and changing geopolitical environment clearly pose considerable challenges to Indian policy.
  • However, it also throws up certain opportunities, enhancing our strategic options and diplomatic space, if we adjust policies internally and externally, particularly in the subcontinent.

How can India reap the benefits?

  • Enhancing ties with the US: Increasing security congruence with the US could enable growing cooperation in fields significant for India’s transformation: energy, trade, investment, education and health.
  • Climate cooperation: Other areas in which India and the U.S. could increase cooperation are: climate change and energy, tech solutions for renewable energy, and on digital cooperation.
  • Neighbourhood first: Several middle powers like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia in the neighbourhood are now India’s natural partners.
  • Digital space: This time of transition between orders is also when new standards and norms are being developed, particularly in the digital space. India can and must be present at the creation.
  • Maritime cooperation: At sea, the balance is today more favourable to us than before, possibly more so than on the continent. India must bat for the creation of a Maritime Commission in IOR.

Bottlenecks in India’s neighbourhood policy

  • Over securitisation of policy: towards our neighbours has driven trade underground, criminalised our borders.
  • Conducive environment for entry of China: This has enabled the large-scale entry of Chinese goods destroying local industry in the northeast.
  • Lack of self-strengthening: While lessening dependence on China, and seeking external balancing, our primary effort has to concentrate on self-strengthening.
  • Lack of socio-political enterprise: If there is one country which in terms of its size, population, economic potential, scientific and technological capabilities can match or even surpass China, it is India.

Way forward for India

(A) Bringing multipolarity in Asia.

  • The way forward should be based on the core strategic principles in Non-Alignment 2.0 which are still relevant: independent judgement, developing our capacities, and creating an equitable and enabling international order for India’s transformation.
  • Today’s situation makes India’s strategic autonomy all the more essential.

(B) Making an issue-based coalition

  • India must adjust to changing circumstances. We have no choice but to engage with this uncertain and more volatile world.
  • One productive way to do so would be through issue-based coalitions including different actors, depending on who has an interest and capability.

(C) Reviving SAARC

  • India must craft and reinvigorate regional institutions and processes in the neighbourhood, reviving the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for instance.
  • India could be the primary source of both prosperity and security in the neighbourhood — the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean Region.


  • Economic policy must match political and strategic engagement.
  • Globalisation has been central to India’s growth.
  • A more active regional and international role for India is incompatible with a position on the margins of the global economy.
  • Self-reliance in today’s world and technologies can only be realised as part of the global economy.
  • We should not imitate China’s claims to being a civilisational state and its adoption of victimhood.
  • Instead, we should affirm our own strength and historic national identity.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Hardly the India-China century


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : New Development Bank

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations


Deng Xiaoping had told then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 that the 21st century would be “India and China’s century”, the current Chinese leadership has no patience for such pablum. They believe — indeed believe they know — that it is destined to be China’s century alone.

The policy of side-stepping contentious issues and encouraging bilateral economic relations

  • There have always been political tensions, both over each country’s territorial claims over land controlled by the other, and China’s alliance with Pakistan, and India’s hospitality to the Dalai Lama.
  • But neither country had allowed these tensions to overwhelm them:
  • China had declared that the border dispute could be left to “future generations” to resolve.
  • India had endorsed the “One China” policy, refusing to support Tibetan secessionism while limiting official reverence for the Dalai Lama to his status as a spiritual leader.
  • India actions and statements have usually been designed not to provoke, but to relegate the border problem to the back burner while enabling trade relations with China (now worth close to $100 billion) to flourish.
  • India made it clear that it was unwilling to join in any United States-led “containment” of China.
  • From negligible levels till 1991, trade with China had grown to become one of India’s largest trading relationships. 
  • India engages with China diplomatically in the BRICS  as well as conducting annual summits of RIC (Russia-India-China).
  • India is an enthusiastic partner in the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank (NDB).
  • However, it has become increasingly apparent that the policy of side-stepping contentious issues and encouraging bilateral economic relations has played into Chinese hands.

Chinese strategy in Galwan

  • In the Galwan clash, the Chinese troops seem to have been engaged in a tactical move to advance their positions along areas of the LAC that it covets, in order to threaten Indian positions and interdict patrols.
  • They are threatening India’s construction of roads, bridges and similar infrastructure on undisputed Indian territory, a belated effort to mirror similar Chinese efforts near the LAC in Tibet.
  • They have established a fixed presence in these areas well beyond China’s own ‘Claim Line’.
  • The objective seems to be to extend Chinese troop presence to the intersection of the Galwan river and the Shyok river, which would make the Galwan Valley off bounds to India.
  • The Chinese have constructed permanent structures in the area of their intrusion and issued statements claiming that sovereignty over the Galwan valley has “always belonged” to China.
  • Consolidation of LOC: China’s strategy seems to be to consolidate the LAC where it wants it, so that an eventual border settlement — that takes these new realities into account — will be in its favour.
  • Implications for India:  In the meantime, border incidents keep the Indians off-balance and demonstrate to the world that India is not capable of challenging China, let alone offering security to other nations.

India’s options

  • India has reinforced its military assets on the LAC to prevent deeper incursions for now.
  • And hopes to press the Chinese to restore the status quo ante through either diplomatic or military means.
  • Chinese and Indian officials are currently engaged in diplomatic and military-to-military dialogue to ease tensions, but de-escalation has been stalled for months.
  • Economic options: India has responded with largely symbolic acts of economic retaliation.
  • India has also reimposed tighter limits on Chinese investment in projects such as railways, motorways, public-sector construction projects, and telecoms.

Limits to India’s economic retaliation

  • India is far too dependent on China for vital imports — such as pharmaceuticals, and even the active ingredients to make them, automotive parts and microchips that many fear it will harm India if it acted too strongly against China.
  • Imports from China have become indispensable for India’s exports to the rest of the world.
  • Various manufacturing inputs, industrial equipment and components, and even some technological know-how come from China; eliminating them could have a seriously negative effect on India’s economic growth.
  • And there are limits to the effectiveness of any Indian retaliation: trade with China may seem substantial from an Indian perspective, but it only represents 3% of China’s exports.
  • Drastically reducing it would not be enough to deter Beijing or cause it to change its behaviour.

Consider the question “State of India-China relationship hardly indicate the 21st Century being the “India and China’s century”. In light of this, examine the factors responsible for this and suggest the way forward for India.”


This range of considerations seems to leave only two strategic options. Playing second fiddle to an assertive China or aligning itself with a broader international coalition against Chinese ambitions. Since the first is indigestible for any democracy, is China de facto pushing India into doing something it has always resisted — allying with the West?

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Understanding the anxieties behind Chinese aggression towards India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations


Chinese President Xi Jinping made a surprise visit to Tibet on July 21, signalling the seriousness with which China continues to take its Himalayan border dispute with India.

Understanding China’s strategic challenges and intensions

  • Demonstration of political confidence through aggression: More than a year after the clash at Galwan Valley, efforts to resolve the border crisis continue to move slowly.
  • The Chinese side has previously failed to complete troop withdrawals and revert to the status quo that the Indian side believed China agreed to.
  • China’s behaviour has been calculated to demonstrate political confidence.
  • Worsening strategic environment for China: Seen from Beijing, the strategic environment for China is beginning to worsen in South and Central Asia.
  • As the US withdraws and the Taliban advances in Afghanistan, China fears the prospect of instability and an emerging haven for terrorism directed against its policies in Xinjiang.
  • Even as China seeks to scale back the debt-laden BRI, such instability may also result in Beijing increasing its already overstretched external commitments — particularly in the security domain.
  • Re-emergence of Quad: China is deeply worried by the re-emergence and strengthening of multilateral opposition to China, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or “Quad”) between the US, Japan, Australia and India.
  • For China, this represents a persistent threat not only economically and in foreign policy, but also militarily along its maritime periphery in the South and East China Seas, as well as the Taiwan Strait.
  • As US multilateral cooperation with its partners has increased, Beijing has come to increasingly see itself as beset by threats on all sides.

China’s 2 possible responses to strategic challenges and its implications for India

  • 1) Wolf warrier diplomacy: So far, the response from China’s new class of “wolf warrior” diplomats to this emerging strategic challenge has been to only grow more assertive in rhetoric and behaviour.
  • China’s domestic politics: Response of wolf warrior diplomats may seem perplexing, given that it has served only to alienate other countries and isolate China further.
  •  China’s domestic politics in the lead up to the 20th Congress will mean that its leaders, diplomats and generals will be displaying maximum nationalistic fervour.
  • Implications for India: This may well mean China taking political and policy decisions, which in a normal season they would not because doing so could compromise Beijing’s longstanding diplomatic and strategic goals, including in dealings with India.
  • 2) Moderate approach to improve strategic position: But if instead of aggressive posture, China decided that it was better domestic politics to improve China’s strategic position in Asia amid its competition with Washington, Beijing’s diplomats may yet adopt a more moderate approach, including with India.
  • Implications for India: If stability can be restored to the China-India strategic relationship, this could provide a window for Asia’s two mega-economies to reopen their markets to each other.


Indeed, the choice China makes between these two alternatives will have implications for India and the rest of the world in their dealing with China.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Why does China consistently beat India on soft power?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Soft-power comparison with China

The article compares India with China in terms of soft-power both countries exert based on the measures produced by Lowy Institute in Australia.

What is soft power?

  • Joseph Nye, who gave us the notion of soft power, suggests that it consists of foreign policy, cultural and political influence.
  • Foreign policy influence comes from the legitimacy and morality of one’s dealings with other countries.
  • Cultural influence is based on others’ respect for one’s culture.
  • Political influence is how much others are inspired by one’s political values.
  • Soft power is difficult to measure.

The Lowy Institute in Australia has produced various measures which correspond roughly to foreign policy influence, cultural influence and political influence.

1) India’s foreign policy influence

  • In diplomatic influence, overall, India ranks sixth and China ranks first among 25 Asian powers.
  • On networks, India nearly matches China in the number of regional embassies it has but is considerably behind in the number of embassies worldwide (176 to 126).
  • Multilaterally, India matches China in terms of regional memberships, but, crucially, its contributions to the UN capital budget are completely dwarfed by Chinese contributions (11.7 per cent to 0.8 per cent of the total).
  • In surveys of foreign policy leadership, ambition, and effectiveness, China ranks first or fourth on four measures while India ranks between fourth and sixth in Asia.

2) Cultural influence

  • Lowy’s overall measure of cultural influence ranks India in fourth place and China in second place in Asia.
  •  Cultural influence is then divided into three elements, of which “cultural projection” and “information flows” are the most important.
  • In cultural projection, India scores better on Google searches abroad of its newspapers and its television/radio broadcasts.
  • India also exports more of its “cultural services” defined as “services aimed at satisfying cultural interests or needs”.
  • China does better on several other indicators.
  • For instance, India has only nine brands in the list of the top 500 global brands whereas China lists 73.
  • On the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, India has 37 while China has 53.
  • Respect for the Indian passport also lags.
  • Chinese citizens can travel visa-free to 74 countries while Indians can only do so to 60.
  • In terms of information flows, in 2016–17, India hosted a mere 24,000 Asian students in tertiary education institutions whereas China hosted 2,25,000.
  • On total tourist arrivals from all over the world, India received 17 million, while China received 63 million.

3) Political influence

  • In 2017 the two were not ranked that far apart in political influence.
  • The governance effectiveness index shows India scoring in the top 43 per cent countries worldwide and ranked 12th and China scoring in the top 32 per cent and ranked 10th.
  • On “political stability and absence of violence/terrorism”, India ranked 21st, and China ranked 15th.

Consider the question “What do you understand by the term soft-power? How would you assess India’s soft-power potential in terms of various parameters?”


Soft-power theorists suggest that the ability to persuade rests on the power of attraction. We in India may think we are more attractive than China. The numbers show otherwise.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

NATO and China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : Rise of China in the global agenda

In a communiqué issued following the June 14 summit of its member-states in Brussels, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), for the first time, explicitly described China as a security risk.

Try answering this question:

Q.NATO has been an ideal vehicle for power-projection around the world by the US. Critically comment.

China as a global threat

  • China has never figured in NATO summit declarations before, except for a minor reference in 2019 to the “opportunities and challenges” it presented.
  • But China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to NATO security.
  • China has reacted sharply. It has urged NATO to view China’s development rationally, stop exaggerating various forms of China threat theory.
  • The other two threats identified by the NATO communiqué are on predictable lines: Russia and terrorism.

Focus over two nations

  • There is a significant difference, however, between a strategic focus on countering Russia and casting China as a “systemic challenge”.
  • This goes back to NATO’s founding mandate and subsequent history.

What is NATO, btw?

  • NATO, the planet’s largest — and largest-ever — military alliance, was formed in 1949 by 12 Allied powers to counter the massive Soviet armies stationed in Eastern and Central Europe after Second World War.
  • According to Paul-Henri Spaak, the second Secretary-General of NATO, it was, ironically enough, Joseph Stalin who is the true father of NATO.
  • It was Stalin’s overreach — especially with the Berlin blockade of 1948-49 and the orchestrated coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 — that convinced a diverse set of war-ravaged European nations to come together under an American security blanket.
  • The collective defence principle enshrined in NATO’s Article V states that “an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies”.
  • The formation of NATO, and its Soviet counterpart, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955, inaugurated the Cold War era.

NATO and its relevance now

  • NATO was completely successful in its mission of protecting the “Euro-Atlantic area” from Soviet expansion and preventing war between the two superpowers.
  • When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, questions were raised about NATO’s relevance and future.
  • Since the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) became irrelevant when the Communist bloc disappeared, one cannot justify the continuation of a military alliance formed to protect Europe from Communist expansion.

Post-Cold War era mandate of NATO

  • Its bureaucracy succeeded in refashioning NATO for the post-Cold war era.
  • The refashioning rested on a paradigm shift — from collective defence, which implied a known adversary, to collective security, which is open-ended, and might require action against any number of threats.
  • The threat included unknown ones and non-state actors.
  • In other words, the elimination of one threat to Europe — communist Russia — did not necessarily mean that security risks to Europe have vanished.

Why dismantle a beneficial arrangement

  • Another factor in the persistence of NATO is that, like all successful alliances, it has been a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  • For Europe, it was an attractive bargain where, in exchange for a marginal loss in autonomy, it enjoyed absolute security at a cheap price.
  • Not having to spend massively on defence allowed Europe to focus on building powerful economies and invest its surplus in a strong welfare state.
  • NATO also offered the added bonus of keeping Germany down — historically a major factor for peace and stability in the region.

An effective American weapon

  • For the US, NATO has been an ideal vehicle for power projection around the world — in places beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
  • It views NATO as a tool to ensure the primacy of American interests across the globe.
  • Unsurprisingly, NATO’s post-Cold War role has evolved in tandem with U.S. foreign policy priorities.
  • The NATO doctrine of “enlargement”, which Russia calls “expansion”, is essentially about extending the American military footprint by bringing in new members.
  • That is how NATO’s membership today stands at 30, having added 14 members between 1999 and 2020.

The final truth

  • The Biden administration wants to mobilize NATO member-states behind its larger objective of containing China.
  • NATO’s European member states may view China as an economic rival and adversary, but they are unconvinced by the American line that it is an outright security threat.
  • This line also, in a way, points to the underlying logic behind NATO’s persistence in the post-Soviet world.
  • Unlike the Soviet Union, China offers no alternative vision of society that could make Western capitalism insecure.
  • In fact, its own economy is already deeply integrated into Western markets. China, nonetheless, is perceived as posing a ‘threat’.
  • It remains to be seen how far an ageing Europe would be willing to commit itself to a strategic path that prefers confrontation to collaboration like the US.

Also read:

India & NATO

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The road from Galwan, a year later


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations after Galwan valley clash

What happened in Galwan?

  • The Indian and Chinese armies are engaged in the standoff in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.
    • A sizable number of Chinese Army personnel even transgressed into the Indian side of the de-facto border in several areas including Pangong Tso.
    • The actions on the northern bank of Pangong Tso are not just for territorial gains on land, but enhanced domination of the resource-rich lake.
  • The stand-off at Ladakh’s Galwan Valley has escalated in June 2020 due to the infrastructure projects that India has undertaken in the recent years. India is building a strategic road through the Galwan Valley – close to China – connecting the region to an airstrip.
    • China is opposed to any Indian construction in the area. In 1962, a stand-off in the Galwan area was one of the biggest flashpoints of the 1962 war.
  • The border, or Line of Actual Control, is not demarcated, and China and India have differing ideas of where it should be located, leading to regular border “transgressions.” Often these don’t escalate tensions; a serious border standoff like the current one is less frequent, though this is the fourth since 2013.
    • Both countries’ troops have patrolled this region for decades, as the contested 2,200-mile border is a long-standing subject of competing claims and tensions, including a brief war in 1962.
  • Reasons: The violent clash happened when the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the LAC and attempted to unilaterally change the status quo.
    • It is part of China’s ‘nibble and negotiate policy’. Their aim is to ensure that India does not build infrastructure along the LAC. It is their way of attaining a political goal with military might, while gaining more territory in the process.

The current situation in Ladakh

  •  With a continued deployment of 50,000-60,000 soldiers, the Indian Army has been able to hold the line to prevent any further ingress by the PLA.
  • There has been no progress in talks after the disengagement at Pangong lake and Kailash range in February.
  • Outside of Ladakh, the Indian Army remains in an alert mode all along the LAC to prevent any Chinese misadventure but the bigger change has been its reorientation of certain forces from Pakistan border towards the China border.
  • The Ladakh crisis has also exposed India’s military weakness to tackle a collusive threat from China and Pakistan.

External balancing

  • To deal with the threat of combined China and Pakistan, the Government opened backchannel talks with Pakistan which led to the reiteration of the ceasefire on the Line of Control.
  • The Ladakh crisis has also led the Government to relook external partnerships, particularly with the United States.
  • The U.S. military officials have earlier spoken of the intelligence and logistics support provided to the Indian forces in Ladakh.
  • The military importance of the Quad remains moot, with India reportedly refusing to do joint naval patrolling with the U.S. in the South China Sea, the two treaty allies of the U.S., Japan and Australia, also refused.

Challenges for India

  • India attempts to counter the growing Chinese influence in the neighbourhood have faltered, exacerbated by the mishandling of the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • With the widening power gap between New Delhi and Beijing, the challenge is as much economic as it is geopolitical.
  • Despite the border crisis and the Indian restrictions on Chinese technology companies, China displaced the U.S. to be India’s biggest trade partner in 2020-21, up to nearly 13% of India’s total trade compared to 10.4% a year ago.
  • For the past few decades, Indian planners operated on the premise that their diplomats will be able to manage the Chinese problem without it developing into a full-blown military crisis.
  • Militarily, Chinese incursions in Ladakh have shown that the idea of deterrence has failed.
  • India has learnt that it can no longer have simultaneous competition and cooperation with China.
  • A new reset in bilateral ties, àla the early 1990s, is difficult because China is now in a different league, competing with the U.S.


The events of the past one year have significantly altered India’s thinking towards China. The relationship is at the crossroads now. The choices made will have a significant impact on the future of global geopolitics.


Line of Actual Control

  • Demarcation Line: The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.
  • LAC is different from the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan:
    • The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the United Nations (UN) after the Kashmir War.
    • It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Shimla Agreement between the two countries. It is delineated on a map signed by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement.
    • The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept – it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map or demarcated on the ground.
  • Length of the LAC: India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Rare Earth Metals at the heart of China-US rivalry


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rare earth elements

Mains level : US-China Rivalry

Beijing’s dominance in rare earth minerals, the key to the future of manufacturing, is a cause for concern for the West.

Answer this question from CSP 2011 in the comment box:

Q.What is the difference between a CFL and an LED lamp? 

  1. To produce light, a CFL uses mercury vapor and phosphor while an LED lamp uses semi-conductor material.
    2. The average life span of a CFL is much longer than that of an LED lamp
    3. A CFL is less energy-efficient as compared to an LED lamp.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) Only 1

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What are Rare Earth Metals?

  • The rare earth elements (REE) are a set of seventeen metallic elements. These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table plus scandium and yttrium.
  • Rare earth elements are an essential part of many high-tech devices.
  • They have a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, such as cellular telephones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, and flat-screen monitors and televisions.
  • Significant defense applications include electronic displays, guidance systems, lasers, and radar and sonar systems.
  • Rare earth minerals, with names like neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium, are crucial to the manufacture of magnets used in industries of the future, such as wind turbines and electric cars.

Curbing dependence on China

  • At a time of frequent geopolitical friction among those three powers, Washington and Brussels want to avoid this scenario.
  • They are investing in the market for 17 minerals with unique properties that today are largely extracted and refined in China.
  • The expected exponential growth in demand for minerals that are linked to clean energy is putting more pressure on US and Europe to take a closer look.
  • Amid the transition to green energy, in which rare earth minerals are sure to play a role, China’s market dominance is enough to sound an alarm in western capitals.

Why such a move?

  • In 2019, the U.S. imported 80% of its rare earth minerals from China.
  • The EU gets 98% of its supply from China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Pushback against China more likely as Quad gains momentum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Pushback against China

The article discusses the future pushback against China in South Asia and Indo-Pacific as Quad gains more momentum. 


Recently, the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, warned Dhaka that there will be “substantial damage” in bilateral ties between China and Bangladesh if the latter joins the Quad.

Bangladesh’s reaction

  • Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen promptly and publicly challenged the Chinese envoy’s statement, underlining categorically that Dhaka pursues an independent foreign policy. 
  • That China’s remarks would reverberate far beyond South Asia was expected and perhaps intended.
  • The spokesperson of U.S. State Department remarked, “What we would say is that we respect Bangladesh’s sovereignty and we respect Bangladesh’s right to make foreign policy decisions for itself.”

Implications for South Asia and Info-Pacific

  • With its message to Bangladesh, Beijing was laying down a marker that nations should desist from engaging with the Quad.
  • This episode captures the emerging fault lines in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.
  • For all its attempts to play down the relevance of the Quad, Beijing realises that the grouping, with all its weaknesses, is emerging as a reality and there is little it can do to prevent that.
  • And so, it is agitated about Quad’s future role and its potential success in offering the regional states an alternative to its own strong-arm tactics.

About Quad’s agenda

  • The Quad member states are figuring out a cohesive agenda amongst themselves and there are no plans for an expansion.
  • There is a desire to work with like-minded nations but that can only happen if the four members of the Quad can build a credible platform first.
  • Quad has not asked any country to join and no one has shown an interest.
  • But China wants to ensure that after failing in its initial attempt to prevent the Quad from gaining any traction.
  • Its message is well understood by other states who may harbour any desire of working closely with the Quad members.

Way forward

  • Beijing has failed to prevent nations from the West to the East from coming out with their Indo-Pacific strategies.
  • It has failed to prevent the operationalisation of the Quad, and now it might be worried about other nations in the region thinking of engaging with the Quad more proactively.
  • Even Bangladesh is planning to come out with its own Indo-Pacific strategy and Beijing has now warned Dhaka that a close cooperation with the Quad should not be part of the policy mix.
  •  As the Quad gains more momentum and the churn in the waters of the Indo-Pacific leads to new countervailing coalitions against China, Beijing’s belligerence can only be expected to grow.


Beijing is more likely to demand clear-cut foreign policy choices from its regional interlocutors, as its warning to Bangladesh underscores. But as Dhaka’s robust response makes it clear, states are more likely to push back than become subservient to Chinese largesse.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The costs of relying on China to become more apparent to India’s neighbours


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- China's wolf warrior foreign policy and its implications for India's neighbours

The article explains the implications of China’s assertive foreign policy for India’s neighbours.

Chinese warning to Bangladesh

  • The Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh warned Bangladesh against joining the Quad and added that it will risk “significant damage” to its relationship with Beijing if it warms up to the Quad.
  • This came as a surprise as China was warning Bangladesh against joining a club that has no plans to invite new members, let alone Bangladesh.
  • China always used tough language when it came to issues of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • The aggressive style now covers a much broader range of issues.
  • Beijing is conscious that Bangladesh’s impressive economic performance in recent years as well as its location at the top of the Bay of Bengal littoral lends a new strategic salience to Bangladesh.
  • China notes India’s growing diplomatic investment in developing a strategic partnership with Bangladesh.
  • China is also not blind to the emerging interest in US and Japan to expand cooperation with Dhaka.
  • Bangladesh, which supports China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is open to similar infrastructure cooperation with the US, Japan and India.

China’s wolf worrier diplomacy

  • The new wolf warrior diplomacy confronts head-on any criticism of China in the public sphere.
  • India has been at the receiving end of this policy for a while — especially during the recent crises of Doklam and Ladakh.
  • But India’s South Asian neighbours, all of whom enjoy good relations with China, are only now getting a taste of Beijing’s new diplomatic medicine.
  • Chinese Ambassador’s public remarks about the Quad were about telling Bangladesh to resist any Indo-Pacific temptation.
  • Pre-emption is very much part of Beijing’s strategic culture.

What such assertive diplomacy mean for South Asia

  • Delhi has learnt after long that too much diplomatic interference in the Subcontinent has tended to undermine the pursuit of India’s regional objectives.
  • China, as the world’s newest superpower, probably bets that its substantive leverages — including economic, diplomatic, and military — will limit the costs while deterring smaller nations from crossing the markers that it lays down.
  • South Asian elites have always seethed at India meddling in their internal affairs; they have held up China’s non-interventionist policy as a welcome alternative.
  • The controversy in Bangladesh over China’s remark on joining Quad should help update their past images of Beijing
  • India is now more circumspect than before about interventions in the region.
  • It recognises that avoiding knee-jerk interventions is a sensible policy.
  • Our neighbours have always complained about India’s inefficiency in implementing economic projects and contrasted this with China’s speed and purposefulness.
  • But they are also discovering the flip side of Chinese economic efficiency — the capacity to set and implement terms of cooperation that are not always in favour of the host nation.
  • All the regimes in the region have had access to different sections of the Indian elite and some capacity to shape the discourse on neighbourhood policies.
  • They have no political recourse at all in China’s closed political system.

Consider the question “As Beijing becomes ever more assertive in South Asia, the costs of relying on China are likely to become more apparent to South Asia’s smaller nations. Comment.”


Until now, Chinese support against India seemed free of cost. As Beijing becomes ever more assertive in South Asia, the costs of relying on China are likely to become more apparent.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Evaluate the Ladakh crisis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Managing the strategic competition with China

The article highlights the need for a critical assessment of the stand-off with China last year and offers key lessons in managing the strategic competition with China.

Year after stand-off

  • After over a year, the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh shows no signs of resolution.
  • More broadly, the India-China bilateral relationship has ruptured.
  • Reversing a long-held policy, India will no longer overlook the problematic border dispute for the sake of a potentially lucrative wider relationship.
  • Even if disengagement continues, the relationship will remain vulnerable to destabilising disruptions.
  • Therefore, the Ladakh crisis offers India three key lessons in managing the intensifying strategic competition with China.

Three key lessons

1) Military strategy based on denial are more useful

  •  Military strategies based on denial are more useful than strategies based on punishment.
  •  The Indian military’s standing doctrine calls for deterring adversaries with the threat of massive punitive retaliation for any aggression, capturing enemy territory as bargaining leverage in post-war talks.
  • But this did not deter China from launching unprecedented incursions in May 2020.
  • In contrast, the Indian military’s high-water mark in the crisis was an act of denial — its occupation of the heights on the Kailash Range on its side of the LAC in late August.
  • This action served to deny that key terrain to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and gave the Indian Army a stronger defensive position.
  • A doctrinal focus on denial will give the Indian military greater capacity to thwart future land grabs across the LAC.
  • Over time, improved denial capabilities may allow India to reduce the resource drain of the increased militarisation of the LAC.

2) Political cost matters more

  • China is more likely to be deterred or coerced with the threat of political costs, rather than material costs.
  • The material burden of the crisis would not disrupt its existing priorities.
  • In contrast, India successfully raised the risks of the crisis for China through its threat of a political rupture, not military punishment.
  • A permanently hostile India or an accidental escalation to conflict were risks that China, having achieved its tactical goals in the crisis, assessed were an unnecessary additional burden.
  • The corollary lesson is that individual powers, even large powers such as India, will probably struggle to shift Beijing’s calculus alone.
  • Against the rising behemoth, only coordinated or collective action is likely to be effective.

3) India should accept more risk on LAC

  • India should consider accepting more risk on the LAC in exchange for long-term leverage and influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • From the perspective of long-term strategic competition, the future of the Indian Ocean Region is more consequential and more uncertain than the Himalayan frontier.
  • At the land border, the difficult terrain and more even balance of military force means that each side could only eke out minor, strategically modest gains at best.
  • In contrast, India has traditionally been the dominant power in the Indian Ocean Region and stands to cede significant political influence and security if it fails to answer the rapid expansion of Chinese military power.


As these three lessons show, the future of the strategic competition is not yet written. If India’s leaders honestly and critically evaluate the crisis, it may yet help to actually brace India’s long-term position against China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Sanctions on China over Uighurs: Cause & Effect


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Uighurs

Mains level : Uighur's genocide by PRC

In a coordinated move, many countries imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang province.

The Uighurs

  • Xinjiang has a large number of Uighurs, Muslims of Turkic descent.
  • Over the past few decades, more and more Han Chinese has settled in Xinjiang, which saw violent clashes between them and the Uighurs.

The sanctions have come after a meeting between the US and Chinese officials in Alaska last week, in what Washington described as “tough and direct talks”.

This was a “Tu-Tu, Mai-Mai” conservation if you had seen the news!

Sanctions on China

  • The European Union, the US, Britain, and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese Officials.
  • Australia and New Zealand issued a joint statement welcoming the Western action, adding they were concerned about reports of abuses from Xinjiang.
  • China on the other hand has consistently denied all reports of atrocities against Uighurs, maintaining it is only “deradicalising” elements of its population in the interests of security.

Retaliation by China

  • Those sanctioned by China include five Members of the European Parliament and the Political and Security Committee, the EU’s main foreign policy decision-making body, among others.
  • China also summoned the EU ambassador and the UK ambassador to lodge “solemn protests”.

Why these sanctions are crucial?

  • This is the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on China since an arms embargo after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. That is still in place.
  • Although the EU sanctions are not very damaging, they show a hardening of stance against its largest trading partner.
  • Also significant is that the Western powers moved together, in what is being seen as a result of the US push to deal with China along with its allies.

Nations that claim to be defenders of the faith or self-proclaimed Caliphates are silent on the persecution of Uighurs! They perceived the abrogation of Art. 370 as a doomsday event! This is height of hypocrisy!

Reasons behind: Crackdown on Uighurs

  • China is accused of putting over a million people in internment camps to “de-Muslimise” them and make them integrate better in the Communist country.
  • Allegations are that these people have been forced to leave behind their occupations, properties and families, to stay at the camps.
  • Survivors, human rights organisations, and governments of other countries have alleged physical, psychological and sexual torture.
  • People can be sent to the camps for showing any signs of “extremism” — sporting beards, fasting during Ramzan, dressing differently from the majority, sending Eid greetings, praying “too often” etc.

The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Mounting counter challenge to China through Quad


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India's nuanced approach to Quad

The article discusses the outcomes of the recently concluded first Quad Summit in the context of India.

Message to China after Quad summit

  • The first Learders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework was held on March 12.
  • This Summit conveyed a three-pronged message to China:
  • 1) Under the new U.S. President, “America is back” in terms of its desire to play a leading role in other regions.
  • 2) It views China as its primary challenger for that leadership.
  • 3) The Quad partnership is ready to mount a counter-challenge, albeit in “soft-power” terms at present, in order to do so.
  • For both Japan and Australia the outcomes of the summit, both in terms of the “3C’s”working groups established on COVID-19 vaccines, Climate Change and Critical Technology and in terms of this messaging to the “4th C” (China) are very welcome.

4 Outcomes of Quad Summit for India

  • For India the outcomes of the Quad Summit need more nuanced analysis.

1) COVID-19 Vaccine

  • India is not only the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines (by number of doses produced, it has already exported 58 million doses to nearly 71 countries.
  • It is also manufacturing a billion doses for South East Asia (under the Quad), over and above its current international commitments.
  • India has also planned to vaccinate 300 million people as originally planned by September.
  • All this comes down to total 1.8 billion doses which will require a major ramp up in capacity and funding, and will bear testimony to the power of Quad cooperation, if realised.
  • However, the effort could have been made much easier had India’s Quad partners also announced dropping their opposition to India’s plea at the World Trade Organization.
  • India had filed the plea along with South Africa in October 2020, seeking waiver from certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19.

2) Climate change

  • On climate change, India has welcomed the return of the U.S. to the Paris accord.
  • Mr. Biden has promised to restart the U.S.’s funding of the global Green Climate Fund, which Mr. Trump ended.
  • India still awaits a large part of the $1.4 billion commitment by the U.S. to finance solar technology in 2016.
  • Mr. Biden might also consider joining the International Solar Alliance, which the other Quad members are a part of, but the U.S.

3) Critical technology

  • India will welcome any assistance in reducing its dependence on Chinese telecommunication equipment and in finding new sources of rare-earth minerals.
  • India would oppose Quad partners weighing in on international rule-making on the digital economy, or data localisation.
  • Such a move had led New Delhi to walk out of the Japan-led “Osaka track declaration” at the G-20 in 2019.

4) Dealing with China

  • On this issue, it is still unclear how India can go on the Quad’s intended outcomes.
  • While India shares the deep concerns and the tough messaging set out by the Quad on China, especially after the year-long stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the killings at Galwan that India has faced, it has demurred from any non-bilateral statement on it.
  • India is the only Quad member not a part of the military alliance that binds the other members.
  • India is also the only Quad country with a land boundary with China.
  • And it is the only Quad country which lives in a neighbourhood where China has made deep inroads.
  • Indian officials are still engaged in LAC disengagement talks and have a long way to go to de-escalation or status quo ante.

3 long term impacts on strategic planning

  • The violence at the LAC has also left three long-term impacts on Indian strategic planning:
  • First, the government must now expend more resources, troops, infrastructure funds to the LAC and ensure no recurrence of the People’s Liberation Army April 2020 incursions.
  • Second, India’s most potent territorial threat will not be from either China or Pakistan, but from both i.e. “two-front situation”.
  • Third, that India’s continental threat perception will need to be prioritised against any maritime commitments the Quad may claim, especially further afield in the Pacific Ocean.

Consider the question “The Quad’s ideology of a “diamond of democracies” can only succeed if it does not insist on exclusivity in India’s strategic calculations given that India shares a special place among the Quad members when it comes to its relationship with China. Comment”


Despite last week’s Quad Summit, India’s choices for its Quad strategy will continue to be guided as much by its location on land as it is by its close friendships with fellow democracies.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A giant leap forward for the Quad


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- First Quad summit and its significance

The first-ever Quad summit is an important milestone in the geopolitics of the region. The article highlights its significance.

Significance of the first Quad summit

  • The maiden Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. on March 12 was a defining moment in Asian geopolitics.
  • That it was a meeting at the highest political level, occasioned a productive dialogue, and concluded with a substantive joint statement is indicative of its immediate significance.
  • If it leads to tangible action and visible cooperation, it will impact the whole region.

Brief background of the Quad

  • The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 triggered cooperation among the navies and governments of the Quad powers.
  • They sought to forge diplomatic cooperation on regional issues in 2006-08.
  • But gave up mainly because China objected to it and the hostility to China was not yet a potent enough glue.
  • This began to change in 2017 when Beijing’s behaviour turned hostile, climaxing in multiple challenges in 2020.
  • This time, U.S. President Joe Biden moved swiftly to host a virtual summit, drawing immediate response from the other three leaders.

5 highlights of the summit

  • A more sophisticated approach is being invented, with enhanced emphasis by the U.S. on carrying its allies and strategic partners together.
  •  The summit’s outcome, therefore, merits close attention for at least five reasons.

1) Compromise over vision of Indo-Pacific

  • Past debates over diverse, even differing, visions of the Indo-Pacific are over.
  • The joint statement struck a neat compromise:
  • To please the U.S. and Japan, it refers to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, but in the very next sentence it offers an elaboration – “free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion” – that amply satisfy India and Australia.

2) Alignment of approach towards China

  • The summit leaders have secured an adequate alignment of their approaches towards China.
  • Senior officials gave sufficient hints on this score, reinforced by phrases such as “security challenges” and “the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas” in the joint statement.
  • Instead of unidimensional antagonism, the Quad members have preferred a smart blend of competition, cooperation and confrontation.

3) Quad’s commitment development and well being of the region

  • The Quad has placed a premium on winning the battle for the hearts and minds of people in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • This explains the special initiative to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every person in need in the region from the western Pacific to eastern Africa.

4) Working groups

  • The establishment of three working groups on vaccine partnership; climate change; and critical and emerging technologies and their new standards, innovation and supply chains is a welcome step.
  • All this should get the four national establishments into serious policy coordination and action mode, creating new capacities.
  • The careful choice of themes reflects a deep understanding of the long-term challenge posed by China and has global implications.

5) Quad working together in future

  • The March 12 summit will not be a one-off.
  • The leaders have agreed to meet in-person later this year, possibly at an international event within the region.
  • Foreign ministers will gather at least once a year; other relevant officials, more often.
  • Thus, will grow the habits of the Quad working together for a common vision and with agreed modalities for cooperation.

How ASEAN and China will react

  • The summit has been watched closely by the ASEAN capitals. A few of them may express cautious welcome.
  • Beijing seems rattled but resigned to the Quad’s new momentum.
  • The Chinese see it in negative terms, targeting New Delhi in particular.

Consider the question “With the first-ever summit, the Quad is moving towards a strong coalition. In light of this, examine the challenges India faces as it deepes its engagement in the grouping.” 


The summit and ‘The Spirit of the Quad’ – the inspired title of the joint statement – represented a giant leap forward. Now is the time to back political commitment with a strong mix of resolve, energy, stamina and the fresh ideas of stakeholders and experts outside of government to fulfil the promise of the Quad.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Quad Summit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Relevance of the Quad

As India deepens its engagement with the Quad, it must consider several aspects related to such engagement. The article deals with this issue.

Background of India’s engagement with Quad

  • India’s engagement with the Quad goes back to China’s expanding footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region over the last few years.
  • China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative rang alarm bells in India as the projects were viewed as encroachments into India’s strategic space.
  • The U.S.’s focus on the west Pacific due to aggressive Chinese maritime activity gradually pulled India into the ambit of the Indo-Pacific that views the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as an integrated geopolitical space.
  • Besides the U.S. navy, India expanded its maritime ties with other regional states, the most high-profile of the interactions being the Quad.

Core structural problems with Quad

  • The Quad has a core structural problem as well in that it pivots around the U.S.
  • The Quad riles China as a hostile grouping, but hardly serves the security interests of its members.
  • The U.S. views China’s rise as a threat to the world order it has led since the Second World War.
  • Despite rhetoric relating to the promotion of a ‘rules-based’ world order, the Quad neither shares a strategic vision nor is it animated by a shared agenda.
  • This is obvious not only from its inability to deter China in the west Pacific, but also by its members’ anxiety to maintain close ties with China.

Implications for India

  • By affiliating with the U.S.-led maritime coalition, India ignored the principal areas of its security concerns which is an undemarcated 3,500-km land border with China.
  • From April 2020, Indian and Chinese forces had their latest border face-off in Ladakh, abruptly ending a long period of productive relations.
  • In retrospect, this confrontation appears to be China’s sharp response to the steady shift in India’s regional posture in favour of an alignment with the U.S. and its allies against China.
  • The stand-off at Ladakh has been a bitter experience for India: it has affirmed the limits of India-U.S. security ties, the folly of Indian involvement in the Quad.
  • The stand-off has also underscored need to focus national attention and resources in areas of abiding interest for India — the border, the neighbours and the Indian Ocean.

Lessons for India

  • Ladakh also offers some valuable lessons for India.
  • One, the rebuilding of ties with China will have to be a priority concern.
  • India need to dilute its focus on the Indo-Pacific and the Quad and accept that the borders and the Indian Ocean are where its crucial interests lie.
  • Two, the Ladakh experience has highlighted certain deficiencies at home:
  • It hardly needs reiteration that India’s capacities can only be built by a united people committed to the national cause.
  • Finally, foreign policy cannot be a part-time concern of the national leadership; in terms of priority and attention, it should be on a par with domestic affairs.

Consider the question “Examine the factors that India should consider as it seeks to deepen its engagement in the Quad.”


As the global scenario gets more complex and India’s ambitions increase, a cohesive strategic vision would give substance and drive to India’s pursuit of its interests over the long term.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China-Taiwan conflict


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India's relations with Taiwan

The article underscores the centrality of Taiwan in the realms of semiconductor production and how that dominant spills over in geopolitics.

Silicon shield of Taiwan

  • Taiwan’s security situation has been worsening amidst mounting economic, political and military pressure from China.
  • Any Chinese attack on Taiwan that disrupts the flow of semiconductors would produce significant challenges not only for the US but also China that relies on semiconductor supplies from Taiwan.
  • That factor appears to be preventing the crisis from boiling over into a full-scale war that could draw the US and Japan into it.
  •  It is Taiwan’s so-called “silicon shield”.

Taiwan’s dominance in semiconductor industry

  • Taiwan is the world’s leading producer of semiconductors and other electronic components.
  • The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has more than 55 per cent of the global market share in the production of high-end custom-made chips.
  • Of the two rival companies that have survived, US-based Intel is in trouble and Korea’s Samsung has challenges of its own.
  •  There will be no generation of data without the semiconductors.
  • It might be more accurate to say that “semiconductors are the new oil” and their production is increasingly dominated by Taiwan and the TMSC.

Geopolitics over Taiwan

  • As its economic heft and political salience rose in the 21st century, China has ratcheted up pressure on countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
  • China has also compelled international organisations to push Taiwan out of their activities, even when Taiwan had much to contribute.
  • Amidst the deterioration of US-China relations in recent years, President Donald Trump was far more supportive of Taiwan than his recent predecessors.
  • The Biden team has also signalled continuity with Trump’s Taiwan policies.
  • All indications are that Washington will continue to seek some technological decoupling and diversification of sensitive supplies away from China.
  • Taiwan will inevitably be the key element in the American quest for resilient supply chains in the digital domain.

Opportunity for India

  • Taiwan’s position as a semiconductor superpower opens the door for more intensive strategic-economic cooperation between Delhi and Taipei.
  • Part of the problem is that India’s strategic community continues to view Taiwan as an adjunct to India’s “One-China policy”.
  • India’s policy oscillates between keeping needless distance with Taipei when ties with Beijing are warm and remembering it when Sino-Indian ties enter a freeze.
  • This changed in the early 1990s, when it began to engage with Taiwan, but the policy remained a restricted one.
  • In the last few years, though, there has been a steady expansion of bilateral engagement.
  • Trade has increased from about $1 billion in 2001 to about $7 billion in 2018.
  • India has made a special effort to woo Taiwanese companies that are moving some of their production away from China.
  • India is yet to tap into the full range of commercial and technological opportunities possibilities with Taiwan.
  • This is particularly true of semiconductor production.

Way forward

  • Delhi must begin to deal with Taiwan as a weighty entity in its own right that offers so much to advance India’s prosperity.
  • Delhi does not have to discard its “One-China policy” to recognise that Taiwan is once again becoming the lightning rod in US-China tensions.

Consider the question “India needs to explore the opportunities in relationship with Taiwan even as it pursues and sticks to its One China policy. Comment.


As Taiwan becomes the world’s most dangerous flashpoint, the geopolitical consequences for Asia are real. Although Delhi has embraced the Indo-Pacific maritime construct, it is yet to come to terms with Taiwan’s critical role in shaping the strategic future of Asia’s waters.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

New disengagement agreement in eastern Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Critical passes and valleys along the international borders

Mains level : India-China border tensions

In the first major breakthrough in talks China’s Defence Ministry that PLA and Indian troops on the southern and northern shores of Pangong Tso began synchronized and organized disengagement.

This newscard presents a holistic report on the ground situation of Sino-India border disputes in Ladakh.

Also, try this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Q.Siachen Glacier is situated to the

(a) East of Aksai Chin

(b) East of Leh

(c)North of Gilgit

(d) North of Nubra Valley

New plan in eastern Ladakh

  • As of now, the disengagement process seems restricted to the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.
  • The process has started with the pulling back of certain columns of tanks from the south bank region by both sides.
  • At the moment, there is no pullback of troops from the friction points and the heights they are positioned on.
  • That will happen in a phased and verified manner.

Disengagement from Pangong Tso

  • China will pull its troops on the north bank towards the east of Finger 8.
  • Similarly, India will also position its forces at its permanent base near Finger 3.
  • Similar action will be taken by both the parties in the south bank area as well.
  • Both sides have also agreed that the area between Finger 3 and Finger 8 will become a no-patrolling zone temporarily, till both sides reach an agreement through military and diplomatic discussions to restore patrolling.
  • Further, all the construction done by both sides on the north and south banks of the lake since April 2020 will be removed.

Why is this area important?

  • The north and south banks of Pangong Tso are two of the most significant and sensitive regions when it comes to the current standoff that began in May 2020.
  • What makes the areas around the shores of the lake so sensitive and important is that clashes here marked the beginning of the standoff.
  • It is one of the areas where the Chinese troops had come around 8 km deep west of India’s perception of the Line of Actual Control.
  • China had positioned its troops on the ridgeline connecting Fingers 3 and 4, while according to India the LAC passes through Finger 8.

Take a glimpse of all friction points along Indian borders:

India is at an advantage

  • Further, it is in the south bank of the lake that Indian forces in an action in late August had gained a strategic advantage by occupying certain peaks, outwitting the Chinese.
  • Indian troops had positioned themselves on heights of Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Gurung Hill, Rezang La and Rechin La, which were unoccupied by either side earlier.
  • Since then, the Chinese side had been particularly sensitive as these positions allowed India to not only dominate Spanggur Gap.
  • It is a two-km wide valley that can be used to launch an offensive, as China had done in 1962, they also allow India a direct view of China’s Moldo Garrison.

Why has this taken so long?

  • Since September, China has insisted that India first pull its troops back from the south bank of Pangong Tso, and the Chushul sub-sector.
  • However, India has been demanding that any disengagement process should include the entire region, and troops should go back to their April 2020 positions.
  • However, it seems that for now, both sides have agreed to first disengage from the Pangong Tso area only.

Principles of disengagement

In military and diplomatic discussions with China India expects a solution to the issue on the basis of three principles:

  1. LAC should be accepted and respected by both parties.
  2. Neither party should attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.
  3. All agreements should be fully adhered to by both parties.

Does this mean that the standoff is resolved?

  • There are still some outstanding issues that remain regarding deployment and patrolling on LAC.
  • The Pangong Tso region is just one of the friction areas. There are other friction points, all north of the Pangong Tso, where the troops have been face-to-face since last year.
  • The situation in Depsang Plains continues to be a concern.
  • Both sides agree that complete disengagement under bilateral agreements and protocols should be done as soon as possible.
  • After the talks so far, China is also aware of our resolve to protect the sovereignty of the country.

Need for confidence building

  • Two of the main stumbling blocks in finding a permanent resolution are lack of trust and no clarity on intent.
  • Any permanent resolution will include first, disengagement of troops from the frontlines from all friction points.
  • Then de-escalation will entail sending the troops from the depth areas to their original bases.
  • Both sides have around 50,000 troops in the region, along with additional tanks, artillery and air defence assets.


  • A resolution has to include sending these troops and military equipment where they came from on both sides.
  • But neither side had been willing to take the first step to reduce their troop or military strength, as it does not trust the other side.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Taking the long view with China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Foreign policy challenges India faces

The article explains the various choices India faces in the geopolitical landscape shaped by emergence of two Asian giants.

New challenges and hard choices on geopolitical front

  • As it moves to becoming the third largest economy in the world, India needs to have a clear-eyed world view and strategy as it makes hard choices.
  • It needs to reject the developing country regional mindset that has shaped India’s  national aims and foreign policy.
  • We have a “special and privileged strategic partnership” with Russia which provides more than three-quarter of India’s military equipment and a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” with the U.S.
  • India’s relationship with the U.S.-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), where the others are military allies, has rightly been cautious, as U.S. President Joe Biden sees China as a ‘strategic competitor’ rather than a ‘strategic rival’.
  • Realism dictates that India does not need to compromise on its strategic autonomy.
  • India faces two sides of the China conundrum: Defining engagement with its neighbour which is consolidating an expanding BRI while remaining involved with the strategic, security and technological concerns of the U.S.

China’s dominance in financial sphere

  • In the financial sphere, there is the real possibility of the Chinese renminbi becoming a global reserve currency or e-yuan becoming the digital payments currency.
  • China is the world’s largest trading economy.
  • It could soon become the world’s largest economy.
  • China has stitched together an investment agreement with the EU and with most of Asia.
  • Relative attractiveness will determine when the dollar goes the way of the sterling and the guilder.
  • China, facing technological sanctions from the U.S., may well put in the hard work to make this happen soon.

China: Partner, competitor, and economic rival

  • Some form of the EU’s China policy of seeing the emerging superpower as a partner, competitor, and economic rival depending on the policy area in question is going to be the global norm. 
  • This broad perspective is also reflected in India’s participation in both the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, designed to resist the spread of Western interests, and in the U.S.-led Quad, with its anti-China stance.
  • Within the United Nations, India’s interests have greater congruence with China’s interests rather than the U.S.’s and the EU’s.
  • Sharing the COVID-19 vaccine with other countries distinguishes India, and China, from the rest.

India’s engagement with the U.S.

  • The congruence between India and the U.S. lies in the U.S.’s declared strategic objective of promoting an integrated economic development model in the Indo-Pacific as a credible alternative to the BRI, but with a caveat.
  • Instead of an alternate development model, India should move the Quad towards supplementing the infrastructure push of the BRI in line with other strategic concerns in the region.
  • For example, developing their scientific, technological capacity and digital economy, based on India’s digital stack and financial resources of other Quad members, will resonate with Asia and Africa.

India’s role in global governance

  • Another area where India can play a ‘bridging role’ is global governance.
  • President Xi Jinping’s “community with shared future for mankind”, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “climate justice” and asking how long India will be excluded from the UN Security Council, challenge the frame of the liberal order without providing specific alternatives.
  • With respect to digital data, India has recently expressed that there must be reciprocity in data sharing, and this is the kind of ‘big idea’ for sharing prosperity that will gain traction with other countries.

India’s growing influence

  • India’s recent policies are gaining influence at the expense of China and the West, and both know this trend will accelerate.
  • The steps to a $5 trillion economy, shift to indigenous capital military equipment, and a new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy underline impact, capacity and interests.
  • ASEAN remains keen India re-join its trade pact to balance China.
  • It is being recognised that India’s software development prowess could shape a sustainable post-industrial state different to the U.S. and China model.

Consider the question “Examine how India’s foreing policy priorities and its role in global governance is shaped by China’s rise.”


As in the historical past, Asia is big enough for both Asian giants to have complementary roles, share prosperity and be independent of each other and of the West.


Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

BNO Visas for Hong Kong residents


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BNO visa

Mains level : Hong-Kong/ Taiwan Issue

Hong Kong residents can apply for a new visa offering them an opportunity to become British citizens after Beijing’s imposition of a national security law last year.

What is the news?

  • The move comes as China and Hong Kong have said they will no longer recognise the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document from Sunday, January 31.
  • Britain and China have been arguing for months about what London and Washington say is an attempt to silence dissent in Hong Kong after pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020.

What is the British move for citizenship?

  • The scheme, which was first announced last year, allows those with BNO status to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship.
  • BNO is a special status created under British law in 1987that specifically relates to Hong Kong.
  • Britain says it is fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to Hong Kong people after Beijing imposed the security law on the semi-autonomous city.
  • Britain says breaches the terms of agreements under which the colony was handed back to China in 1997.
  • The U.K. government forecasts the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependants to Britain.

Chinese stance on the move

  • China says the West’s views on its actions over Hong Kong are clouded by misinformation and an imperial handover.
  • Beijing also said that it would no longer be recognising BN(O) passports, saying that the citizenship offer “seriously infringed” on China’s sovereignty.
  • It is unclear, however, how this could deter Hong Kongers from leaving since city residents are usually known to use Hong Kong passports while leaving for another country.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Foreign Minister suggests way forward for India-China ties


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Way ahead for India-China relations

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has given useful insight on the future of India-China ties amid heating border tensions and has suggested the best way forward.

Statements made by EAM are major breakthrough in itself. They are the most logical and amply reflect his perfect statesmanship.

We can imbibe such statements in our answers as they hold extraordinary significance like any gospel.

Key takeaways from EAM’s speech

  • 2020 was a year of exceptional stress in a relationship profoundly disturbed by the border crisis.
  • China’s actions last year had not only signaled a disregard of commitments to reduce troop levels” but also “a willingness” to breach the peace and tranquillity on the border.
  • For all the disagreements we had, the fact is the border areas still remained fundamentally peaceful with the last incident of a loss of life in 1975, prior to 2020.
  • Until now, India is yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for its amassing of troops.
  • Any expectation that can be brushed aside and life can carry on undisturbed despite the situation in the border is simply not realistic.

China’s contentious moves

  • China did a unilateral attempt to redraw the LAC in several areas in eastern Ladakh
  • China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2010
  • Reluctance from China to deal with some of India’s military commands, Beijing had that same year refused to host the Northern Army Commander
  • China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the U.N. Security Council as a permanent member
  • Blocking of U.N. listings of Pakistani terrorists, and
  • China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, violating India’s sovereignty

Gone is the past

  • Both sides had “painstakingly” worked to normalize relations after the post-1962 war freeze and the first prime ministerial visit in 1988.
  • For the border areas, he said, both had agreed a complete and practical set of understandings and agreements focused on border management, while negotiations were being conducted on the boundary dispute.
  • The advancement of ties, he said, was predicated on ensuring that peace and tranquillity were not disturbed, and the LAC was both observed and respected by both sides.
  • For this reason, it was explicitly agreed the two countries would refrain from massing troops on their common border, along with a detailed understanding of handling frictions that would arise.

No progress over the years

  • Over the years, he said, there was no sign of progress of arriving at a common understanding of the LAC, while there was increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially in the Chinese side.
  • India had made efforts to reduce the considerable infrastructure gap since 2014, including through greater budgetary commitments and border road building.

Way forward

The External Affairs Minister suggested “three mutuals” and “eight broad propositions” as a way forward for the relationship.

#Three mutuals

Mutual respect, mutual sensitivities and mutual interests are the “determining factors”.

#Major propositions

(1) Adhering to commitment

  • The first proposition was that agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and in spirit.

(2) Respect for LAC

  • Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.

(3) Maintaining peace and tranquillity

  • Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, he said, the rest of the relationship would be too.

(4) Broader partnership

  • The fourth proposition was that while both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.

(5) Reciprocity

  • While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature. As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations.

(6) Divergences management

  • While both sides had made a common cause on development and economic issues and common membership of plurilateral groups was a meeting point, there were divergences when it came to interests and aspirations.

(7) Civilizational ties

  • The last proposition was that as civilizational states, India and China must always take the long view.

(8) Cooperation and competition

  • Even before the events of 2020, the relationship had reflected a duality of cooperation and competition.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China builds a new village in Arunachal Pradesh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : McMahon Line

Mains level : India-China border tensions

Satellite images show that China has constructed a new village in Arunachal Pradesh, around 4.5 kilometres inside of the de facto border on the Indian side.

Indian and Chinese soldiers have confronted each other in their deadliest clash in decades in Ladakh last year and the earlier one in Doklam. Now another front has been opened up by China in Arunachal.

This year could face another ugliest standoffs and skirmishes.

Location of the village

  • The village, located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, lies in the Upper Subansiri district.
  • It is an area that has been long disputed by India and China and has been marked by armed conflict.
  • Sources in the defense ministry have said that Beijing has, for years, maintained an army post on this territory, and the various constructions by the Chinese have not happened suddenly.

Background of the story

  • China’s June 1959 operation known as the Longju incident reportedly accused Indian troops of occupying some places in Tibet and colluding with Tibetan rebels.
  • In August same year, the PLA clashed with the Indian personnel of the 9 Assam Rifles.
  • Two Indian soldiers were killed in action and the issue was finally resolved through diplomatic channels. Both sides withdrew from the area on August 20, 1960.
  • And the Assam Rifles then did not re-occupy the post.
  • In the late 1990s however, China established a company level post 3 kilometers inside the Indian Territory. Since then, the area remains contested to this day.

India and Arunachal

  • Arunachal Pradesh (called South Tibet in China) is a full-fledged state of India.
  • India’s sovereignty over the area is internationally recognized and its residents have not shown any inclination to leave India.
  • The majority of the international maps acknowledge the area to be an Indian Territory.
  • China has some (pre-) historical claims through its ownership of Tibet, but the people and geography primarily favor India.

Back2Basics: Chinese claim over Arunachal Pradesh

  • When the new Peoples Republic of China was formed in February 1912 after the abdication of the Qing emperor, the Tibetans asserted their independence.
  • They forced the Chinese troops based in Lhasa to return to the mainland-via India. A year later, Tibet declared independence from China.
  • In order to ensure that the unrest did not spread to India and assert their boundaries, the ruling British convened a tripartite meeting at Shimla with Tibetan and Chinese delegates to define the border.
  • The meeting gave China suzerainty over most of Tibet, and the boundary defined in this treaty was later known as the McMohan line.

Chinese reluctance

  • The essential dispute is over China’s refusal to acknowledge the McMohan Line as the border between the two nations, and staking claim to large tracts of land as a contiguous part of Tibet.
  • However, it laid claim to the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In the 16th century, the most important heritage of the state – Tawang Monastery was built. This is one of the most important sites for Tibetan Buddhists.
  • China never recognized Tibet’s independence nor the 1914 Simla convention.
  • In 1950 China completely took over Tibet. Thus, according to their version, the Tawang region belongs to them.
  • It especially wants to hold on to the monastery as that is a leading center of Tibetan Buddhism in India.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

CPEC- The corridor of uncertainty


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gilgit-Baltistan Region, CPEC

Mains level : CPEC and India's sovereignty concerns

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has turned five.

What is CPEC?

  • China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013.
  • It is an extension of the Belt and Road Initiative of China.
  • It intended to upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.
  • On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.

Why in news?

  • The viability of some of the CPEC’s projects, and how they were going to be paid for in a pandemic-hit economy, had come under renewed attention in Pakistan.
  • China had sought additional guarantees before sanctioning a $6 billion loan for the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project, which includes upgrading a 1,872 km rail line from Peshawar to Karachi.
  • This is due to the “weakening financial position of Pakistan” and had “proposed a mix of commercial and concessional loans against Islamabad’s desire to secure the cheapest lending”.

An overrated project

  • The CPEC, to some degree, has been a victim of its own hype.
  • Its economic figure may never materialise as the plan has been “considerably slimmed-down” from the scope that was first imagined.
  • This largely due to the ever-deteriorating financial situation of Pakistan and a visible debt-trap.
  • Pakistan had established a CPEC authority to speed up the execution of several projects that were mired in delays (and to give the military a greater role in the project).

Threats of Baloch insurgency

  • Gwadar, the heartland of CPEC certainly faces serious threats.
  • The city is a prime target for Baloch nationalist insurgents. Hence Pakistan has decided to fence the area.
  • This has sparked a new furore among the local residents.

India’s concerns with CPEC

  • CPEC passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan) which is an Indian territory illicitly occupied by Pakistan.
  • Thus CPEC undermines India’s strategic interests and territorial integrity.
  • More importantly, with CPEC, China will get access to the western Indian Ocean through Gwadar port.
  • This will help China in controlling maritime trade and would affect the freedom of navigation and trade-energy security of India.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Reading the new US policy on Tibet


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : TIbetan issue and its political recognition

The Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) passed by the US Senate earlier this week, bookends a turbulent year in US-China relations.

Must read:

Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA)

Do you think that India’s support for the Tibetan cause is the root cause of all irritants in India-China relations?

TPSA: A backgrounder

  • The TPSA is an amended version of the Tibet Policy Act of 2002, which came into existence during the Bush Administration.
  • The act once signed into law would make it the official policy of the US Government to oppose any effort by the govt. of the People’s Republic of China to select, educate, and venerate Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The proposed legislation will empower the US Government to impose sanctions on China who might try to interfere in the process of selecting the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

US and China, today

  • US-China relations have become much more difficult over the last two decades, particularly worsening in the Trump Administration.
  • The matters range from the pandemic to trade tariffs and its cross-world coalition-building against Chinese superpower ambitions.
  • Earlier in the year, President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Autonomy Act.

Fuelled by TPSA

  • Adding much fuel to the issue, the TPSA introduces stronger provisions on Tibet, plus teeth in the form of a threat of sanctions, including travel bans on Chinese officials.

The Dalai Lama

  • Among the most significant amendments is that the TSPA makes it US policy to oppose attempts by Beijing to install its own Dalai Lama in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The legislation makes reference to the Chinese government’s ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas’ in 2007.
  • China had earlier insisted that the reincarnation of living Buddhas including the Dalai Lama must comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

Other provisions of TPSA

  • The TPSA has introduced provisions aimed at protecting the environment of the Tibetan plateau, calling for greater international cooperation and greater involvement by Tibetans.
  • Alleging that China is diverting water resources from Tibet, the TPSA also calls for a regional framework on water security, or use existing frameworks… to facilitate cooperative agreements among all riparian nations.
  • While the 2002 Act said the US should establish a “branch office” in Lhasa, the TSPA ups the ante by changing that to a “consulate”.
  • It recognizes the Central Tibetan Administration, whose Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay takes credit for ensuring that the Senate took up the legislation for a vote.

Chinese response to TPSA

  • China had earlier said the TPSA severely breached international law and basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China’s internal affairs, and sent a wrong message to ‘Tibet independence’ forces”.
  • After the passage of the Bill through the Senate, China said it “resolutely opposes” the “adoption of Bills containing such ill contents on China.

India’s present stance on Tibet

  • If India is pleased with this latest US barb to China, it has not said so openly.
  • India has mostly refrained from playing the Tibet card against China, and like the US, has a one-China policy.
  • It was only this year, in the ongoing Ladakh standoff, that it used Special Forces made up almost entirely of Tibetan exiles to occupy strategic heights in Pangong Tso’s south bank.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The new League of Nations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : League of Nations

Mains level : Paper 2- Changing global order and opportunities for India

Despite China’s rise, the world will remain committed to multi-polar order. The article highlights the emerging trends in the global order against the backdrop of a pandemic and explains how there could be an opportunity for India.

Changing geopolitical landscape and choices India face

  • As the world is slowly recovering from the disruption caused by the pandemic, there are worrying intimations of other crises looming round the corner.
  • Geopolitics has been transformed and power equations are being altered.
  • There are a new set of winners and losers in the economic changes.
  • Technological advancement will magnify these changes.
  • India will need to make difficult judgements about the world that is taking shape and find its place in a more complex and shifting geopolitical landscape.
  • As the pandemic recedes, the world could draw the right lessons and proceed on a more hopeful trajectory.

Unlearnt lessons: lack of international cooperation

  • Most challenges the world faces are global, like the pandemic.
  • However, international cooperation in either developing an effective vaccine or responding to its health impacts has been minimal.
  • The pre-existing trend towards nationalist urgings, the weakening of international institutions and multilateral processes continues.
  • Even in the distribution of vaccines, we are witnessing a cornering of supplies by a handful of rich nations.

Need for a collaborative solution

  • Global challenges such as climate change, cybersecurity, space security, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and ocean and terrestrial pollution demand collaborative, not competitive solutions.
  • The challenges require some display of statesman-like leadership to mobilise action on a global scale.
  • The nation-state will endure but its conduct will need to be tempered by a spirit of internationalism and a sense of common humanity.

Role of China and Asia

  • The pre-pandemic shift in the centre of gravity of the global economy and political power and influence, from the trans-Atlantic to the trans-Pacific, has been reinforced under the impact of the crisis.
  • East Asian and South-East Asian countries are the first to register the green shoots of recovery.
  • China has been the first large economy to witness a significant rebound in its growth rate.
  • The regional supply chains centred on China have been reinforced rather than disrupted.
  • China will emerge in pole position in the geopolitical sweepstakes commencing in 2021.
  • The power gap with its main rival, the US, will shrink further.

Why should India prefer multi-polar world order

  • As the power gap between India and China is expanding, the threat from China will intensify and demand asymmetrical coping strategies.
  • Despite China emerging a relative gainer from the pandemic the trend towards multi-polarity is here to stay.
  • Neither the US nor China can singly or as a duopoly manage a much more diffused distribution of economic and military capabilities across the globe.
  • This is only possible through multilateral approaches and adherence to the principle of equitable burden-sharing.
  • But a multipolar order can only be stable and keep the peace with a consensus set of norms, managed through empowered institutions of international governance and multilateral processes.
  • India’s instinctive preference has been for a multipolar order as the best assurance of its security and as most conducive to its own social and economic development.
  • India now has the opportunity to make multipolar order as its foreign policy priority as this aligns with the interests of a large majority of middle and emerging powers.
  • This will be an important component of a strategy to meet the China challenge.

The favourable geopolitical moment for India

  • Due to China’s aggressive posture across the board and its unilateral assertions of power, there is a significant push-back even from smaller countries, for example, in South-East Asia and Africa.
  • China’s blatant “weaponisation of economic interdependence” such as action against Australia, has made its economic partners increasingly wary.
  • In this context, India is seen as a potential and credible countervailing power to resist Chinese ambitions.
  • The world wants India to succeed because it is regarded as a benign power wedded to a rule-based order.
  • India can leverage this propitious moment to encourage a significant flow of capital, technology and knowledge to accelerate its own modernisation.

Consider the question “Though it may sound counterintuitive, India which is dealing with pessimism about its economic prospect in the wake of the pandemic, may be located at favourable geopolitical moment” Comment.


India should seize the opportunity and make multi-polar world order a pillar of its foreign policy to counter China threat while trying to leverage the moment to attract the flow of capital, technology and knowledge to accelerate its own modernisation.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : TIbetan issue

The US and China sparred over Tibet and the South China Sea over the passing of the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA).

Do you think that India’s support for the Tibetan cause is the root cause of all irritants in India-China relations?

About TPSA

  • The TPSA once signed into law would make it the official policy of the US Government to oppose any effort by the govt. of the People’s Republic of China to select, educate, and venerate Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The proposed legislation will empower the US Government to impose sanctions on China who might try to interfere in the process of selecting the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Why such a law?

  • Tibetans were concerned over the possibility of the Chinese Government making an attempt to install someone loyal to it as the 15th Dalai Lama after the death of the incumbent.
  • The PRC could use him as a puppet to fizzle out the global campaign against its occupation of Tibet.
  • The incumbent and the 14th Dalai Lama have been living in exile in India ever since his 1959 escape from Tibet, which had been occupied by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1950-51.
  • He has been leading the movement for “genuine autonomy” for Tibet and the Tibetans.

Significance of TPSA

  • The TPSA acknowledged the legitimacy of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile elected by the exiled community as well as the CTA.
  • It seeks to introduce key provisions aimed at protecting the environment and water resources on the Tibetan Plateau.
  • In an aggressive move, the PRC government has forced resettlement of the nomads from grasslands.
  • TPSA recognizes the importance of traditional Tibetan grassland stewardship in mitigating the negative effects of climate change in the region.
  • In addition, it calls for greater international cooperation to monitor the environment on the Tibetan plateau.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Hazardous ideas for the Himalayas


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Anthropogenic threats to Himalayas

By planning hydropower projects, India and China are placing the region at great risk.

China’s new hydropower project

  • Recently China announced that it is planning to build a major hydropower project as a part of its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), on the YarlungZanbo River, in Mêdog County in Tibet.
  • The hydropower generation station is expected to provide 300 billion kWh of electricity annually.
  • The Chinese authorities say the project will help the country realize its goal of reaching a carbon emission peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060.


  • Such ‘super’ dams projects are very unviable as they are being planned in an area that is geologically unstable.
  • There are two hydropower projects being built in Arunachal Pradesh on the tributaries of the Brahmaputra: the 600 MW Kameng project on the Bichom and Tenga Rivers and the 2,000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectricity Project.
  • China has already completed 11 out of 55 projects that are planned for the Tibetan region. In this race, the two countries overestimate their economic potential and grossly underestimate the earthquake vulnerability of the region.
  • High seismic zones coincide with areas of high population concentration in the Himalayan region where landslides and glacial lake outburst floods are common.

Practice Question:‘’Carbon neutrality should not be at the expense of the environment.” Elaborate with proper examples.

Havocs created due to these earthquakes

  • About 15% of the great earthquakes of the 20th century (with a magnitude of more than 8) occurred in the Himalayan region.
  • The northeast Himalayan band has experienced several large earthquakes of magnitude 7 and above in the last 100 years, more than the share from other parts of the Himalayas.
  • The 1950 earthquake just south of the McMahon Line was of 6 magnitudes. It was the largest continental event ever recorded and devastated Tibet and Assam.
  • The earthquake killed thousands, and caused extensive landslides, widespread land level changes and gaping fissures. It resulted in water and mud oozing in the Himalayan ranges and the upper Assam valley.
  • The earthquake was felt over an extensive area comprising parts of India, Tibet, erstwhile East Pakistan and Myanmar.
  • The2015 Gorkha earthquake of magnitude 7.8 in central Nepal resulted in huge losses in the hydropower sector. Nepal lost about 20% of its hydropower capacity consequent to the earthquake.
  • About 30 projects with a capacity of 270 MW, mostly located along the steep river valleys, were damaged.

What are the issues of high concern?

  • The main mechanisms that contributed to the vulnerability of hydropower projects were found to be landslides, which depend on the intensity of seismic ground shaking and slope gradients.
  • Heavy siltation from giant landslides expected in the project sites and headwater region from future earthquakes will severely reduce the water-holding capacity and life expectancy of such dams.
  • Even without earthquakes, the steep slopes made of soft rocks are bound to slide due to deforestation and road-building. These activities will get intensified as part of the dam-building initiatives.
  • Desilting of dams is not an economically viable proposition and is technologically challenging.

A transnational asset under threat

  • The Himalayan range is a transnational mountain chain and is the chief driver of the Asian climate.
  • It is a source for numerous Asian river systems and glaciers which are now under the threat of degradation and retreat due to global warming; these river systems provide water for billions of people.
  • The ongoing low-level military confrontations between these two countries have led to demands for further infrastructural development on both sides, including all-weather roads, much to the peril of regional biodiversity and the livelihoods of the indigenous population.
  • The Himalayas have seen the highest rate of deforestation and land-use changes.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for India and China to sit together to deliberate on the consequences of such misadventures in an area where massive earthquakes are bound to take place.
  • The upper Himalayas should be converted into a nature reserve by an international agreement.
  • The possibility of a Himalayan River Commission involving all the headwater and downstream countries needs to be explored.
  • There is a need to understand that – ‘’Carbon neutrality should not be at the expense of the environment’’.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Private: China plans for first downstream dam on Brahmaputra


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Brahmaputra river system

Mains level : Chinese assertions in Arunachal region

Chinese hydropower company is set to construct the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river, or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in Tibet.

Yarlung Zangbo Hydropower Project

  • China will implement the hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River” as part of the new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).
  • China in 2015 operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu in Tibet, while three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed, all on the upper and middle reaches of the river.

Potential of the great bend

  • The “Great Bend” of the Brahmaputra and at the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Medogcounty, where the river falls spectacularly over a 2,000 metre-drop and turns sharply to flow across the border into Arunachal Pradesh.
  • If built, it could provide 300 billion kWh of clean, renewable and zero-carbon electricity annually.
  • The project will play a significant role in realising China’s goal of reaching a carbon emissions peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060.

Concerns for India

  • Indian officials have said the dams are not likely to impact the quantity of the Brahmaputra’s flows in India greatly.
  • This is because they are only storing water for power generation and the Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows with an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
  • However, India has expressed concerns to China over the four dams on the upper and middle reaches.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Elections for the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Comparison of TIbetan constitutional scheme with India

Mains level : TIbetan refugees issue

Over 1.3 lakh Tibetans living in exile and settled across India and other parts of the globe shall be electing their next Parliament-in-Exile, called Central Tibetan Administration, and it’s head in May 2021.

Do you think that India’s support for the Tibetan cause is the root cause of all irritants in India-China relations?

Electing the exiled Government

  • The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE) has its headquarters in Dharamsala, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • According to the Green Book of the Tibetan government-in-exile, over 1 lakh Tibetans are settled across India.
  • The remaining are settled in United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Mongolia, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland and various other countries.

Here is how the Tibetan elections will be held:

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE)

  • The Speaker and a Deputy Speaker head the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
  • The 16th TPiE had 45 members – 10 representatives from each of the traditional provinces of Tibetan – U-Tsang, Dhotoe and Dhomey.
  • It includes two members from each of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.
  • Other representatives are from the Tibetan Communities in North America and Europe; and from Australasia and Asia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan).
  • Till 2006, it used to be called as Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (ATPDs) with the chairman as its head and a vice-chairman.

Tibetan Constitution

  • The Central Tibetan Administration exists and functions on the basis of the Constitution of the Tibetan government called the ‘The Charter of the Tibetans in Exile’.
  • In 1991, The Constitution Redrafting Committee instituted by the Dalai Lama prepared the Charter for Tibetans in exile. The Dalai Lama approved it on June 28, 1991.
  • In 2001, fundamental changes happened with the amendment of the Charter that facilitated the direct election of the Kalon Tripa by the Tibetans in exile.
  • The Kalon Tripa is called Sikyong or president of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The Kashag (Cabinet)

  • The Kashag (Cabinet) is the Central Tibetan Administration’s highest executive office and comprise seven members.
  • It is headed by the Sikyong (political leader) who is directly elected by the exiled Tibetan population.
  • Sikyong subsequently nominates his seven Kalons (ministers) and seeks the parliament’s approval. The Kashag’s term is for five years.

A backgrounder: Democracy for Tibet

  • The Dalai Lama began democratization soon after he came to India during the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising.
  • He reportedly asked Tibetans in exile to choose their representatives through universal adult suffrage, following which polls were held for electing Tibetan Parliamentarians in 1960.
  • Democracy for the Tibetans, thus, began in exile.
  • The Dalai Lama, however, continued to remain the supreme political leader. On March 14, 2011, he relinquished his political responsibilities, ending a 369-year-old practice.

Is TPiE officially recognised by any country?

  • Not exactly, it is not recognised officially by any country, including India.
  • But, a number of countries including the USA and European nations deal directly with the Sikyong and other Tibetan leaders through various forums.
  • The TPiE claims its democratically-elected character helps it manage Tibetan affairs and raise the Tibetan issue across the world.
  • The incumbent Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay, was among the guests who attended the oath-taking ceremony of our PM in 2014, probably a first.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s use of ‘Microwave Weapons’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Microwave weapons

Mains level : Not Much

The Indian Army has rejected a report in the British daily newspaper which claimed that the Chinese army had used “microwave weapons” to drive Indian soldiers away from their positions in eastern Ladakh.

The use of non-lethal weapons for violence and mob control is a contested issue. Can you suggest some alternatives to it apart from the use of water cannon and teargas?

What are “Microwave Weapons”?

  • Microwave weapons are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • It uses a focussed beam of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation to heat the water in a human target’s skin, causing pain and discomfort.
  • In a microwave oven, an electron tube called a magnetron produces electromagnetic waves (microwaves) that bounce around the metal interior of the appliance, and are absorbed by the food.
  • The microwaves agitate the water molecules in the food, and their vibration produces heat that cooks the food.
  • Food with high water content cooks faster in a microwave often than drier foods.

Which countries have these “microwave weapons”?

  • A number of countries are thought to have developed these weapons to target both humans and electronic systems.
  • According to a report, China had first put on display its “microwave weapon”, called Poly WB-1, at an air show in 2014.
  • The United States has also developed a prototype microwave-style weapon, which it calls the “Active Denial System”.

How dangerous are these weapons?

  • Concerns have been raised on whether they can damage the eyes, or have a carcinogenic impact in the long term.
  • It is not clear yet how China intends to use such a weapon, and whether it can kill or cause lasting damage to human targets.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Four lessons for the Quad from Asia’s history and geopolitics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Fourth factors the Quad must consider about Asia

The article highlights the 4 issues related to the history and geopolitics of Asian that the Quad members should pay attention to while formulating the future course of action. 

The 4 factors

If the Quad is to prosper as a geopolitical construct, it would do well to heed four lessons drawn from the long arc of Asia’s history and geopolitics.

1) Lack of existence of Indo-Pacific system

  • There has never been Indo-Pacific system ever since the rise of the port-based kingdoms of Indochina in the first half of the second millennium.
  •  There were two Asian systems — an Indian Ocean system and an East Asian system — with intricate sub-regional balances.
  • The effort by a U.S. to artificially manufacture to combine the Indo and the Pacific into a unitary system is unlikely to succeed.

2) Lack of peaceful existence dominated by any power

  • The Indo-Pacific region possesses no prior experience of long period of peace, prosperity and stability engineered from its maritime fringes.
  • Rather, dynamic long cycles of Chinese influence radiating outwards have alternated with sharp periods of turmoil.
  • The of ASEAN-centred multilateralism is more in tune with regional tradition and historical circumstance.
  • For their part, the Indo-Pacific’s ‘flanking powers’, India and Japan, have never balanced Chinese power throughout their illustrious histories.

3) India must use its leverage judiciously

  •  The sea lines of communication constitute the important links connecting Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.
  • It is also a valuable arena of leverage vis-à-vis Chinese shipping and resource flows.
  • This leverage must be wielded judiciously on India’s terms, not on the Quad’s terms.
  • The Quad, after all, has little to offer materially with regard to New Delhi’s continental two-front dilemma.
  • However, ceding this chokepoint leverage will invite overwhelming Chinese pressure against the full range of India’s South Asian interests — to which the other Quad members possess neither will nor desire to answer.

4) Check on China’s India Ocean Ambitions

  •  The Quad has a valuable role to play as a check on China’s Indian Ocean ambitions.
  • India must develop ingrained habits of interoperable cooperation with its Quad partners.
  • This interoperable cooperation could pre-emptively dissuade China from mounting a naval challenge in its backyard.


The Quad must consider these factors while formulating the future course of action.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Confusion on what the Quad is and its future


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad countries

Mains level : Paper 2- Non-alignment and Quad

The article analyses the basics of India’s foreign policy and its implications for the Quad.


  • There is confusion on what the Quad is and its future in India’s international relations.
  • Sustaining that confusion is the proposition that India is abandoning non-alignment in favour of a military alliance with the US in order to counter the China threat.

4 Question on Quad’s future and India’s role

1) What is the nature of alliance?

  • Alliances involve written commitments to come to the defence of the other against a third party.
  • Working of alliance varies according to the distribution of power within the members of an alliance and the changing nature of the external threat.
  • Alliances come in multiple shapes and forms — they could be bilateral or multilateral, formal or informal and for the long-term or near term.
  • Alliances feature in India’s ancient strategic wisdom and contemporary domestic politics in India.
  • Yet, when it comes to India’s foreign policy, alliances are seen as a taboo.
  • Part of the problem is that India’s image of alliances is frozen in the moment when India became independent.
  • After the Second World War, a newly independent India did not want to be tied down by alliances of the Cold War.
  • That notion is seen as central to Indian worldview.

2) Does India forge alliances?

  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, India has experimented with alliances of different kinds.
  • During the First World War, some nationalists aligned with Imperial Germany to set up the first Indian government-in-exile in Kabul.
  • In the Second World War, Subhas Chandra Bose joined forces with Imperial Japan to set up a provisional government.
  • Policy of non-alignment among the great powers also did not rule out alliances in a different context.
  • For example, when Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim turned to Delhi for protection amidst Maoist China’s advance into Tibet during 1949-50, Nehru signed security treaties with them.
  • India turned to the US for military support to cope with the Chinese aggression in 1962.
  • Indira Gandhi signed a security cooperation agreement with the Soviet Union in 1971 to cope with the crisis in East Pakistan.
  • Then, as now, there was much anxiety in Delhi about India abandoning non-alignment.
  • India does do alliances but the question is when, under what conditions and on what terms.

3)  Is the US offering India an alliance against China?

  • The current political discourse in Washington is hostile to alliance-making.
  • President Donald Trump does not miss an opportunity to trash US alliances.
  • In any case, formal commitments do not always translate into reality during times of war.
  • Even within the long-standing US military alliances with Japan and the Philippines, there is much legal quibbling over what exactly is the US’s obligation against, say, Chinese aggression.
  • In case of the Quad, it is quite clear that Washington is not offering a military alliance, nor is Delhi asking for one.
  • Because it knows India has to fight its own wars.
  • Both countries, however, are interested in building issue-based coalitions in pursuit of shared interests.

4) Instrumental nature of alliance

  • Agreements for security cooperation are made in a specific context and against a particular threat.
  • When those circumstances change, security treaties are not worth the paper they are written.
  • Consider India’s security treaties with Nepal, Bangladesh and Russia.
  • The 1950 Treaty was designed to protect Nepal against the Chinese threat.
  • Now, Nepali communists have long argued that the Treaty is a symbol of Indian hegemony.
  • India’s 1972 security treaty with Bangladesh did not survive the 1975 assassination of the nation’s founder, Mujibur Rahman.
  • India’s own enthusiasm for the 1971 treaty with Moscow waned within a decade.
  • Today Beijing is Moscow’s strongest international partner, a reality that has a bearing on India’s strategic partnership with Russia.

What India can learn from China about alliances

  • Mao aligned with the Soviet Union after in 1949 and fought the Korean War against the US during 1950-53.
  • He broke from Russia in the early 1960s and moved closer to the US in the 1970s.
  • Mao, who denounced US alliances in Asia, was happy to justify them if they were directed at Russia.
  • He also welcomed Washington’s alliance with Tokyo as a useful means to prevent the return of Japanese nationalism and militarism.
  • Having benefited from the partnership with the US, China is trying to push America out of Asia and establish its own regional primacy.
  • Delhi could learn from Beijing in not letting the theological debates about alliances cloud its judgements about the extraordinary economic and security challenges India confronts today.


The infructuous obsession with non-alignment diverts Delhi’s policy attention away from the urgent task of rapidly expanding India’s national capabilities in partnership with like-minded partners.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India needs a China plan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The article discusses the issue of dealing with China in the aftermath of clashes on the border.

Understanding the importance of Tibet

  • Tibet is the roof of the world, with vast mineral and natural resources.
  • The mighty rivers that emanate from its expansive glaciers — such as the Brahmaputra, the Yangtse, the Yellow river, the Mekong, the Salween and the Indus — together with thousands of their tributaries have nurtured civilisations in peripheral countries for centuries.
  • The Kailash Mansarovar is centered in this region.
  • In an act of naked aggression, China occupied Tibet in 1959.
  • A buffer was eliminated, and the de facto boundary of China became contiguous to that of India.
  • That boundary was deliberately left undemarcated to enable further expansion.

Understanding China’s stand

  • China has land borders with 14 neighbours covering an estimated 22,100 kilometres.
  • Post-independence, and as its economic status increased, so did its military muscle.
  • China embarked on claims based on perceived imbalances of treaties forced on countries when they were weak.
  • Some of these have since been resolved after bloody clashes such as with Russia and Vietnam, while others have been resolved using a combination of lucrative offers.
  • Russia accepted half of China’s claim, Kazakhstan was given lucrative economic deals, Kyrgyzstan retained 70% of the land, ceding just 30%, and so on.

Way forward

  • The road ahead will have to be evolved and based on a study of the manner in which China has negotiated its boundary disputes with 12 of its neighbours.
  • Under the prevailing circumstances, it has become imperative to form a group of experts.
  • This group will plan and prepare, short-, medium- and long-term goals to achieve them within a suggested time frame.


Let us play down the rhetoric and adopt a pragmatic approach. It can no longer be a part-time issue to be addressed only when a crisis occurs. The crisis is upon us now.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Our larger China picture


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations


  • After the skirmish at the border, Beijing started to concentrate troops, armoured vehicles and munitions opposite our posts in Aksai China at Galwan.

2 interpretations of China’s move

  • First believes that the Chinese exercise was a territorial snatch in Aksai Chin, which they believe is entirely theirs.
  • The move was accompanied by a “lesson” to the Indians on aggressive Indian behaviour in not conceding Aksai Chin.
  • The second school of thought in India believes that territory has nothing to do with it.
  • They believe that, due to growing economic power, Beijing will lay down the rules of world governance.

How it matters for India

  • India contest China’s entire southern border, refuse to join the Belt and Road initiative, create an anti-China maritime coalition, compete with them for influence in South East Asia and Africa.
  • India is also unsupportive of their crackdown on Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang and move ever closer to the United States.
  • When China assumes hegemonic power after 2030, India is going to get a nasty surprise.
  • Secularism, democracy and the rights of man will play no part in Chinese foreign policy.
  • China will overturn every international, financial, trade, diplomatic, arms control and nuclear agreement that the world has put together in seven decades.

Way forward

  • We in India need to conduct a large and vociferous debate on Chinese intentions.
  • If the Chinese intention is to “teach us a lesson” we need a new national strategy, combining diplomatic and military means.
  •  If our national goal is to concentrate on the creation of wealth and growing GDP, let us proclaim it, tighten our belt, look down and avoid conflict.


What China wants is Indian acceptance of Beijing’s benign superiority, and that is a purely Chinese trait, not to be confused with the known rules of international diplomacy. Talking from a position of inferiority will not lead to an equitable solution. But first, a national debate.

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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Chushul Valley and its Significance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chushul Valley

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes

The Chushul sub-sector has come into focus in the standoff between the Indian and PLA troops.

Tap to read more about Himalayan River System

What is the Chushul Valley?

  • The Chushul sub-sector lies south of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
  • It comprises high, broken mountains and heights of Thatung, Black Top, Helmet Top, Gurung Hill, and Magger Hill besides passes such as Rezang La and Reqin La, the Spanggur Gap, and the Chushul valley.
  • Situated at a height of over 13,000 feet close to the LAC, the Chushul Valley has a vital airstrip that played an important role even during the 1962 War with China.

What is its strategic importance to India?

  • Chushul is one among the five Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China.
  • It enjoys tremendous strategic and tactical importance because of its location and terrain, which make it a centre for logistics deployment.
  • This sector has plains that are a couple of km wide, where mechanized forces, including tanks, can be deployed. Its airstrip and connectivity by road to Leh add to its operational advantages.
  • Indian troops have now secured the ridgeline in this sub-sector that allows them to dominate the Chushul bowl on the Indian side, and Moldo sector on the Chinese side.
  • They also have a clear sight of the almost 2-km-wide Spanggur gap, which the Chinese used in the past to launch attacks on this sector in the 1962 War.

How is Chushul important to China?

  • Simply put, Chushul is the gateway to Leh. If China enters the Chushul, it can launch its operations for Leh.
  • After the initial attacks, including on the Galwan valley by the Chinese in October 1962, the PLA troops prepared to attack Chushul airfield and the valley to get direct access to Leh.
  • However, just before the attacks were launched, the area was reinforced by the 114 Brigade in November 1962, which also had under its command two troops of armour and some artillery.

What are the challenges in this area?

  • An immediate challenge is of a flare-up as troops of the two countries are deployed within a distance of 800 to 1,000 metres of each other at Black Top and Reqin La.
  • Logistics also pose a major challenge. There is a need to carry water and food to the top which soldiers cannot do.
  • The harsh winter that lasts for eight months of the year poses a big challenge.
  • It is very difficult to dig in and make shelters on the ridgeline. The temperature falls to minus 30 degrees Celsius, and there are frequent snowstorms.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Non-War Military Tactics used by China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : India-China Relations

An annual report from the U.S. Department of Defense describes Chinese leaders’ use of tactics short of armed conflict to further the country’s objectives, citing border conflicts with India and Bhutan among the examples.

Try this question:

Q. What are Non-War Military Activities (NWMA)? Discuss how China is using NWMA as a tool for its overtly ambitious expansionist policy.

Various non-war military tactics

The report describes Non-War Military Activities (NWMA) as one of two kinds of military operations (the other is war) used by the PLA. NWMA can be conducted internationally or domestically and encompass activities in multiple domains.

(1) Provoking armed conflict

  • China calibrates its coercive activities to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict with the United States, its allies and partners, or others in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • It can notably include operations in which the PLA uses coercive threats and/or violence below the level of armed conflict against states and other actors to safeguard its expansionism.
  • These tactics are particularly evident in China’s pursuit of its territorial and maritime claims in the South and East China Seas as well as along its border with India and Bhutan.

(2) Neo-imperialist tools

  • China also employs non-military tools coercively, including economic tools during periods of political tensions with countries that China accuses of harming its national interests.
  • The Belt and Road Initiative is leading to a greater overseas military presence for China in the guise to protect its economic interests.

(3) Multilateralism as a strategic messaging tool

  • The report says that China uses multilateral forums and international organisations to generate new opportunities to expand its influence, strengthen its political influence.
  • It promotes strategic messaging that portrays China as a responsible global actor, advances its development interests, and limit outside interference in and criticism of its initiatives.
  • The Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) grouping and Shanghai Cooperation Organization are among those cited as examples of this alleged phenomenon.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India needs an internationalism that is rooted in realism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Evolution of India's approach to Asian regionalism and internationalism

The article analyses India’s approach towards regional integration in Asian unity and internationalism and its consequences.

Clash between internationalism and nationalism

  • Three current developments reveal the clash between grandiose internationalism and the intractable nationalism.
  • 1) India pulled out of the military exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which was to herald a new era of Eurasian unity.
  • Sharpening contradictions between India and China comes in the way of uniting such a large geopolitical space.
  • 2) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim to leadership of the Muslim world that has run into resistance from a large section of the Arab rulers.
  • 3) The tension between the globalism of the US foreign policy establishment and Donald Trump’s “America First” nationalism.

Internationalism and threats to it

  • Western liberalism has had more power than anyone else to promote internationalism.
  • But the liberal internationalist effort at constructing supra-national institutions now faces big setbacks.
  • The greatest resistance to the liberal internationalist vision has not come within the US.
  • Trump channelled the American resentments against the globalist excesses of the Wall Street, Washington and the Silicon Valley.

India’s nationalism

  • Indian nationalism was inevitably influenced by liberal internationalism, socialism, communism, pan-Islamism, pan-Asianism and Third-Worldism to name a few.
  • Both the Asian Relations Conference (Delhi 1947) and the Afro-Asian Conference (Bandung 1955) showed up the deep differences among the Asian elites.
  • India then turned its back on Asianism to claim the leadership of the broader Non-Aligned Movement.
  • After the Cold War, India re-embraced Asianism in the 1990s when it unveiled the Look East Policy.
  • India also joined the Asian regional institutions led by the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

RCEP joining issue

  • Few could have anticipated that Delhi would walk out of one of the most consequential agreements negotiated by the ASEAN — the RCEP — that sought Asia-wide economic integration.
  • Delhi believed that the contradiction between India’s domestic commercial interests and a China-led Asian economic regionalism was irreconcilable.

India’s approach toward Asian regionalism

  • Eurasian regionalism led by Moscow and Beijing is also facing tensions and there is deepening conflict between Indian and Chinese interests.
  • India’s diplomatic finesse on the SCO has become increasingly unsustainable after Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh.
  • India underestimated the economic and political consequences of China’s rapid rise while seeking economic regionalism in East Asia and the multi-polar world with Russia and China.
  • India took a benign view of Chinese power and has been shocked to discover otherwise in 1962 and in 2020.


India today needs more internationalism, than less, in dealing with the Chinese power. But it must be an internationalism that is rooted in realism and tethered to India’s economic and national security priorities.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Leveraging its market to force China to settle border issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The article charts out the plan to leverage the potential and the present size of the India markets to settle the boundary dispute with China.

Boycott of Chinese goods: view and counterview

  • After Galwan incident, there have been calls for the boycott of Chinese goods.
  • Counter views have been expressed that the Indian economy is so dependent on China that the costs would be disproportionately higher for India.
  • Our dependence can be reduced substantially if there is a national will and resolve to do so.

Need for mutually acceptable boundary agreement

  • China may not be willing to go back substantially from the areas they have occupied.
  • Agreeing on maintaining peace and tranquillity or clarification of the LAC has left space for the Chinese to create border incidents which have now led to casualties.
  • So India needs to get China to seriously negotiate a mutually acceptable boundary agreement.

India could use its market as leverage

  • Size of Indian market: The size of the Indian market and its potential in the coming years provides India considerable leverage.
  • But to use this leverage, Indians, individual consumers as well as firms, have to accept that there would be a period of adjustment in which they would have to pay higher prices.
  • The Chinese have a competitive advantage and are integral to global supply chains.
  • But whatever they sell is, and can be, made elsewhere in the world.
  • Indian can produce everything imported by China: Most of what we import from China was, is and can be made in India itself.
  • With volumes and economies of scale, the cost of production in India would decline as it did in China.

Steps need to be taken to use market as leverage

  • Focus on those imports from China which have been increasing: The initial focus should be on items which are still being made in India and where imports from China have been increasing.
  • Depriciate Rupees: If the RBI let the currency depreciate in real terms it would be equivalent to an increase in import duties of about 10 per cent.
  • China-specific safeguard duties and use of non-tariff trade barriers should be used in segments like electrical appliances to let Indian producers expand production and increase market share.
  • Government Finances for expansion: The government should also facilitate the flow of finances for expansion and provide technical support for testing, improving quality and lowering costs of production.
  • Look for other players: In critical areas such as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, we need a vigorous approach to procure from elsewhere and have early production in India.
  • The government could provide support for environmental compliance to bring down costs of production.This would create demand for domestic goods and services.
  • There are strategic sectors where we should reduce vulnerability: Like scrutiny of -Chinese FDI, Chinese 5G participation etc.
  • Assured government procurement: In critical areas like solar panel and grid storage batteries private investment for manufacturing in India would be triggered by assured government procurement.

Consider the question “Size and potential of India market could be leverage by India to settle the issues it has with its neighbour. What India needs to achieve this is a strategy and its implementation. Comment.”


A sustained and graded economic response to the recent Chinese conduct on the border is needed. We should signal India’s firm resolve and willingness to bear the cost. China could choose to settle the border amicably and have full access to our market. We could then work together to make this the Asian century.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Seeking equilibrium with China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The article analyses the India’s efforts to establish strategic equilibrium with assertive China and how that idea clashes with China’s desire to form an Asian order with itself at the top.

Strategic equilibrium

  •  External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar articulated that India is seeking strategic equilibrium with an increasingly aggressive China.
  • It is hoped that with China’s growing differences with the U.S. China would pay attention to India’s sensitivities.
  • In achieving equilibrium with China, India has bravely been confronting a face-off in the Himalayas for the past several months.
  • India has been building issue-based alliances with the US and Asian majors like Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia, and Australia.
  • It has taken initiatives in the direction of economic de-coupling with China in the name of “atmanirbharata”.

Hierarchical Asian order with China at top

  • China is not interested in equilibrium with any of its Asian neighbours, least of all with India.
  • China’s efforts are clearly to build a hierarchical Asian order, with itself at the top.
  • It is acutely conscious of India’s economic strength, military modernisation and overall capabilities.
  • It knows that India is also far behind on these counts.
  • China is ruthlessly resisting India’s access to global governance bodies, such as the UNSC and NSG.
  • To keep India tied at that level, China is objecting to India’s growing strategic proximity to the US. I
  • It is encircling India strategically and economically through its strategic and economic corridors — BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar), CPEC and the Trans-Himalayan Connectivity Network.
  • It is raising issues like Kashmir at the UN and establishing footprints in the Indian Ocean.

What should India do

1. Adjust with China, at least tactically.

  • Such an adjustment could be based on mutual give and take.
  • For India, our first priority could be the resolution of the border dispute.
  • Secondly, since China has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, it should be asked to prevail over Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.
  • In return for these “takes” India could offer access to Chinese commercial cargos to sea, through the Nathula pass.
  • India could also join China’s BRI on mutually acceptable terms.
  • India may also show its willingness, at least tactically, to join CPEC as both Pakistan and China have asked for, provided, India is allowed to undertake projects in PoK and Balochistan.

2.India should revisit its Tibet policy, which is a core irritant for China.

Consider the question “China seeking to establish an Asian order with itself at the top comes in the way of India establishing strategic equilibrium with China. Comment.”


It is possible that this “give” and “take” may not be acceptable to China. Even if it does not work out as planned, India would have made a bold diplomatic initiative and a huge tactical move towards thinking through out-of-the-box solutions and displaying that it can undertake risks to pursue its long-term national interests.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

What India should consider about the proposition to isolate China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The economic grip China exerts on the world protects it from the threat of isolation. This article examines this issue and its implications for India.

Worsening U.S.-China ties and implications for other countries

  • After years of cooperating with one another, the U.S. and China are currently at the stage of confrontation.
  • Both are seeking allies to join their camps.
  • This places several countries in Asia, in a difficult position as most of them, loathe to take sides.
  • The U.S. may not necessarily be the first choice for many countries of Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.
  • In the case of China, it is clearly more feared than loved.

China’s aggression

  •  Beijing’s virtual takeover of Hong Kong has only confirmed what had long been known about China’s intentions.
  • In March-April this year, China further stepped up its aggressive actions, renaming almost 80 geographical features in the region as an index of Chinese sovereignty.
  •  Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Korea have all complained about China’s menacing postures in their vicinity.

How countries are resisting China

  • Hardly any country in Asia is willing to openly confront China, and side with the U.S.
  • East Asian countries explain that China was always known to be over-protective of the South China Sea.
  • And China consider South China Sea a natural shield against possible hostile intervention by outside forces inimical to it.
  • No U.S. assurance and Chinese aggression has been enough to make countries in the region openly side with the U.S. and against China.

China’s economic grip and lessons for India

  • Despite a series of diktats from Washington to restrict economic and other relations, China remains unfazed.
  • China seems confident that its stranglehold on the global economy ensures that it does not face any real challenge.
  • It would be wise for India to recognise this.
  • It is equally necessary to realise how fickle some of these countries can be when it comes to economic issues.
  •  At a recent meeting in Washington Australia (a member of the Quad) made it clear that China is important for Australia.
  • Likewise, the U.K.’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, recently stated in its Parliament, that the U.K. wants a positive relationship with China.
  • It is evident that few nations across the world are willing to risk China’s ire because of strong economic ties.

India’s relations with neighbouring countries: concerns

  • India’s relations with Nepal, meanwhile, have hit a roadblock over the Kalapani area.
  • In Sri Lanka, the return of the Rajapaksas to power after the recent elections does not augur too well for India-Sri Lanka relations.
  • The strain in India-Bangladesh relations is a real cause for concern since it can provide a beachhead against Chinese activities in the region.

Growing Chinese presence in India’s sphere of influence

  •  In July, the Chinese Foreign Minister organised a virtual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • In this meeting, China proposed economic corridor plan with Nepal, styled as the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
  • China has also made headway in Iran to an extent, again at India’s expense.


Geo-balancing is not happening to China’s disadvantage. This lesson must be well understood when India plan its future strategy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

What are Confucius Institutes, and why are they under the scanner in India?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Confucius Institutes

Mains level : India-China diplomatic spat since border skirmishes

  • The Ministry of Education (previously HRD) had sent a letter to several institutions seeking information about the activities of their Confucius Institutes (CIs) and Chinese language training centres.
  • This has brought the spotlight to China’s CI programme, a key pillar of Beijing’s global soft power effort, and raised questions about the future of India-China cooperation in the education space.

Try this question for mains:

Q.“It cannot be business as usual with China after the border clash.” Critically comment.

What are the Confucius Institutes (CI)?

  • Starting with a CI in Seoul in 2004, China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL) known as Hanban establishes CI.
  • China has established 550 CIs and 1,172 Confucius Classrooms (CCs) housed in foreign institutions, in 162 countries.
  • As the Hanban explains on its website, following the experience of the British Council, Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe-Institut, China began “establishing non-profit public institutions which aim to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries”.

What is the presence of CIs in India?

  • India is reviewing the presence of CIs in seven universities, in addition to 54 MoUs on inter-school cooperation involving China, which is not connected to the CI programme.

How have CIs been viewed around the world?

  • The CI arrangement has generated debate in the West, where some universities have closed the institutes amid concern over the influence of the Chinese government and it’s funding on host institutions.
  • Closures of some CIs have been reported in the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Sweden.
  • While the closures in the West have made news, these cases still represent a minority. Faced with this backlash, China is now rebranding the programme.
  • Most of the 550 CIs and more than 1,000 CCs around the world are still active, with a presence spanning Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, and across Asia.

What does it mean for India-China relations?

  • CIs and CCs had already been in India for more than 10 years.
  • Even prior to the border skirmishes, Indian authorities had viewed the CI arrangement somewhat warily.
  • Along with the new move to review CIs, Mandarin has been dropped from the list of foreign languages that can be taught in schools in the new National Education Policy.

Not a perfect move

  • Recent moves by India shows that it cannot be business as usual with China after the border clash.
  • However, India’s long-term objectives are not clear.
  • De-emphasizing learning Mandarin is neither likely to impact China’s stance on the border nor help India in developing the expertise and resources it needs in dealing with China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Russia-India-China: A triangle that is still relevant


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCO

Mains level : Paper 2-India's relations with Russia and China

RIC engagement started on the promising note but the geopolitical changes over the last two decades have set the three countries on diverging paths. It is against this backdrop, the article articulates why RIC is still relevant.

Background of RIC

  • The RIC dialogue commenced in the early 2000s.
  • At that time the three countries were positioning themselves for a transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order.
  •  It was not an anti-U.S. construct though.
  • The initial years of the RIC dialogue coincided with an upswing in India’s relations with Russia and China.
  • The 2003 decision to bring a political approach to India-China boundary dispute and to develop other cooperation, encouraged a multi-sectoral surge in relations.
  • An agreement in 2005, identifying political parameters applicable in an eventual border settlement, implicitly recognised India’s interests in Arunachal Pradesh.

Growing India-U.S. relations

  • During the same period in which RIC dialogues took place, India’s relations with the U.S. surged.
  • This involved trade and investment, a landmark civil nuclear deal and a burgeoning defence relationship.
  • This rising relations with the U.S. met India’s objective of diversifying military acquisitions away from a near-total dependence on Russia.
  • The U.S. saw value in partnering with a democratic India in Asia as China was rapidly emerging as a challenger.

How India-U.S. relations affected RIC

  • China went back on the 2005 agreement.
  • It launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and worked to undermine India’s influence in its neighbourhood.
  • And expanded its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean.
  • As U.S.-Russia relations imploded in 2014 after the annexation/accession of Crimea.
  • Russia’s pushback against the U.S. included cultivating the Taliban in Afghanistan and enlisting Pakistan’s support for it.
  • The western campaign to isolate Russia drove it into a much closer embrace of China.

Thus, the RIC claim of overlapping or similar approaches to key international issues, sounds hollow today. But it is still holds significance.

Why RIC is still significant for India

1) SCO

  • Central Asia is strategically located, bordering our turbulent neighbourhood.
  •  Pakistan’s membership of SCO and the potential admission of Iran and Afghanistan heighten the significance of the SCO for India.
  • It is important for India to shape the Russia-China dynamics in this region, to the extent possible.
  • The Central Asian countries have signalled they would welcome such a dilution of the Russia-China duopoly.
  • The ongoing India-Iran-Russia is an important initiative for achieving an effective Indian presence in Central Asia, alongside Russia and China.

2) Significant bilateral relations

  • India’s defence and energy pillars of partnership with Russia remain strong.
  • Access to Russia’s abundant natural resources can enhance our materials security.
  • With China too, while the recent developments should accelerate our efforts to bridge the bilateral asymmetries, disengagement is not an option.

3) The Indo-Pacific issue

  • For India, it is a geographic space of economic and security importance, in which a cooperative order should prevent the dominance of any external power.
  • China sees our Indo-Pacific initiatives as part of a U.S.-led policy of containing China.
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry sees the Indo-Pacific as an American ploy to draw India and Japan into a military alliance against China and Russia.
  • India should focus on economic links with the Russian Far East and the activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.
  • This may help persuade Russia that its interests in the Pacific are compatible with our interest in diluting Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific.

4) Strategic autonomy of India

  • The current India-China stand-off has intensified calls for India to fast-track partnership with the U.S.
  • National security cannot be fully outsourced.
  • India’s quest for autonomy of action is based on its geographical realities, historical legacies and global ambitions.

Consider the question “The changing geopolitical landscape should not dampen the importance of India’s engagement in the RIC (Russia-India-China) triangle. Comment.” 


India should continue its engagement in the RIC while keeping and protecting its interests.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Exploring options to tackle China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Options in dealing with China

There are several options which India could explore in dealing with China with less cost but significant effectiveness. Diplomacy is one of them. What are the other options? Read the article to know…


  • China’s aggression and Galwan valley incident dismantles the Border Agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013.
  • Understanding China’s objectives become critical in this situation.

Analysing China’s objectives

  • Humbling India in the eyes of Asia and the world was all important for China.
  • Despite China’s territorial aggression, it would be a mistake to think that China is preparing for a conflict over territory.
  • China is well aware that it cannot be certain whether it will emerge a victor from an all-out conflict with India.
  •  China cannot afford to jeopardise its future for the present.
  • China has been intent on transforming the Asian region in its own image, and, simultaneously, seeking to become a continental and a maritime power.

What are the options to deal with China

  • India may well find non-military tools not only more cost-effective but also less risky.
  • 1)  Exploiting the current widespread opposition to China, India must try to create international opinion in its support regarding border violations.
  • 2) Cultivation of foreign leaders with a view to draw their specific attention to China’s aggressive policies and designs is the second option.
  • India’s involvement with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) should prove invaluable in this respect.
  • 3) India must also overhaul its ‘messaging’ capacity.
  • It should make greater use of technology to send across its message and ideas in its vicinity and across the globe, highlighting its peaceful intentions in stark contrast to China’s aggressive policies and tactics.
  • 4)  India must pay particular attention to relations with countries in its neighbourhood, such as Nepal and Bangladesh, and allies such as Iran and Vietnam.
  • Relationship with these countries seems to have frayed at the edges, with India being more intent on strengthening relations with the West.
  • Smaller countries of Asia, which constantly face China’s aggressive interference in their internal affairs, have not received much support from India, and this needs India’s attention.
  • 5) India’s true strength is its unity in diversity. A truly united and resilient India is the best antidote to China’s attempts to humble India.
  • China has never been able to properly understand, the strength India seems to derive from its spiritual, religious and cultural attributes, which are a part of its civilisational heritage.
  • 6) India would do well to take pole position in propagating ‘Himalayan Buddhism’ which China has been seeking to subvert to achieve its ends.

Consider the question “To counter the challenges manifested by China through recent events India needs to explore along with other options the subtler tools of power available to it. Examine the other tools available with India.”


Military no doubt project the country’s power but there are other options with less cost and significant benefits. India should focus on these options as well while dealing with China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Changing dynamics in China-Pakistan collusion against India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- China-Pakistan collusion in Jammu and Kashmir

India has always been aware of the China-Pak collusion and their mutual support to each others’ actions. But the underlying basis has been changing now. It is no longer Pakistan seeking Chinese support in J&K as much as it is the other way around.

Preparedness for a two-front war

  • The debate regarding India’s capability to fight a war in which there is full collusion between China and Pakistan has generally remained inconclusive.
  • Most detractors of the belief regarding China’s military-operational support to Pakistan, have leaned on the argument that China will adopt a policy to suit its interests.
  • Both in 1965 and 1971, China made some promises to Pakistan but chose to stay away.
  • Of course, that was during the Cold War — a completely different international strategic environment.

China-Pakistan collection action in Kashmir

  • Pakistan increased its proxy campaign in J&K almost in sync with two China-related trends.
  • First, enhanced PLA assertiveness in Eastern Ladakh.
  • Second, the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • A progressively altering Chinese attitude towards the Kashmir issue started to take shape as early as 2008-09, with issuing stapled visas to Indians residing in J&K and denial of a visa to the Northern Army Commander were signs of it.
  • This support was also witnessed on issues like the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Pakistan’s involvement in global terrorism and the abrogation of Article 370.

Pincer approach in Ladakh

  • It is no longer Pakistan seeking Chinese support for its adventurism as much as it is the other way around.
  • The mutuality of interests has increased and military coordination has become a larger part of the overall strategy.
  • China may force further escalation this season depending upon how the world responds to its expansionism.
  • China could also adopt a posture which prepares it, along with Pakistan, towards a future “pincer approach” in Ladakh.
  • Along with Ladakh — Arunachal, Sikkim and the Central Sector are very part of the expanded collusive strategy.
  • But it is Ladakh where the effect is intended most and it is there that the pincer approach may prove more challenging for India.

Suggestions for India

  • Assuming that confrontation with the Sino-Pak combine is inevitable now or later, one of the ways for India to offset this is to project sufficient capability.
  • The diplomatic and military domains have to play this out effectively.
  • India cannot be seen to be alone or militarily weak.
  • It has tremendous support internationally which must translate into a higher level of strategic support.
  • Militarily, Pakistan should never be able to perceive that it will be allowed to fight as per choice and conceived strategy.
  • China’s success or failure in such adventurism will set the course of its future strategy against its multiple adversaries.
  • That is the psyche which India must exploit to prevent escalation and win this and impending standoffs without fighting.
  • This needs a rapid and all-out national effort with the highest priority accorded to it, including budgeting.


India cannot afford to focus only on the northern borders. A firm and full strategy to deal with Pakistan in all contingencies has now become imperative.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Concerns over Australia in the Malabar Exercise


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Australia's joining in Malabar naval exercise and issues with it

While the idea of inviting Australia to join Malabar is being explored, we must not forget the concerns with it. This article examines such concerns.


  • India’s Ministry of Defence discussed the issue of adding Australia to the trilateral Malabar naval exercise.
  • If materialised, it will be the first time since 2007 that all members of Quad-India, U.S., Japan and Australia will participate in a joint military drill.

Possible consequences of the move

  • The Chinese leadership sees the maritime Quadrilateral as an Asian-NATO that seeks only to contain China’s rise.
  •  India’s intention to involve Australia in the Malabar drill could only be construed as a move directed against Beijing.

India’s perspective

  • Following the stand-off in Ladakh, many Indian analysts believe the time is right for India to shed its traditional defensiveness in the maritime domain.
  • The realists advocate an alliance with the U.S., Japan and Australia to counter Chinese moves in the Indian Ocean.


1) Contrary message to China

  • While India and China are negotiating a truce, Australia’s participation in the Malabar exercise sends contrary signals to Beijing.
  • If China responded aggressively in the Eastern Indian Ocean, it could needlessly open up a new front in the India-China conflict.

2) Only modest gains for India

  • U.S. and its Pacific partners want to form a maritime coalition to implement a ‘rules-based order’ in the Indo-Pacific littorals.
  • India’s priority is to acquire strategic capabilities to counter a Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
  •  Indian Navy is yet to develop the undersea capability to deter Chinese submarines in the eastern Indian Ocean.
  • With U.S. defence companies hesitant to share proprietary technology the gains for India, in exchange for signing up the ‘military-quad’, are modest.
  • Without strategic technology transfers, Indian Navy’s deterrence potential in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will not improve much.

3) Operational issue: India will be drawn into power dynamics of the Asia-Pacific

  • With the strategic contest between the U.S. and China, there is every possibility that the military-Quad will be used to draw India into the security dynamics of the Asia-Pacific.
  • The U.S. would expect its Indo-Pacific partners, including India, to assist the U.S. Navy in its South China Sea endeavour.
  •  The U.S. and Japanese navies have little spare capacity for sustained surveillance and deterrence operations in the IOR.
  • Australia is an exception and is ready and able to partner India in securing the Eastern Indian Ocean.

4) Timing

  • A balancing coalition must come together at a time when the nature and magnitude of the threat are wholly manifest.
  • But, despite a growing presence in the Indian Ocean, the Chines Navy is yet to physically threaten Indian interests at sea.
  • So, the onus of the first move to precipitate a crisis in the Eastern Indian Ocean lies with the Indian Navy.


Upgrading the trilateral Malabar to a quadrilateral, without acquiring the requisite combat and deterrence capability, could yield gains for India in the short term, but would prove ineffective in the long run.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Broader strategic challenge of dealing with China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China tension and India's response

  • Identifying the nature of the threat posed by China is important to formulate a response. This article discusses the plan of action on the diplomatic, strategic and economic front to deal with Chinese aggression.

Economic angle of China’s expansionism

  • The Chinese growth model needed to find subservient emerging markets.
  • In these markets, China can park huge debts and make investments to keep feeding China’s high growth rates.
  • Friendly foreign debt-investment markets were needed to compensate for over-investment at home.
  • The Belt and Road Initiative was rolled out as a meeting point for China’s geo-strategic and geo-economic interests.
  • China has expanded its global footprint by signing on about 100 countries to the BRI.
  • China has made aggressive moves on most of its non-submissive neighbours in the South China Sea.
  • China has also made moves against its traditional rivals like Japan and Taiwan to independent-minded nations like South Korea and Australia.
  • China sees itself as a global power whose time has come.

India needs to play clearer role

  • Rise of China is shaking up global alignments and shaping new world order.
  • The Trump administration is increasingly being criticised for not providing global leadership.
  • India could afford to be largely non-aligned during the 20th century Cold War.
  • Our size and economic momentum necessitate that we play a clearer role in the Cold War’s 21st-century sequel.
  • India’s foreign policy has lacked a clear vision about China.
  • India has been deepening our strategic relationship with the US but without wanting to alarm China.

India’s relation with neighbours

  • India’s relations with other neighbouring nations have also become a cause of concern.
  • Pakistan has practically become a minion state for the Chinese – the $62-billion CPEC is a case in the point.
  • Nepal is no longer on our list of all-weather friends.
  • Chinese influence is growing in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — both signatories to the BRI.
  • And just last week, Beijing, sent another appallingly stern message to our loyal friend, Bhutan, by making ridiculous territorial claims.

What should be India’s plan of action

  • Dealing with China will require conviction and exercising a range of military, diplomatic and economic options.
  • One forum we need to build on and provide leadership to is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
  •  India should now propose the expansion of the Quad’s scope with a possible exploration of a collective defence architecture like NATO.
  • The membership of the Quad should be expanded to include Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand, and Malaysia.
  • On the economic front, India must welcome the US proposal to expand G7 to include India, Russia, Australia and South Korea without China as a member.
  • Next area of focus should be strengthening ties with our neighbourhood.
  • Effort must be made to regain the relationship with Russia.


China must be made to choose: Is it willing to push the equally proud, equally numerous, equally historical and glorious civilisation to the south in this long-term direction for a few square kilometres of territory and a round of chest-thumping?

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Patrolling Points along LAC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Patrolling points, Galwan River

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes and its de-escalation

The standoffs between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where initial steps towards disengagement have taken place, are around a number of patrolling points or PPs in Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra areas.

Do you know?

The Galwan River flows from the Aksai Chin region occupied by China in the UT of Ladakh.  It originates in the area of Samzungling on the eastern side of the Karakoram Range and flows west to join the Shyok River.  It is one of the upstream tributaries of the Indus River.

What exactly are Patrolling Points?

  • PPs are patrolling points identified and marked on the LAC, which are patrolled with a stipulated frequency by the security forces.
  • They serve as a guide to the location of the LAC for the soldiers, acting as indicators of the extent of ‘actual control’ exercised on the territory by India.
  • By regularly patrolling up to these PPs, the Indian side is able to establish and assert its physical claim about the LAC.

Are all the Patrolling Points numbered?

  • Some of the PPs are prominent and identifiable geographical features, such as a pass, or a nala junction where no numerals are given.
  • Only those PPs, where there are no prominent features, are numbered as in the case of PP14 in Galwan Valley.

Do all Patrolling Points fall on the LAC?

  • Mostly, yes. Except for the Depsang plains in northern Ladakh, where PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13 – from Raki Nala to Jivan Nala – do not fall on the LAC.
  • These are short of the LAC, on the Indian side.

Are these Patrolling Points not manned?

  • The PPs are not posts and thus not manned. Unlike on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, the border with China is not physically held by the Army all along.
  • They are just physical markers on the ground, chosen for their location and have no defensive potential or tactical importance for the Army.

How is the claim asserted on LAC?

  • The claim is asserted by the Army or joint Army-ITBP patrols as they show more visible presence in these areas.
  • This is done by physically visiting PPs with a higher frequency, as the deployment has moved closer to the LAC and due to improved infrastructure.
  • As the Chinese may not see when the Indian patrols visit these PPs, they will leave come cigarette packets or food tins with Indian markings behind.
  • That lets the Chinese know that Indian soldiers had visited the place, which indicates that India was in control of these areas.

Who has given these Patrolling Points?

  • These PPs have been identified by the high-powered China Study Group, starting from 1975 when patrolling limits for Indian forces were specified.
  • It is based on the LAC after the government accepted the concept in 1993, which is also marked on the maps with the Army in the border areas.
  • But the frequency of patrolling to PPs is not specified by the CSG – it is finalised by the Army Headquarters in New Delhi, based on the recommendations made by the Army and ITBP.

PP under dispute

  • PPs 10 to 13 in Depsang sector, PP14 in Galwan, PP15 in Hot Spring, and PP17 and PP17A in Gogra are currently being disputed by both sides, where the standoffs have taken place in the past nine weeks.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

De-escalation begins on LAC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Galwan valley, Shyok River

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes and its de-escalation

Three weeks after the worst military clashes in decades, India and China have begun the process of disengagement at contentious locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Must read:

[Burning Issue] India-China Skirmish in Ladakh

China is moving back

  • In the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops have shifted 2 kilometres from the site violent clashes while some tents had been removed by the PLA in the Finger 4 area of Pangong Tso.
  • India’s claim is till Finger 8 as per the alignment of the LAC.
  • Some rearward movement of vehicles was seen at the general area of Galwan, Hotsprings and Gogra.
  • Without giving the specific distances moved, the source said the pullback at each location would be confirmed after verification.

Lessons learnt

  • The lesson for us in Doklam is that disengagement is not enough in order to declare an end to tensions at the LAC.
  • It is necessary that we define endpoints up to where the troops must withdraw to and no understanding should be reached without the restoration of status quo ante.
  • Endpoint variances reflect the potential for future troubles along the LAC.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary

Mains level : China's territorial expansion plans

In a bid to further its territorial ambitions, China has recently claimed the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in Eastern Bhutan as its own territory.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the various fronts of Chinese imperial expansionism across the South Asian Region?

About the Sakteng WLS

  • Sakteng is a wildlife sanctuary located mostly in Trashigang District and just crossing the border into Samdrup Jongkhar District, Bhutan.
  • It is one of the country’s protected areas.
  • It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

Certain unresolved issues

  • The boundary between China and Bhutan has never been delimited.
  • There have been disputes over the eastern, central and western sectors for a long time.
  • China last month attempted to stop funding for the Sakteng sanctuary from the U.N. Development Programme’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) on the grounds that it was “disputed” territory.

Reasons for the dispute

  • According to written records, there has been no mention of Eastern Bhutan, or Trashigang Dzongkhag (district), where Sakteng is based as per boundary negotiations held between the two countries between 1984 and 2016.
  • The negotiations have not been held since the Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in 2017.
  • Bhutan has always maintained a discreet silence on its boundary negotiations with China, and it does not have any formal diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Vladivostok and its Chinese connection


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vladivostok and its locations

Mains level : Wolrd History: Opium Wars

When Vladivostok, the main city of the Russian Far East, marked the 160th anniversary of its founding, it resulted in a wave of abuse from Chinese social media users who claimed that the city historically belonged to China.

Try this question from CSP 2015:

Q.The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events related to:
a) Central Asia
b) Middle East
c) South-East Asia
d) Central Africa

The Vladivostok City

  • Vladivostok is a city and the administrative centre of the Far Eastern Federal District and Primorsky Krai, Russia.
  • It is located around the Golden Horn Bay, not far from Russia’s borders with China and North Korea.

Chinese claims on Vladivostok

  • Before Primorsky Krai became Russian territory in 1860, it was a relatively small Manchu settlement under the sovereignty of the Qing dynasty.
  • At that time, Vladivostok was called Haishenwei or the Bay of Sea Slugs.
  • During the First Opium War that occurred between September 1839 and August 1842, fought between Britain and the Qing Dynasty, the former began exploring and mapping this stretch of the coast.
  • During that time, Vladivostok harbour was named Port May by the British.

Russia occupied the territory

  • In discussions concerning the Opium Wars, the focus is mostly on Britain, France and China under the Qing dynasty, while Russia is often neglected.
  • However, it is because of its unique role, particularly during the Second Opium War, that Russia acquired a significant amount of former Manchu territory, including Vladivostok that is its largest port on the Pacific coast.
  • The southeastern part of Russia, that borders North Korea and China, has historically been a bone of contention between Russia and China.
  • According to Chinese claims, this region once formed ‘Outer Manchuria’. The term ‘Outer Manchuria’ was coined by China in an attempt to lend credence to their territorial claims over this region, according to analysts.

Back2Basics: Opium Wars

  • Opium Wars are the two armed conflicts in China in the mid-19th century between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1912.
  • The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain.
  • The Second Opium War (1856–60), also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French War in China, was fought by Britain and France against China.
  • In each case, the foreign powers were victorious and gained commercial privileges and legal and territorial concessions in China.
  • The conflicts marked the start of the era of unequal treaties and other inroads on Qing sovereignty that helped weaken and ultimately topple the dynasty in favour of republican China in the early 20th century.

How did they begin?

  • The Opium Wars arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade.
  • Foreign traders (primarily British) had been illegally exporting opium mainly from India to China since the 18th century, but that trade grew dramatically from about 1820.
  • The resulting widespread addiction in China was causing serious social and economic disruption there.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Indo-Pacific region


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The East China Sea, the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the South China Sea

Mains level : Paper 2-India's Indo-Pacific vision and China's BRI

As India tries to diffuse the tension along the disputed northern border with China, it must focus on the other potential fronts that China could open. India Ocean could be the next one. This article examines the centrality of the Indian Ocean for China and their approach to the region.

India’s Indo-Pacific vision

  • This vision is based on our historical associations with this region.
  • This vision also acknowledges the importance of the Indian Ocean in building prosperity in this century.
  • So, the key points of this vision are thus-
  • 1) Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity.
  • 2) India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a strategy or as a club of limited members.
  • 3) It is not directed against any country.

China should have equal access

  • China is not a littoral state in the Indian Ocean.
  • Historically, Chinese naval activity was limited to the East China Sea, the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the South China Sea.
  •  In today’s context, China is the second-largest economy and the world’s largest trading nation.
  • The sea-lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean are vital to her economy and security.
  • Under international law, China should have equal access to the Indian ocean.

China’s “Malacca Dilemma”

  • China thinks that others would block the Malacca Straits to “contain” the Chinese.
  • So, China has strategized to dominate not just the Malacca Straits, but the ocean beyond it.
  • The PLA Navy (PLAN) made its first operational deployment in the Gulf of Aden in 2008.
  • In 2009 China planned for overseas base or facility.
  • In 2010 a China State Oceanic Administration report alluded to plans to build aircraft carriers.

BRI: Overcoming the deficiencies China face in India Ocean

  • The US hegemony and India’s regional influence in the Indian Ocean are thought of as a challenge to China.
  • So, China focused on 3 inherent deficiencies that they wanted to overcome.
  • (a) China is not a littoral state.
  • (b) Its passage through key maritime straits could be easily blocked.
  • (c) The possibility of US-India cooperation against China.
  • How to overcome these deficiencies?
  • (1) carefully selecting sites to build ports — Djibouti, Gwadar, Hambantota, Sittwe and Seychelles.
  • (2) By conducting activities in a low-key manner to “reduce the military colour as much as possible”.
  • (3) By not unnerving India and America by cooperating at first, then slowly penetrating into the Indian Ocean, beginning with detailed maritime surveys, ocean mapping, HADR, port construction and so on.

 China acting on the plans

  • The PLA’s new base in Djibouti is the prototype for more “logistics” facilities to come.
  • More port construction projects like Gwadar and Hambantota, are being offered to vulnerable countries.
  • These projects are commercially unviable but have military possibilities,
  • Chinese “civilian” vessels routinely conduct surveys in the EEZ of littoral states.
  • In January 2020 the PLA Navy conducted tripartite naval exercises with Russia and Iran in the Arabian Sea.
  • They have the largest warship building programme in the world.

Consider the question “What constitutes India’s Indo-Pacific vision? Elaborate on the factors that explain China’s reluctance to subscribe to this vision.”


The idea of Indo-Pacific might potentially derail the carefully crafted Chinese plan. So, they now wish to cause alarm by raising fears about Great Power “strategic collision” caused by the so-called American-led “containment” strategy. It is important to look past their propaganda.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Ladakh and its Geo-strategic Importance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ladakh and its topography

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes and their impacts on bilateral relations

With the long-standing border standoff with China, Ladakh, a rugged, high-altitude region that is generally far removed from the lives and imagination of most Indians, has become part of our daily conversations and worries.

Let’s have a look at a short primer on the region, its history, and some of the places where Indian soldiers are locked in conflict with the Chinese army. Try remembering its geographical features.

Ladakh through the History

  • Lying between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and Himalayas to the south, Ladakh was originally inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.
  • Historically the region included the valleys of Baltistan, Indus, and Nubra, besides Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti, Aksai Chin, Ngari and Rudok.
  • Located at the crossroads of important trade routes since ancient times, Ladakh has always enjoyed great geostrategic importance.
  • At the beginning of the first century AD, Ladakh was part of the Kushan Empire. Till the 15th century, it was part of Tibet and was ruled by dynasties of local Lamas.
  • Later it changed hands multiple times, alternating between the kingdoms of Kashmir and Zhangzhung.
  • In 1834, Gen Zorawar Singh, a general of Raja Gulab Singh who ruled Jammu as part of the Sikh empire, extended the boundaries of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kingdom to Ladakh.

Partition, Pakistan and Chinese occupations

Immediately after India’s Partition, tribal raiders (the disguised Pakistani Army) attacked Ladakh. They captured Kargil and were heading for Leh when they were confronted by the Indian Army, who got back Kargil.

  • Although India has always considered Aksai Chin to be part of Jammu and Kashmir, in the 1950s the Chinese built a highway, called western highway or NH219, connecting Tibet with Xinjiang through this region.
  • It was always more easily accessible to the Chinese than to the Indians, who were across the Karakoram.
  • India learnt of this road in 1957, and it was one of the causes of the 1962 India-China war, after which China strengthened its control over this region.
  • China today claims Aksai Chin to be part of Hotan County of its Xinjiang province.
  • Pakistan ceded the Shaksgam Valley, which was part of the Baltistan region north of the Karakoram, to China following a Sino-Pakistani agreement signed on March 2, 1963.

Ladakh through the Chinese eyes

  • China’s forays into the region began after the 1949 Communist Revolution, when Chairman Mao Zedong, a veteran of guerrilla warfare, began consolidating China’s periphery as part of his expansionist designs.
  • The PLA occupied Tibet in 1951 and then began to eye Ladakh.
  • The reason was that the road connecting Kashgar in Xinjiang to Lhasa in Tibet had to pass through Aksai Chin, which was held by Indians but was seldom patrolled by them.

Galwan Valley in the limelight

  • The Tibetan revolt of 1959 and the Dalai Lama’s flight to India saw China further strengthening its military presence in Ladakh to ensure the security of NH 219.
  • India reacted with its ‘forward policy’ as part of which it began setting up Army posts in the region to prevent Chinese expansion.
  • This resulted in the initial clash between the Indian and Chinese forces in the Kongka Pass area in 1959.
  • Later, Galwan Valley became the scene of action when the Indian Army established a post to cut off the Chinese post in the Samjunjling area, marking the beginning of the 1962 war.

Pangong Tso: The contested lake

  • In the latest face-off, Indian troops first spied the Chinese on the banks of Pangong Tso.
  • This lake, which is one-third in India and two-thirds in China, is of great tactical significance to the Chinese who have built infrastructure along both its sides to ensure the speedy build-up of troops.
  • Chinese incursions in this region aim at shifting the LAC westward so that they are able to occupy important heights both on the north and the south of the lake, which will enable them to dominate the Chushul Bowl.
  • The narrow Chushul valley, which lies on the road to Leh with Pangong Tso to its north, was an important target for the Chinese even during the 1962 war. It was here that the Battle of Chushul was fought.

Strategic SSN: To the far north

  • The area spanning Galwan, Depsang plateau, and Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), is called Sub-Sector North (SSN).
  • This enclave that lies to the east of the Siachen glacier is of immense significance given its proximity to the Karakoram Pass, close to China’s western highway or NH 219 going to Aksai Chin.
  • It’s the SSN that provides land access to Central Asia through the Karakoram Pass.
  • Domination of this area is also crucial for the protection of the Siachen glacier, lying between the Saltoro ridge on the Pakistani side and the Saser ridge close to the Chinese claim line.
  • The Galwan heights overlook the all-weather Durbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) Road, which connects Leh to DBO at the base of the Karakoram Pass that separates China’s Xinjiang Region from Ladakh.
  • Domination over these heights allows China to easily interdict this road.

Why is China stubborn on Galwan?

  • Occupation of Galwan will neutralize the tactical advantage India gained by building the all-weather Durbuk-DBO road over the last two decades.
  • Last year, the Border Road Organisation (BRO) made this rugged terrain even more accessible by completing the 430-metre-long bridge across the Shyok River.
  • With this, the Darbuk route to DBO became available round the year, and the travel time of troops to the SSN was halved.
  • It was this bridge, coupled with the ongoing work on a link road to LAC in this area, prompted the PLA to enter Galwan.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Resistance to China is going to be definitive moment for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China standoff

How India overcomes the challenge posed by China would have far-reaching effects. Role of Russia and the U.S. is important for India. This article discusses these factors and the significance of the outcome of the conflict started at Galwan. 

Two takes on India’s China policy

  • Following Galwan encounter, there are two views about the future of India’s China policy.
  • Some say that structural constraints would limit dramatic changes in policy once the heat of the moment dissipates.
  • While others say that the Galwan clash comes amidst the deepening crisis in bilateral relations over the last decade.
  • Stalled boundary talks, a widening trade deficit, the clash of national interests in the region, and Chinese opposition to India’s global aspirations have together strained Sino-Indian relations.
  • Galwan is the last straw, the argument goes, that broke the camel’s back.

So, what will be the outcome

  •  The relationship is likely to depend on how the current military confrontation in Ladakh is resolved.
  • If it ends with a quick return to the status quo that prevailed in April, inertia is likely to limit radical policy departures.
  • If the Ladakh crisis ends in a setback for India, the pressure on Delhi to radically reorient its China policy will mount.

What if the standoff continues?

  • In that case strengthening India’s military and political hand against China is the immediate objective of Delhi’s post-Galwan diplomacy.
  • The long term steps suggested include the construction of a military alliance with the US and other Western partner.
  • As as well as economic decoupling and diversification.
  • Short term steps are about being able to stare down the Chinese in the current military confrontation and hold its ground.

Role of Russia

  • Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India’s dependence on Russian arms remains substantive.
  • Rajnath Singh’s visit to Moscow amidst the crisis with China underlines the weight of the past in India’s security policy.
  • India is also pressing other major defence suppliers, including France and Israel, to accelerate deliveries on contracted defence equipment.
  • There have been reports from Russia, that China is pressing Moscow not to sell the new fighter aircraft to India.
  • Russia and China are strong strategic partners today.
  • While the past suggests India has a special claim to Russian affections, there is a Sino-Russian strategic cohabitation today in opposition to America
  • How Russia responds to India’s request will have a major bearing on the future evolution of Delhi’s ties with Moscow.

Role of the U.S.

  • Unlike Russia’s public stance of neutrality between India and China, Washington has come out in favour of Delhi.
  • There was vocal public support of the US defence and foreign policy establishment against Chinese aggression at Galwan.
  •  Media reports from Delhi say the US is already supplying valuable real-time military intelligence of value to the Indian armed forces.
  • Washington is apparently willing to do more but is letting Delhi decide the pace and intensity of that cooperation.

Challenges in the U.S. cooperation

  • The uncertain political moment in the US amidst the general election scheduled for early November can’t be underestimated.
  • A change of guard in Washington will certainly slow things down as the new administration settles down and reviews its priorities.
  • America’s stakes in China are far higher than Russia’s.
  • Profound economic interdependence of the U.S. and China is a significant political constraint on the US’s options.
  • On deeper military cooperation with Washington, Delhi would want to move with care rather than rush into it as it did in 1962.

How will outcomes of the crisis matter for India

  • If Delhi comes out of this crisis wounded, its troubles at home and the world will mount significantly.
  • A weakened India will find recasting its China policy even harder.
  • But victorious India will find its international political stock rising and its options on China expanding.
  •  Successful Indian resistance to China’s expansionism would be a definitive moment in the geopolitical evolution of Asia.
  • The stakes for India and the world, then, are far higher today than in 1962.

Consider the question “Examine the issues that introduce friction in India-China relations. Also, elaborate on the scope of India’s alliance with the U.S to counter the challenges posed by China.”


Outcomes of the resistance will have a profound impact on India’s standing and India’s destiny.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Making sense of moves of China


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.


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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Will banning Chinese imports hurt India’s exports?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : India-China trade relations

  • Following the recent clashes with Chinese troops in Ladakh, there has been a growing clamour in the country to boycott goods from the neighbouring country.
  • However, the development has caused an alarm among various industry bodies that are concerned about the adverse impact in the event of a blanket ban on exports in several sectors.

Practice question for mains:

Q.“Curbing Chinese imports to India will do more harm than any good”. Analyse.

How dependent is India on Chinese imports?

China accounts for a sizable portion of India’s top imports, especially where intermediate products or components and raw materials are concerned.  Electronics: The neighbouring country also accounts for 45 per cent of India’s total electronics imports.

  • A third of machinery and almost two-fifths of organic chemicals that India purchases from the world come from China.
  • Automotive parts and fertilizers are other items where China’s share in India’s import is more than 25 per cent.
  • Several of these products are used by Indian manufacturers in the production of finished goods, thus thoroughly integrating China in India’s manufacturing supply chain.
  • For instance India sources close to 90 per cent of certain mobile phone parts from China.

India’s export to China

  • Even as an export market, China is a major partner for India. At $15.5 billion, it is the third-largest destination for Indian shipments.
  • At the same time, India only accounts for a little over two per cent of China’s total exports, according to the Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO).

How could a blanket ban on Chinese imports hit India’s exports?

  • Across sectors from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications and automobiles, industry associations have been speaking up against a complete boycott of Chinese imports.
  • A “blanket ban” may not be feasible because of India’s dependence on the country for crucial raw materials.
  • Banning the imports of raw materials from China without which products over here cannot be manufactured will make things difficult.
  • If China takes any retaliatory measures, it would impact India more negatively.

Most crucial: The Pharma sector could be worst hit

  • For instance, of the nearly $3.6 billion worth of ingredients that Indian drug-makers import to manufacture several essential medicines, China catered to around 68 per cent.
  • India is considered one of the largest pharma industries in the world and accounts for a considerable portion of imports of finished formulations by other large economies like the US.
  • While pharma consignments from China have unofficially been stopped at ports in India, and are expected to be cleared after thorough checks,
  • A ban could create shortages of medicines both for India’s domestic and export markets.

Are there any alternatives in this situation?

  • The decision to boycott non-essential products made in China can be left to the individuals.
  • However, trade-related measures like raising duties on cheaper raw materials imported from China would be better than an outright embargo.
  • This would still allow access to crucial ingredients in the short-term while India looks to build self-reliance or maybe switch to alternate trade partners.
  • It would be better to maybe raise duties on cheaper raw materials instead of going in for a blanket ban.

Alternatives to Chinese imports

  • Countries like the US, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico and certain European countries could be tapped as alternate import sources for some critical electronic, vehicular and pharmaceutical components as well.
  • It is likely that the costs of the raw materials from these alternate sources will be higher and may get passed on to consumers if the manufacturers cannot absorb them.
  • India will need to look into the totality of its trade with China and Hong Kong and implement certain short- to long-term plans to reduce its dependence on them, according to FIEO.

Way forward

  • The government’s “Atmanirbhar” focus is expected to help ministries handhold industries where self-reliance needs to be built.
  • Some measures, like the decision to push bulk drug parks in India, have to be executed.
  • While an increase in tariff can be one way to achieve import substitution, the more effective strategy would be to provide an ecosystem that addresses the cost disability of Indian manufacturing leading to such imports.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Why China is being aggressive along the LAC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

Despite India’s careful approach which involved not upsetting China’s domestic and geopolitical sensitivities, Galwan happened. What explains the Chinese aggression? There could be many factors. This article delves into these factors. 

Not upsetting China

  • The India government has been very careful not to upset China’s domestic and geopolitical sensitivities.
  • Barring occasional joint statements issued with leaders from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific countries, reasserting India’s commitment to “freedom of navigation”  India has stayed away from criticising China on controversial topics,
  • On issues such as “de-radicalisation” camps in Xinjiang, crackdown on protests in Hong Kong, or disputes with Taiwan India India didn’t criticise China.

Yet China chose to increase tensions along the LAC. Why?

1. China wants to reorient global order

  • Unlike the Soviet Union of the 1940s China is not an ideological state that intends to export communism to other countries.
  • When it was rising, China had adopted different tactical positions — “hide your capacity and bide your time”, “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development”.
  • That era is over.
  • Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese think they have arrived.
  • With the global economy in the doldrums, globalisation in a crisis and the U.S. under an isolationist President hostile towards China Beijing believes the global order is at a breaking point.
  • It is fighting back through what game theorists call “salami tactics” — where a dominant power attempts to establish its hegemony piece by piece.
  • India is one slice in this salami slice strategy.

2. India: An ally-in-progress of the US

  • It sees India as an ally-in-progress of the U.S.
  •  So, China actions are a result of the strategic loss [India] that has already happened.
  • If India is what many in the West call the “counterweight” to China’s rise, Beijing’s definite message is that it is not deterred by the counterweight.
  • This is a message not just to India, but to a host of China’s rivals that are teaming up and eager to recruit India to the club.

Factors that could explain China’s move

Global factors

  • Europe has been devastated by the virus.
  • The U.S. is battling in an election year the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • It is also battling the deepest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
  • Its global leadership is unravelling fast.

Regional and local factors

  • The Indian economy was in trouble even before COVID-19 struck the country, slowing down its rise.
  • Social upheaval over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, and the National Register of Citizens had weakened the Indian polity.
  • India’s traditional clout in its neighbourhood was slipping.
  • Tensions with Pakistan have been high keeping the troops occupied in the border areas.
  • Nepal raised boundary issues with India.
  • Sri Lanka is diversifying its foreign policy.and China is making deep inroads into that region.
  • Bangladesh was deeply miffed with the CAA.
  • Even in Afghanistan, where Pakistan, China, Russia and the U.S. are involved in the transition process, India is out.
  •  A confluence of all these factors, which point to a decline in the country’s smart power, allowed China to make aggressive moves on the LAC.

Consider the question “At the time when relations reached a nadir with China, India needs to focus on its neighbourhood and mend win back the friendly neighbours. Comment”


What India needs is a national security strategy that’s decoupled from the compulsions of domestic politics and anchored in neighbourhood realism. It should stand up to China’s bullying on the border now, with a long-term focus on enhancing capacities and winning back its friendly neighbours. There are no quick fixes this time.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India will have to manage its conflict on its own


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The Galwan incident marked the new low in the India-China relations. Following it, there have been talks of a closer alliance with the U.S. This article analyses the utility, potential and the limitations of this approach.

Exploring the strategic options

  • As the border stand-off with China deepens, India will have to think of all possible strategic options that gives it leverage.
  • One of the options is new arrangements with other powers.
  • This is the right moment to mobilise international opinion on China.
  • But can this be translated into concerted global action to exert real pressure on China?

Things India should consider while forming alliance with the US

  • International relations are formed in the context of a country’s development paradigm.
  • India’s primary aim should be to preserve the maximum space for its development model, if it can actually formulate one.
  • India is not unique in this respect.
  •  The question for India is not just whether the US has a stake in India’s development, which it might.
  • But it is, rather, to ask whether India’s development needs will fit into the emerging US development paradigm.
  • Will the very same political economy forces that create a disengagement with China also come in the way of a closer relationship with India?
  • Some sections of American big business might favour India.
  • But the underlying political economy dynamics in the US are less favourable.
  • Will the US give India the room it needs on trade, intellectual property, regulation, agriculture, labour mobility, the very areas where freedom is vital for India’s economy?
  • Will a US hell-bent on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US, easily gel with an “atma nirbhar” Bharat?
  • To see what is at stake, we just need to look how the development paradigm is driving tensions on trade, taxation and regulatory issues between the US and EU.

Why India avoided alignment with the US in the past

  •  But the drivers of this have often been legitimate differences over development, including climate change.
  • It has also been that, at various points, that alignment was against India’s other strategic commitments.
  • India was wise to stay out of the war in Iraq, it was wise not to upset Russia.
  • It is wise not to throw its weight behind the US’s Iran policy.
  • There is more maturity in the US to understand India’s position.

Global reluctance in collective action against China

  • It is an odd moment in global affairs, where there is recognition of a common challenge emanating from China.
  • But there is no global appetite to take concerted action.
  • An interesting example might be the global response to the BRI.
  • Many countries are struggling to meet their BRI debt obligations.
  • But it is difficult to see the rest of the international community helping all these countries to wean their regimes away from dependence on Chinese finance.
  • Similarly, there are now great concerns over frontier areas of conflict like cyber security and space.
  • It is difficult to imagine concerted global action to create rules in these area, partly because Great Powers like the US and Russia will always want to maintain their exceptionalism.

Limitations of global alliance and public opinion in solving local conflicts

  • 1) The international community has not been very effective in neutralising
  •  exercised by some powers.
  • This is the tactic Pakistan has used.
  • 2) Don’t count on the fact that the world will support an Indian escalation beyond a point.
  • The efforts of the international community, in the final analysis, will be to try and throw cold water on the conflict.
  • No one has a serious stake in the fate of the terrain India and China are disputing.
  • At the end of the day, India has to manage China and Pakistan largely on its own.


Even as we deal with the military situation on the border, the test of India’s resolve will be its ability to return to some first principle thinking about its own power.

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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Future of relations with China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Galwan river, Shyok River

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

This article calibrates the changes our future engagement with China will experience following the Galwan incident. The first casualty has been the trust between the two countries. And next could be strategic communications between the two countries. So, India’s response to the incident should be based on these changes.

What explains China’s aggression

  • Hubris, internal insecurities in China, the COVID-19 pandemic and the complex and confused external environment explains it.
  • Challenge posed by India from the ideological, strategic and economic points of view can be the other factor.

Violation of many agreements

  • China’s recent military actions in Ladakh clearly violate the signed agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005, etc on maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC.
  • These actions are in violation also of other signed agreements, including at the highest level.
  • It also contradict positions taken by Xi himself at the informal Wuhan and Chennai summits in 2018 and 2019.
  • In 2003, two countries signed a Declaration on Principles for Relations and Constructive Cooperation between our two countries.
  • The third principle states: “The two countries are not a threat to each other. Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other.”
  •  This was more than reiterated in the agreement signed in April 2005 on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for settlement of the India China boundary question.
  • . Article 1 states, inter alia: “Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means.”

Doklam and informal summits

  • .A qualitative change though occurred in Chinese perceptions after the Doklam face-off.
  • That necessitated the first informal summit at Wuhan in April 2018.
  • One important outcome of that summit was the agreement to continue to meet at the highest level and to enhance trust and strengthen strategic communication.
  • The second informal summit took place between Xi and Narendra Modi in Chennai in October 2019.
  • It was in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370 by India and China’s unnecessary and unsuccessful attempt to raise the issue in the UN Security Council.
  • By then, many other developments — both internal and external — had added pressure on China.
  • At Chennai, the Chinese undoubtedly drew some red lines.

Which red lines does China feel India has crossed

  • One fundamental red line is China’s long-held and strategic interest in parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Jammu and Kashmir border Xinjiang and Tibet and allow connectivity between the two.
  • It is wrongly argued that it is Pakistan that is the issue in J&K.
  • China is as big an issue but has quietly hidden behind Pakistan’s cover.
  • That is no longer feasible as democratic India becomes economically and otherwise stronger.

Future of Special Representative process

  • The Special Representatives process to address the boundary question seems stalemated and its usefulness needs review.
  • The 2005 agreement contains the necessary parameters for a boundary settlement but there is obviously not adequate common ground.
  • Some positivity can, however, be brought in if the LAC clarification process is revived and completed in a time-bound manner.
  • But this is easier said than done in the prevailing circumstances.
  • Patrolling procedures will need to be revised, preferably by mutual agreement.

Unsustainable economic partnership

  • The current nature of the economic partnership between India and China is not sustainable.
  • India’s annual trade deficit with China in recent years virtually finances a CPEC a year!
  • China has still not fulfilled all its commitments to India on joining the WTO in 2001.

What should be our trade policy

  • Indian business and industry must stop taking the easy option.
  • Some costs will no doubt go up but there can be environmental advantages of switching to other sources of technology and equipment.
  • There is more than one available source of financial investments in Indian ventures.

What will be the nature of bilateral dialogue

  • Bilateral dialogue mechanisms will continue their desultory course.
  • On issues of interest to India such as terrorism, we get no support from China.
  • Cooperation on river waters has not evolved.
  • On the global agenda, on issues such as climate change, dialogue and cooperation will continue in multilateral fora depending on mutual interest.

What should be the nature of governments response

  • The response to China’s recent actions in Ladakh must be an all-of-government one, indeed an all-India one.
  • It should be covering all sectors including heightened security and be coordinated, consistent.
  • This is not a question of nationalism or patriotism but of self-esteem and self-respect.

Consider the question “What should be the basis of India’s evolving policy response to China’s new approach to the border dispute?”


Bilateral relations between India and China cannot progress unless there is peace on the borders and China recognises that India too has non-negotiable core concerns, aspirations and interests.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Faults in our China policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China realtions

This article tracks the faultline in India’s China policy that makes it an enduring tragedy. China never bought into India’s narratives of Asian unity and untied Asian front against the West. Instead, China cultivated its relations with the West and leveraged that for furthering its interests.

Enduring tragedy: India’s China policy

  • That tragedy is rooted in persistent political fantasies.
  • Refusal to learn from past mistakes.
  • And the belief that the US and the West are at the source of India’s problems with China.
  • The problem predates independence.
  • Each generation has been reluctant to discard the illusions that India’s China policy has nurtured over the last century.

Historical background

  •  Tagore went to China in 1924 with the ambition of developing a shared Asian spiritual civilisation.
  • He was accused by Chines of diverting Chins’s attention away from the imperatives of modernisation and, yes, westernisation.
  •  Jawaharlal Nehru approached China as a modernist and nationalist.
  • He met a delegation of Chinese nationalists at Brussels in 1927.
  • There he issued a ringing statement on defeating western imperialism and shaping a new Asian and global order.
  •  But in Second World War, Congress was unwilling to join hands with China in defeating Japanese imperialism.
  • Indian and Chinese nationalists could not come together for they were fighting different imperial powers.

Relations after independence

  • As India’s first PM, Nehru campaigned against the western attempt to isolate China.
  • Afro-Asian conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 was attended by both.
  • Within five years war broke out in 1962.
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to China in February 1979 to re-engage Beijing.
  • Before he could head home, Beijing had launched a war against a fellow communist regime in Vietnam.
  • That was an end of hope for Asian solidarity.
  • Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 sought to normalise relations with China while continuing to negotiate on the boundary dispute.

Other issues: Trade entanglement

  • Amid border dispute, other issues have taken a life of their own.
  • For example, the massive annual trade deficits.
  • India’s hope that economic cooperation will improve mutual trust will help resolve other issues was also dashed.
  • India’s massive trade deficit with China is now a little over half of its total trade deficit.
  • India is finding it hard to disentangle the deep economic dependence on imports from China.

Story of political cooperation: From unipolar to bipolar world

  • As the Cold War ended, India began political cooperation with China on global issues.
  • It was hoped that such cooperation will provide the basis for better bilateral relations.
  • It could not have been more wrong.
  • P V Narasimha Rao and his successors joined China and Russia in promoting a “multipolar world” [remember the US dominance].
  • Delhi is now struggling to cope with the emergence of a “unipolar Asia” — with Beijing as its dominant centre.
  • China’s rapid rise has also paved the way for the potential emergence of a “bipolar world” dominated by Washington and Beijing.

Engagement with West

  • China never worked with Indian on the ideas of building coalitions against the West.
  • While India never stopped arguing with the West, China developed a sustained engagement with the US, Europe and Japan.
  • Mao broke with Communist Russia to join forces with the US in the early 1970s.
  • Deng Xiaoping promoted massive economic cooperation with the US to transform China and lay the foundations for its rise.

Will staying away from West lead to good relations with China

  • China has leveraged the deep relationship with the West to elevate itself in the international system.
  • Delhi continues to think that staying away from America is the answer for good relations with Beijing.
  • Beijing sees the world through the lens of power.
  • Delhi tends to resist that realist prism.
  • India has consistently misread China’s interests and ambitions.
  • The longer India takes to shed that strategic lassitude, the greater will be its China trouble.

Facts that India needs to come to terms with

  • India must also recognise that China, like the great powers before it, wants to redeem its territorial claims.
  • China also has the ambition to bend the neighbourhood to its will, reshape the global order to suit its interests.
  • China has not hidden these goals and interests, but India has refused to see what is in plain sight.

Consider the question “Acknowledging Beijing’s rise, scale of challenge it presents, are first steps in crafting a new China policy” Comment.


Acknowledging China’s dramatic rise and recognising the scale of the challenge it presents is essential for Delhi in crafting a new China policy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

What is lacking in our China policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations and border dispute

While formulating our response to China’s aggressive policies in Ladakh, we should first understand their objectives. This article explains these objective and suggests the steps to deal with China’s policies.

Statements on Aksai Chin and Pakistan

  • Statements over Aksai Chin and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) by India have painted the image of India as a revanchist power in utter disregard of the country’s capabilities.
  • These statements also gave the impression that India precludes any attempt at changing the status quo on either front.
  • Though these statements were justifiable in terms of India’s legal rights to these territories, were ill-timed.

How these statements were perceived by China

  • They were made when Beijing was feeling alarmed at the Indian government’s decision to separate Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The move augmented its perception that it was a prelude to India’s attempt to change the status quo in Aksai Chin.
  • India’s assertion of its claims on PoK that in China’s perception threatened the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

China’s 4 strategic objectives

1. India and China are not equals

  • China wants India to understand that it is not in the same league as China.
  • China resorts to periodic assaults across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) if India tries to assume a position of equality.

2. Keep India away from interfering in Indo-Pacific

  • China wants India not to actively oppose Chinese designs to dominate the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Also, China wants Indias to refrain from aligning with the U.S. and its allies — Japan and Australia, in particular — in an attempt to contain China.

3. Keeping India preoccupied with problems

  • China’s strategy also includes keeping India preoccupied with problems in its immediate neighbourhood.
  • So with these problems, India cannot act as an alternative pole of power to China in the broader Asian region.

4. Supporting Pakistan to neutralise India

  • As part of the last objective, China supports  Pakistan economically and militarily, including the sharing of nuclear weapons designs.
  • China uses Pakistan to neutralise India’s conventional power superiority vis-à-vis that country.

An understanding of these objectives is essential to fashioning a realistic Indian response to China’s aggressive policies in Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC.

But, what about Pakistan?

  • Pakistan is at best an irritant for India. (so, focus on China)
  • Pakistan can be managed with the use of diplomatic tools, international opprobrium, and superior military force.
  • In fact, the Pakistani challenge to India has become magnified because of its nexus with China.

What India should do?

  • India’s main strategic goal should be the adoption of carefully calculated policies that neutralise China’s diplomatic and military clout in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • While doing so, India should not appear as a surrogate for other powers.
  • And India should also ensure that in making alliances it in not sacrificing the autonomy of decision-making in foreign policy. 

Consider the question “Understanding of China’s objective is essential to formulate a realistic response to its aggressive policies in Ladakh.” Comment.


Understanding the greater threat posed by China vis-a-vis Pakistan should be the basis of India’s policy towards China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Why China trade ban is bad idea


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : India-China trade relations

After the Galwan Valley skirmish, the popular idea resonating in Indian streets is that Indians should boycott Chinese goods and thus “teach China a lesson”.

Practice question for mains:

Q. India’s quest for self-reliance is still a distant dream. Critically comment in light of the popular sentiment against the Chinese imports in India.

There are several reasons why the #Boycott_China is an ill-advised move:

A. Trade deficits are not necessarily bad

  • Trade deficits/surpluses are just accounting exercises and having a trade deficit against a country doesn’t make the domestic economy weaker or worse off.
  • Example: If one looks at the top 25 countries with whom India trades, it has a trade surplus with the US, the UK and the Netherlands. But this does not make Indian economy better than them.

What does this deficit indicate?

  • Both Indian consumers and Chinese producers are gainer through trading.
  • One gets the market other cheap price. Thus, both are better off than what they would have been without trade.

So, having a trade deficit is good?

  • Of course, running persistent trade deficits across all countries raises two main issues.
  • One, availability of foreign exchange reserves to “buy” the imports.
  • Today, India has more than $500 billion of forex — good enough to cover imports for 12 months.
  • Two, lack of domestic capacity to produce in the most efficient manner.

B. Will hurt the Indian poor the most

  • This is because poor are more price-sensitive.
  • For instance, if Chinese TVs were replaced by either costlier Indian TVs or less efficient ones, unlike poor, richer Indians may buy the costlier option.
  • Similarly, the Chinese products that are in India are already paid for. By banning their sale or avoiding them, Indians will be hurting fellow Indian retailers.
  • Again, this would hit poorest retailers more due to inability to cope with the unexpected losses.

C. Will punish Indian producers and exporters

  • Several businesses in India import intermediate goods and raw materials, which, in turn, are used to create final goods — both for the domestic Indian market as well as the global market (as Indian exports).
  • An overwhelming proportion of Chinese imports are in the form of intermediate goods such as electrical machinery, nuclear reactors, fertilizers, optical and photographic measuring equipment organic chemicals etc.
  • Such imports are used to produce final goods which are then either sold in India or exported.
  • A blanket ban on Chinese imports will hurt all these businesses at a time when they are already struggling to survive, apart from hitting India’s ability to produce finished goods.

D. Will barely hurt China

  • While China accounts for 5% of India’s exports and 14% of India’s imports — in US$ value terms — India’s imports from China are just 3% of China’s total exports.
  • More importantly, China’s imports from India are less than 1% of its total imports.
  • The point is that if India and China stop trading then — on the face of it — China would lose only 3% of its exports and less than 1% of its imports.
  • However, India will lose 5% of its exports and 14% of its imports.


  • On the whole, it is much easier for China to replace India than for India to replace China.
  • Ban can also seize Chinese funding to many Indian businesses (the start-ups with billion-dollar valuations).
  • In short term, replacing Chinese products with Japan or Germany, will only increase our total trade deficit.
  • If on the other hand, we decide to use Indian products, that too would cost us more — albeit just internally.

E. India will lose policy credibility

  • It has also been suggested that India should renege on existing contracts with China.
  • This can be detrimental for India’s effort to attract foreign investment.
  • As one of the first things an investor — especially foreign — tracks is the policy credibility and certainty.
  • If policies can be changed overnight or if the government itself reneges on contracts, investor will either not invest or demand higher returns for the increased risk.

F. Raising tariffs is mutually assured destruction

  • Many argue that India should just slap higher import duties on Chinese goods or apply prohibitive tariffs on final goods.
  • By doing this, firstly India would be violating rules of the World Trade Organization.
  • Secondly, it would make China and many others to reciprocate in the same way.

Equating border dispute with trade is no panacea

  • The first thing to understand is that turning a border dispute into a trade war is unlikely to solve the border dispute.
  • Worse, given India and China’s position in both global trade as well as relative to each other, this trade war will hurt India far more than China.
  • Thirdly, these measures will be most poorly timed since the Indian economy is already at its weakest point ever — facing a sharp GDP contraction.

Way forward

  • In long term, under the banner of self reliance, India must develop its domestic capabilities and acquire a higher share of global trade by raising its competitiveness.
  • But no country is completely self-sufficient and that is why trade is such a fantastic idea.
  • It allows countries to specialize in what they can do most efficiently and export that good while importing whatever some other country does more efficiently.
  • Need of hour is well thought and balanced approach.

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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Why Ladakh matters to India and China?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ladakh and its topography

Mains level : India-China border disputes

This article from IE discusses this cold, dry, high altitude territory with its extremely scarce vegetation that makes it a point of disagreement between India and China.

Practice question for mains:

Q. India’s boundary disputes with its neighbourhood are the legacy of its colonial past. Analyse.

Ladakh: The Cold Desert of India

  • Ladakh is the highest plateau in India with much of it being over 3,000 m.
  • It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.
  • The importance of Ladakh is rooted in complicated historical processes that led to the territory becoming part of the state of J&K, and China’s interest in it post the occupation of Tibet in 1950.

Beginning of the Chinese claim

  • In July 1958, an official monthly magazine in China published a map of the country that would in the next few months become a bone of contention between India and its East Asian neighbour.
  • The map in question showed large parts of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and the Himalayan territory of Ladakh as part of China.
  • Soon after ‘China pictorial’ came out with the new Chinese map, the leaders of both countries began writing to each other frequently regarding Ladakh.
  • The exchange of letters between Jawaharlal Nehru and his Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was followed by the Sino-Indian war of 1962.
  • The war also led to the formation of the loosely demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) running through Ladakh.

The Integration of Ladakh into India

  • Historically and culturally the state was intrinsically linked to neighbouring Tibet.
  • Language and religion linked Ladakh and Tibet; politically too, they shared a common history.
  • Ladakh was part of the Tibetan empire which broke up after the assassination of King Langdarma in 742 CE.
  • Up until the Dogra invasion of 1834, Ladakh was an independent Himalayan state, much the same way as Bhutan and Sikkim.
  • As the Sikhs acquired Kashmir in 1819, Emperor Ranjit Singh turned his ambition towards Ladakh.
  • But it was Gulab Singh, the Dogra feudatory of the Sikhs in Jammu, who went ahead with the task of integrating Ladakh into Jammu and Kashmir.

British interests in Ladakh

  • The British East India Company, which was by now steadily establishing itself in India, had lacked interest in Ladakh initially.
  • However, it did show enthusiasm for the Dogra invasion of the area, with the hope that as a consequence, a large portion of Tibetan trade would be diverted to its holdings.
  • The state of J&K was essentially a British creation, formed as a buffer zone where they could meet the Russians.

The Sino-Sikh War

  • In May 1841, Tibet under the Qing dynasty of China invaded Ladakh with the hope of adding it to the imperial Chinese dominions, leading to the Sino-Sikh war.
  • However, the Sino-Tibetan army was defeated, and the Treaty of Chushul was signed that agreed on no further transgressions or interference in the other country’s frontiers.
  • After the first Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46, the state of J&K, including Ladakh, was taken out of the Sikh empire and brought under British suzerainty.

Chinese interest in Ladakh after the occupation of Tibet in 1950

  • The annexation of Tibet by China in 1950 sparked a newfound interest in Ladakh, and particularly so after the 1959 Tibetan uprising that erupted in Lhasa with Dalai Lama’s political asylum in India.
  • In attempting to crush the Tibetan revolt while at the same time denying its existence, the Chinese have used methods which have brought China and India into sharp conflict.
  • To begin with, the road that the Chinese built across Ladakh in 1956-57 was important for the maintenance of their control over Tibet.
  • The building of the road through Ladakh upset Nehru’s government. The diplomatic negotiations failed, and the war of 1962 followed.

Why conflict has flared up again?

  • There are two layers to this. First, up to 2013, India’s infrastructural development in that area was minimal.
  • From 2013, India started pushing for infrastructure projects there and by 2015; it became a major defence priority.
  • The second layer is the August 5, 2019 decision (to remove the special status of J&K and downgrade the state into two Union Territories).
  • From the Chinese point of view, they would have assumed that if India makes Ladakh a Union Territory, they would be reasserting its control over the entire state.
  • Moreover, it is also important to note that over time, Xinjiang which is part of Aksai Chin, has become very important to China for their internal reasons.

The dispute

  • The British legacy of the map of the territory continued to remain the ground upon which India laid its claim on the area.
  • India insisted that the border was, for the most part, recognised and assured by treaty and tradition; the Chinese argued it had never really been delimited.
  • The claims of both governments rested in part on the legacy of imperialism; British imperialism (for India), and Chinese imperialism (over Tibet) for China.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

History, the standoff, and policy worth rereading


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treaties with Nepal and Bhutan.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

In the changing circumstances, there is a need for recalibration of foreign policy when dealing with China. This article draws on a policy approach adopted by Nehru and suggests 4 areas to focus on while devising the foreign policy.

India must pay attention to “five fingers”

  • The deadly clashes at Galwan and the ongoing standoff between India and China on the ridges or “fingers” around the Pangong Tso are a metaphor for the wider conflict between the two countries.
  • The metaphor refers to all the areas that Chinese strategy refers to as the “five fingers of the Tibetan palm”.
  • According to the construct, attributed to Mao and cited in the 1950s by Chinese officials, Xizang (Tibet) was China’s right palm, and it was its responsibility to “liberate” the fingers.
  • Fiver fingers are defined as Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, or Arunachal Pradesh).
  • Sixty years ago, India began to set about ensuring that quite the reverse ensued, and all five fingers were more closely attached to India, not China.
  • As the government of India grapples with its next steps at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), it must cast a similarly grand strategy, to renew its compact with each of those areas today.

Chines propaganda before 1962 War

  • In the 1950s, even after India and China signed the Panchsheel agreement in 1954.
  • And before the 1962 China-India war, the Nehru government had begun to worry about some of China’s proclamations.
  • Especially after the flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959, China began to demand “self-determination in Kashmir”, wrote former Foreign Secretary T.N. Kaul in his memoirs.
  •  More importantly, school textbooks there began to depict the “five fingers” as a part of China.

India’s three-pronged foreign policy form past

  •  India’s defeat in the 1962 war has been studied in great detail, what is perhaps not so well understood is the three-pronged foreign policy New Delhi set into motion at the time, that provided an effective counter to Mao’s five finger policy over the course of the century.

Following are the 3 elements that also formed the part of past policy, with the addition of Jammu and Kashmir status change.

1. Focus on border infrastructure and governance

  • The first was a push for building border infrastructure and governance.
  • In the mid-1950s the government piloted a project to build the Indian Frontier Administrative Services (IFAS) for overseeing NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) and other areas along the India-China frontier.
  • The Foreign secretary was the Chair of the IFAS selection board.
  • And many who enlisted in the cadre overlapped between the Indian Foreign Service, the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service, and rotated between postings in the most remote tribal areas and embassies in the region.
  • A special desk was created in the Ministry of External Affairs for officers who would tour all the regions from NEFA to Ladakh in order to make suggestions for the rapid development of these areas.
  • While India’s border infrastructure is only now catching up with the infrastructure China built in the course of the next few decades, its base was made during the brief period the IFAS existed, before it was wound up in 1968.
  • An idea before its time, the IFAS’s role has since been transferred to the Indian Army and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Idea worth revisiting: IFAS

  • IFAS is an idea worth revisiting, especially as areas along the frontier continue to complain of neglect and a lack of focus from the Centre.
  • In 2019, the Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram called for the resurrection of the IFAS.

2. Outreach and treaties

  • The second prong were a series of treaties that were signed around that time with neighbours such as Nepal and Bhutan.
  •  And the consolidation of control, militarily and administratively, of other territories that acceded to India, including Ladakh as a part of Jammu and Kashmir (1947), and NEFA (1951).
  • In 1950, India signed a treaty with Sikkim that made it a “protectorate”.
  • By 1975 the Indira Gandhi Government had annexed Sikkim and made it the 22nd State of India.
  • Each of these treaties built unique relationships with New Delhi, tying countries such as Nepal and Bhutan in ways that were seen as a “win-win” for both sides at the time.

Treaties outliving their utility

  • Over time, the treaties have outlived their utility.
  • And the benefits of unique ties with Nepal and Bhutan, including open borders and ease of movement, jobs and education for their youth as well as India’s influential support on the world stage, have waned in public memory.

What explains difference in Nepal and Bhutan for India

  • One of the reasons that China has been able to make inroads into Nepal and not with Bhutan, is that the government renegotiated its 1949 Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship with Bhutan.
  • The India-Bhutan 1949 Treaty was replaced with the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty in 2007.
  • 2007 treaty dropped an article that had committed Bhutan “to beguided” by India on its external affairs policy.
  • This has held India and Bhutan ties in good stead thus far, even during the Doklam stand-off between India and China in 2017 in the face of severe pressure from China.
  • However, despite years of requests from Kathmandu, New Delhi has dragged its feet on reviewing its 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the Government of India and the Government of Nepal.
  • and on accepting a report the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) on Nepal-India relations has produced that recommends a new treaty.
  • New treaties may not, in themselves reduce India’s security threat from China in its neighbourhood.
  • But they create space for a more mutually responsive diplomacy that is necessary to nurture special relationships.

3. Tibet strategy: India must chart a more prominent role

  • For the third prong, India’s policy towards the “palm” or Tibet, itself should be looked at more closely as well.
  • While New Delhi’s decision to shelter the Dalai Lama and lakhs of his followers since 1959 is a policy that is lauded.
  • But it does not change the need for New Delhi to look into the future of its relationship, both with the Tibetan refugee community in India, which has lived here in limbo for decades, as well as with its future leadership.
  • At present, the Dalai Lama has the loyalty of Tibetans worldwide, but in the future, the question over who will take up the political leadership of the community looms large.
  • The Karmapa Lama, who lived in India after his flight from China in 2000, and was groomed as a possible political successor, has now taken the citizenship of another country and lives mostly in the United States.
  • Meanwhile, China will, without doubt, try to force its own choice on the community as well.
  • Given that it is home to so many Tibetans, India must chart a more prominent role in this discourse.

4. Introspection of reorganisation in Jammu and Kashmir

  • Finally, it is necessary to introspect on how India’s own reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 has changed the security matrix and threat parameters for India, and its neighbours.
  • While Pakistan’s extreme reaction to the move was expected, China’s reaction was perhaps not studied enough.
  • Beijing issued a statement decrying the impact on Jammu and Kashmir, and another one specifically on Ladakh.
  • In the statement, China called it an attempt to “undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law”.
  • And warned that the move was “unacceptable and will not come into force”.

Consider the question “India’s relations with China has always had to factor in the border dispute. But the incidents in recent necessitated a relook at the foreign policy towards China.” In light of this, examine the factors that must form the basis of foreign policy.


The impact of the new map of Jammu and Kashmir on ties with Nepal as well, is no coincidence. There is proof enough that now more than ever, as the government readies its hand on dealing with China, it must not lose sight of every finger in play.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Multilateralism post COVID-19


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WIPO, UNIDO

Mains level : Paper 2-Multilateralism in the post-Covid world

What is the future of multilateralism? This is the question we have come across many times recently. Given the chaos that we are witnessing in the global order, multilateral seems to be headed for either collapse or capture by China. But, the author of this article suggests that it would be a mistake to consider the choice as binary. Between the collapse and the capture, there are many stakeholders working for its sustenance. So, multilateralism will endure.

International institutions performing below par

  • The COVID-19 outbreak has placed all international institutions under a magnifying glass.
  • By any measure, most have performed below par.
  • Such is the caution espoused that multilateralism today seems to have reverted to its version 0.1.
  • The General Assembly now passes resolutions through no-objection procedure.
  • The Security Council has been found wanting in no small measure.
  • The 75th session’s ‘leaders week’ runs the risk of being reduced to a video playback session.

Pursuit of change by threatening to leave

  • It is true that functioning of multilateral institutions requires reform.
  • They need to adapt to new realities.
  • However, the pursuit of change by threatening to leave multilateral institutions is a phenomenon we witnessed only during the period of the League of Nations.
  • One state followed another in bidding goodbye, until the League’s final demise.

Why post Second World War institutions survived departures

  • The post Second World War multilateral institutions have survived such departures.
  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and the Human Rights Council in Geneva have survived the departure of the U.S.
  • The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna continues despite the withdrawal of the U.S. and many others.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO), notwithstanding its visible shortcomings, will survive U.S. threats.
  • The reasons are simple.
  • Multilateral organisations serve desperately felt global needs of the vast membership.
  • The pandemic has reinforced the desire for greater global cooperation amongst most states.

So, will the current multi-lateral order survive China’s onslaught?

  •  It is true that Chinese nationals head four multilateral organisations.
  • It is also true that Chinese nationals have failed in campaigns to head UNESCO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
  • Despite contributing nearly 10% of the UN’s budget, Chinese nationals are not exactly over-represented in terms of staff positions.
  • China has certainly risen up the multilateral pantheon and is able to better promote its interests.
  • It has warded off attacks against it in multilateral fora, at times with the aid of the heads of these organisations.
  • However, it is yet to display an ability to set the multilateral agenda and dominate the discourse on an array of issues, in the manner that the U.S. once indispensably did.
  • China’s flagship venture, the Belt and Road Initiative, remains only on the fringes of multilateral fora.
  • Neither in monetary terms nor in substantive inputs are there portents of a ‘Chinese takeover’.
  • Amidst this, multilateral bodies are populated by a plethora of small and middle states quietly working to restore equilibrium, when the balance tends to shift.
  • The capture of the existing multilateral order by a new hegemon is antithetical to the ethos of multilateralism.
  • Multilateralism thrives on the notion of the Lilliputians tying up Gulliver — old or new.

Evolving multilateralism is not a choice between collapse and capture

  • Between collapse and capture, there are other pathways.
  • Multilateral architecture places a premium on structures over functions, processes over substance.
  • It slows down the change of any sort.
  • The same processes that have stalled change in the past will militate against a takeover in the future.
  • Does that mean that multilateralism will meander meaninglessly?
  • It will meander, but perhaps not meaninglessly.
  • The ‘pluri-laterals’ and the emerging ‘mini-laterals’ each have their place in terms of international agenda-setting, but global norm-setting requires inclusivity that they lack.

Opportunity for India

  • Being able to shape the discourse at an incipient stage is a good perch to be on.
  • Issue-specific ‘coalitions of the willing’ are catalysts.
  • As a growing power, India needs to avail of such avenues.
  • However, by themselves, these will not do justice to the depth and variety of India’s interests and our stakes in global cooperation.
  • Also, they are not holistic solutions in ensuring global acceptance of norms.

Understanding the essence of multilateralism

  • Responses of states during the COVID-19 crisis point to more emphasis on sovereign decision making than before.
  • The imprimatur for acting on behalf of the global community is not going to be available easily.
  • On myriad issues, from sustainable development to the environment, from climate change to pandemics and cyberspace to outer space, the demands for ‘nothing about us without us’ are likely to increase.
  • Since stakeholders perceive that their stakes have risen, they will call for enhanced engagement.
  • Convening such stakeholders in pursuit of global goals is the essence of multilateralism.

Consider the question “In the world afflicted by Covid, multilateralism seems to be headed for collapse or capture by a hegemon. Critically examine.”


We need to patiently promote reforms while building partnerships to avail opportunities which may arise for more fundamental change. We need to bide our time without hiding our intent.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India-China Border Dispute: A Conflict that has been in the making for years


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nathu La and Cho La

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China border dispute

This article chronicles the border dispute between the two countries. It began in 1914 and ever after more than a hundred years it still continues. But the latest clash was the deadliest after 1967. Let’s go through past incidents over the border issue.

1914: A border China never agreed to

  • The conflict stretches back to at least 1914.
  • In 2014 representatives from Britain, the Republic of China and Tibet gathered in Simla to negotiate a treaty that would determine the status of Tibet and effectively settle the borders between China and British India.
  • The Chinese, unhappy at proposed terms that would have allowed Tibet to be autonomous and remain under Chinese control, refused to sign the deal.
  • But Britain and Tibet signed a treaty establishing what would be called the McMahon Line, named after a British colonial official, Henry McMahon, who proposed the border.
  • India maintains that the McMahon Line, a 550-mile frontier that extends through the Himalayas, is the official legal border between China and India.
  • But China has never accepted it.

1962: India-China War and origin of LAC

  •  Tensions rose throughout the 1950s.
  • The Chinese insisted that Tibet was never independent and could not have signed a treaty creating an international border.
  • There were several failed attempts at peaceful negotiation.
  • China sought to control critical roadways near its western frontier in Xinjiang.
  • India and its Western allies saw any attempts at Chinese incursion as part of a wider plot to export Maoist-style Communism across the region.
  • By 1962, war had broken out.
  • Chinese troops crossed the McMahon Line and took up positions deep in Indian territory, capturing mountain passes and towns.
  • By November China declared a cease-fire, unofficially redrawing the border near where Chinese troops had conquered territory.
  • It was the so-called Line of Actual Control.

1967: In Sikkim, India pushes China back

  • Tensions came to a head again in 1967 along two mountain passes, Nathu La and Cho La, that connected Sikkim — then a kingdom and a protectorate of India — and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • A scuffle broke out when Indian troops began laying barbed wire along what they recognized as the border.
  • The scuffles soon escalated when a Chinese military unit began firing artillery shells at the Indians.
  • In the ensuing conflict, more than 150 Indians and 340 Chinese were killed.
  • The clashes in September and October 1967 in those passes would later be considered the second all-out war between China and India.
  • But India prevailed, destroying Chinese fortifications in Nathu La and pushing them farther back into their territory near Cho La.
  • The change in positions, however, meant that China and India each had different and conflicting ideas about the location of the Line of Actual Control.
  • The fighting was the last time that troops on either side would be killed. — until the skirmishes in the Galwan Valley on Tuesday.

1987: A crisis averted

  • In 1987, the Indian military was conducting a training operation to see how fast it could move troops to the border.
  • The large number of troops and material arriving next to Chinese outposts surprised Chinese commanders — who responded by advancing toward what they considered the Line of Actual Control.
  • Realizing the potential to inadvertently start a war, both India and China de-escalated, and a crisis was averted.

2013: Stand-off at Daulat Beg Oldi

  • After decades of patrolling the border, a Chinese platoon pitched a camp near Daulat Beg Oldi in April 2013.
  • The Indians soon followed, setting up their own base fewer than 1,000 feet away.
  • The camps were later fortified by troops and heavy equipment.
  • By May, the sides had agreed to dismantle both encampments, but disputes about the location of the Line of Actual Control persisted.

2017: Doklam Stand-off

  • In June 2017, the Chinese set to work building a road in the Doklam Plateau, an area of the Himalayas controlled not by India, but by its ally Bhutan.
  • Indian troops carrying weapons and operating bulldozers confronted the Chinese with the intention of destroying the road.
  • A standoff ensued, soldiers threw rocks at each other, and troops from both sides suffered injuries.
  • In August, the countries agreed to withdraw from the area, and China stopped construction on the road.

2020: Ladakh stand-off

  • In May, melees broke out several times.
  • In one clash at the glacial lake Pangong Tso, Indian troops were badly injured and had to be evacuated by helicopter.
  • China bolstered its forces with dump trucks, excavators, troop carriers, artillery and armored vehicles, Indian experts said.
  • What was clear was that it was the most serious series of clashes between the two sides since 2017 — and a harbinger of the deadly confrontation to come.

Consider the question “Examine the elements that make the border dispute between India and China difficult to resolve.”


Border dispute in two giants could easily escalate into a full-blown war. India has to recalibrate the policy approach after the recent clash and take steps that would prepare it for such an eventuality.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

What lies behind China’s assertion in Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shaksgam valley

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China border dispute

The latest stand-off in Ladakh triggered a debate over the reasons for Chinese actions. While many attribute it to India’s decision to change the constitutional status of J&K, the author of this article points to the widening power differential. So, what are the implications of it? Read the article to know…

What is argument from China’s side over growing Chinese assertiveness

  •  India’s decision to change the constitutional status of J&K is cited as the reason for Chinesé growing assertiveness in the Ladakh.
  • The Chinese arguments proffered on various occasions since last August have been summarised by Wang Shida, a Chinese scholar in Beijing.
  • Wang argues that India’s move last August has forced China into the Kashmir dispute.
  • The move stimulated China and Pakistan to take counter-actions on the Kashmir issue, and dramatically increased the difficulty in resolving the border issue between China and India.

And what is India’s stand over this explanation

  • Official Delhi rejects the argument that India’s action has “posed a challenge to the sovereignty of China and Pakistan”.
  • It points out that the constitutional changes altered the nature of the relationship between Delhi and Kashmir within the Indian Union, and that it has no impact on the current territorial disposition with China and Pakistan.
  • The government’s renewed claim over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and China-occupied Aksai Chin is simply a restatement of long-standing Indian positions.

China: Part of Kashmir dispute or not?

  • It might be baffling to hear the argument that Delhi has “forced” Beijing into the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.
  • China is very much part of the Kashmir dispute.
  • After all, China occupies large parts of Kashmir, including Aksai Chin and parts of Ladakh and sits on the Shaksgam valley ceded to Beijing by Pakistan in 1963.
  • It is important to note a nuance in China’s articulation.
  • The competing claims of Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir are rooted in their shared understanding that there was a princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in undivided India.
  • For Beijing, the territories it claims have never been part of J&K but belonged to Tibet and Xinjiang.

Pakistan agreeing to China’s claim

  • That Pakistan has largely swallowed the Chinese argument is reflected in the 1963 agreement on the boundary between “China’s Sinkiang and the contiguous areas the defence of which is under the actual control of Pakistan”.
  • Not entirely surprising, since Pakistan’s primary focus is on getting the Indian-controlled areas of Kashmir rather than claim all the original lands of J&K.

China’s changing approach to the Kashmir question

  • While its claim to be outside the dispute has been consistent, China’s approach to the Kashmir question has seen considerable variation over the last seven decades and more.
  • Some recent research has delved into Nationalist China’s active efforts to draw the Hunza region of the Gilgit district into a union with China during 1947-48.
  • The Mir of Hunza, Jamal Khan, opened negotiations with officials of Xinjiang, but in the end, opted to accede to Pakistan.
  • Communist China did not abandon the efforts of the Nationalist government and continued to show Hunza as part of its territory until the early 1960s.
  • In the 1950s, at the height of the “Bhai-Bhai” phase, China avoided taking a position on the Kashmir question.
  • After the 1962 war, China’s position aligned with Pakistan’s as Beijing called for “self-determination” in Kashmir.
  • After the Maoist era came to a close and Deng Xiaoping took charge in the late 1980s, China began to moderate its Kashmir position and find a better balance in its bilateral relations with India and Pakistan.
  • In the mid-1990s, in a significant setback to Islamabad, Beijing urged both India and Pakistan to put aside the Kashmir issue and focus on developmental cooperation.
  • But China’s position on the boundary dispute in general and the Kashmir question in particular tended to harden against India since the late 2000s.
  • That’s when Beijing became more conscious of the widening power differential with all its neighbours, including India.

So, what explains China’s latest move?

  •  The ground reality has not been altered by India’s constitutional changes.
  • It is being changed by the PLA’s growing military capabilities and the political will to use them.
  • India’s constitutional changes might, in the end, look like a minor defensive move amid China’s continuing gains in Kashmir across the India-Pakistan divide.
  • Although Beijing has let Pakistan keep Hunza for now, it has not really given up its claims on the region under the 1963 agreement.
  • The CPEC, which enters Pakistan through Hunza, has laid the foundation for ever-larger Chinese economic influence in Gilgit-Baltistan.

What is the implication of this in the future?

  • China’s ability to nibble away at the LAC in Ladakh will only grow as the military balance continues to shift in the PLA’s favour.
  • While India’s significant current military deployment to counter Chinese mobilisation may yet help persuade Beijing to step back, there is no escaping the longer-term trend.
  • If Delhi can’t redress the growing military imbalance and as Islamabad becomes even more dependent on Beijing, China will loom larger than ever on the entire Kashmir region.
  • That is the real message from the new Chinese affirmation that it is now part of the Kashmir question.

Consider the question “Rather than Indian’s action in its internal matters, it’s China’s widening power differential with India that explains the Chinese assertive actions on the disputed border locations. Comment.


In raking up the issue at the UNSC, raising economic presence in the Northern Areas and probing India’s military and political vulnerabilities, China is highlighting its new salience for Kashmir. This is part of China’s growing geopolitical impact all across the Great Himalayas. And India must prepare itself to face this changing reality.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Private: Why South China Sea matters to India

What happens in the South China Sea has bearing on India. So far, the U.S. played a major role in the prosperity and security of the Indo-Pacific, but after the Covid, it may be forced to reconsider its stand over the region. So, what is at stake for India? And what are the options available with ASEAN countries and Indian in such a situation? Read to know…

Dilemma the Indo-Pacific countries faces

  •  As the two most consequential powers of the world, the United States and China which are engaged in a fundamental transformation of their relationship rest of the countries in the region face a dilemma.
  • Almost nobody any longer thinks that China will conform to the US worldview, or that China’s rise from hereon will be unchallenged.
  • The Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs cogently spells out this dilemma.

How the U.S. contributed to the region’s prosperity

  • The Indo-Pacific has prospered under American hegemony for the previous 40 years not just because of their huge investments.
  • U.S. invested $328.8 billion in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) alone and a further $107 billion in China.
  • However, it’s not the investment but also because of the security blanket that it provides.
  • China might have replaced the US as the primary engine of growth in the last decade, but it has come with a cost — the assertion of Chinese power.
  • The benign American military presence has afforded countries the opportunity to pursue economic prosperity without substantial increases in their own defence expenditures or having to look over their shoulders.
  • No group of nations has benefitted more from the presence of the US than the ASEAN.

How Chinese military posture is different from the U.S.

  • Chinese military postures, on the other hand, give cause for concern ever since they unilaterally put forward the Nine-Dash Line in 2009 to declare the South China Sea as territorial waters.
  • Their territorial claim itself is tenuous, neither treaty-based nor legally sound.
  • They act in ways that are neither benign nor helpful for long-term peace and stability.
  • In the first half of 2020 alone, Chinese naval or militia forces have rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat, “buzzed” a Philippines naval vessel and harassed a Malaysian oil drilling operation, all within their respective EEZs.
  • Since 2015, they have built a runway and underground storage facilities on the Subi Reef and Thitu Island as well as radar sites and missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef.
  • They conducted ballistic missile tests in the South China Sea in June 2019 and continue to enhance naval patrols to enforce area denial for others.

Fundamental choices the region faces

  • Going forward, the US and China face fundamental choices.
  • But then, so do the rest of us living in the Indo-Pacific.
  • America’s role in the preservation of the region’s peace and security should not be taken for granted.
  • As COVID imposes crushing costs on all economies, the US may also be weighing its options.
  • Finding justification for Chinese actions in the South China Sea, even as countries in the region help themselves to Chinese economic opportunities while sheltering under the US security blanket, is also fraught with risk.
  • Accommodation may have worked thus far but regional prosperity has come at a mounting cost in geo-strategic terms.
  • The South China Sea is effectively militarised. In the post-COVID age, enjoying the best of both worlds may no longer be an option.

But, ASEAN won’t change the course suddenly

  • Nobody should expect that ASEAN will suddenly reverse course when faced with possibly heightened Sino-US competition.
  • China is a major power that will continue to receive the respect of ASEAN and, for that matter, many others in the Indo-Pacific, especially in a post-COVID world where they are struggling to revive their economies.
  • ASEAN overtook the European Union to become China’s largest trading partner in the first quarter of 2020, and China is the third-largest investor ($150 billion) in ASEAN.
  • The South East Asians are skilled at finding the wiggle room to accommodate competing hegemons while advancing their interests.
  • This does not, however, mean that they are not concerned over Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea.
  • They need others to help them in managing the situation.

Validation of the US military presence and collective efforts of stakeholders

  • A robust US military presence is one guarantee.
  • A stronger validation by the littoral states of the South China Sea helps the US Administration in justifying their presence to the American tax-payer.
  • Others who have stakes in the region also need to collectively encourage an increasingly powerful China to pursue strategic interests in a legitimate way, and on the basis of respect for international law, in the South China Sea.
  • The real choice is not between China and America — it is between keeping the global commons open for all or surrendering the right to choose one’s partners for the foreseeable future.

What is at stake for India?

  • How the South China Sea situation plays out will be critical for our security and well-being.
  • India must consider the following factors while calibrating its approach.
  • 1) The South China Sea is not China’s sea but a global common.
  • 2) It has been an important sea-lane of communication since the very beginning, and passage has been unimpeded over the centuries.
  • 3) Indians have sailed these waters for well over 1,500 years — there is ample historical and archaeological proof of a continuous Indian trading presence from Kedah in Malaysia to Quanzhou in China.
  • 4) Nearly $200 billion of our trade passes through the South China Sea and thousands of our citizens study, work and invest in ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
  • 5)  We have stakes in the peace and security of this region in common with others who reside there, and freedom of navigation, as well as other normal activities with friendly countries, are essential for our economic well-being. In short, the South China Sea is our business.
  • We have historical rights established by practice and tradition to traverse the South China Sea without impediment.
  • We have mutually contributed to each other’s prosperity for two thousand years.
  • We continue to do so.
  • The proposition that nations that have plied these waters in the centuries past for trade and other peaceful purposes are somehow outsiders who should not be permitted to engage in legitimate activity in the South China Sea, or have a voice without China’s say, should be firmly resisted.

India’s Stand

  • India has maintained that it is not a party to the SCS dispute and its presence in the SCS is not to contain China but for its own economic interests, especially that of its energy security needs.
  • However, China’s increasing ability to decide and expand its role in the South China Sea has compelled India to reevaluate its approach on the issue.
  • As a key element of the Act East Policy, India has started internationalizing disputes in the Indo-Pacific region to psychological pressure on irritants (the recent mentions of South China Sea dispute in bilateral statements between India-USA and India-France is a testimony to the fact).
  • Further, India is aggressively using the soft tool of Buddhist legacy to reclaim the unique historical leverage to make a strong bond with the Southeast Asian region.
  • India has also deployed its navy with Vietnam in the South China Sea for protection of sea lanes of communication (SLOC), denying China any space for assertion.
  • Also, India is part of Quad initiative (India, US, Japan, Australia) and lynchpin of Indo-Pacific narrative. These initiatives are viewed as a containment strategy by China.

India needs to be responsive to ASEAN

  • India needs to be responsive to ASEAN’s expectations.
  • While strategic partnerships and high-level engagements are important, ASEAN expects longer-lasting buy-ins by India in their future.
  • They have taken the initiative time and again to involve India in Indo-Pacific affairs.
  • It is not as if our current level of trade or investment with ASEAN makes a compelling argument for them to automatically involve us.
  • They have deliberately taken a longer-term view.
  • A restructuring of global trade is unlikely to happen any time soon in the post-COVID context.
  • Regional arrangements will become even more important for our economic recovery and rejuvenation.
  • If we intend to heed the clarion call of “Think Global Act Local”, India has to be part of the global supply chains in the world’s leading growth region for the next half-century.
  • It is worth paying heed to the words from Singapore’s prime minister, who writes that something significant is lost in an RCEP without India.
  • And urges us to recognise that the value of such agreements goes beyond the economic gains they generate.
  • Singapore is playing the long game. Are we willing to do so, even if it imposes some costs in the short-term?

Consider the question “The South China Sea has been witnessing growing militarisation day by day. And how the South China Sea situation plays out will be critical for our security and well-being. In light of this, examine the basis on which India should contest China’s unilateral claims in the area and scope of engagement with the ASEAN countries in this regard.”


Indian is a stakeholder in the South China Sea. What happens there have implications for us. In such a scenario, India must form a partnership with other players in the region and should attempt to make China follow international laws and global order.


Significance of South China Sea

  • Geo-Strategic Location
    • The geographic location of the SCS is strategically important. As it links the Indian Ocean to the Pacific and is a critical shipping channel
    • According to the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD), one-third of the global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade.
    • Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60% of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80% of China’s crude oil imports come through the South China Sea.
  • Rich Energy Reserves
    • SCS is believed to have huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.
    • According to the World Bank, the South China Sea holds proven oil reserves of at least seven billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • Choke Point
    • The Strait of Malacca connects Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and is 900 km in length and is also a prominent trade route between East Asia and West Asia-Europe.
    • The Strait of Malacca is a choke point, it is always in interest of great powers to control such a strategic location. Thus, due to the presence of this choke point, SCS assumes much importance for China and other regional countries.
    • In context of naval diplomacy, it is a geopolitical term used to signify an international strait whose control could potentially affect commercial transit.

  • Fishery Resources
    • Fishing in the South China Sea is a big business.
    • According to some estimates up to 10 % of the world’s ocean-caught fish come from the region. However the fish stocks in the area are depleted and regional countries are using fishing bans as a means of asserting their sovereignty claims.

South China Dispute

Encroaching EEZ of Other Countries

In 1947, China took control of some islets in the South China Sea occupied by Japan in World War–II. Since 1953, China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, reflected in a map created with a 9-dash line to show them as a part of China.

  • In 2016, the Philippines had filed an arbitration case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, seeking to strike down China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.
    • The tribunal issued a decision finding that there is no legal basis to claim “historic rights” to islands in the South China Sea and the 9-dash line is inconsistent with Convention on the Law of the Sea.
    • However, China refused to abide by the judgement.
  • China has asserted a maritime claim (based on historic rights) to a large part of the South China Sea that is not consistent with international law.
    • The SCS has more than a dozen overlapping EEZ in accordance with the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS- an international treaty that sets out important maritime rules).
    • As per UNCLOS, countries in their EEZ can explore oil, mineral resources, living and non-living natural resources including resources under the sea, seabed and subsoil.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A case for quiet diplomacy to resolve standoff


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Depsang Plains

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

Apart from the recent one, there had been several stand-offs between India and China over the border issue. The use of quiet diplomacy to diffuse the situation underlies all these stand-offs. However, politicisation of stand-off could make the situation difficult to resolve. This article explains the use of quiet diplomacy and problems posed by the politicisation of the stand-offs.

Process to diffuse tension began but not at all points

  •  Both sides have agreed on a broad plan to defuse four of the five points of discord.
  • The situation at the fifth, Pangong Lake remains uncertain as also in Galwan valley and north Sikkim.
  • At Pangong Tso, the Chinese have entrenched their positions with tents and remain on India’s side of the LAC.
  • There is a major point of difference which will not be easy to resolve.

Let’s look into the strategy used by India in the past to resolve stand-offs

  • The pattern of resolution of past stand-offs underlines the key role played by quiet diplomacy in unlocking complicated stand-off situations.
  • Both the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) governments have followed an approach that has coupled quiet diplomacy with a strong military posture, while at the same time allowing the adversary a way out.
  • This has been the broad strategy in dealing with challenges from China across the LAC.
  • And this strategy has generally worked.

Let’s look into three specific incidents

1) 2013-Depsang plains

  • In 2013, when Chinese troops pitched tents on India’s side of the LAC on the Depsang plains, similar to Pangong Tso.
  • The UPA government was under fire, both for being weak on China and for its reticence.
  • While the government was being publicly attacked for doing nothing, it had privately conveyed to China that if the stand-off didn’t end, an upcoming visit by Premier Li Keqiang would be off.
  • If that demand had been made public at the time, China would have only dug in its heels, even if the government may have won the headlines of the day.

2) Chumar stand-off

  • The government adopted a similar strategy during the 2014 stand-off at Chumar, which coincided with President Xi Jinping’s visit to India.
  • Mr. Xi’s visit went ahead, while India quietly but forcefully stopped the Chinese road-building and deployed 2,500 soldiers, outnumbering the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
  • The PLA withdrew.
  • Both sides disengaged and followed a moratorium into patrolling into contested areas, which was observed for many months thereafter.

Ultimately, in both cases, the objective was achieved. China, faced with firm resistance, was prevented from changing the status quo.

3) Doklam stand-off in 2017

  • In 2017, the government came under particularly intense fire because it stayed studiously silent through a 72-day stand-off at Doklam.
  • Indian troops crossed over into Bhutan to stop a Chinese road construction on territory India sees as Bhutanese but China claims.
  • By extending the road, India argued, China was unilaterally altering the India-Bhutan-China trijunction.
  • Beijing demanded an unconditional withdrawal.
  • When both finally disengaged, neither divulged the terms.
  • It would later emerge that the deal struck involved India withdrawing first.
  • China then stopped construction, and the status quo at the face-off site was restored.

Stand-off politics in the country

  • Politics over border stand-offs is not new.
  •  The Opposition and the media are certainly right to hold the government to account.
  • Indeed, neither the Opposition nor the media would be doing its job if they weren’t.
  • The tensions on the LAC are neither the first nor likely to be the last.
  • With every incident, they are, however, getting increasingly politicised in an environment where there is a 24/7 demand on social media for information — and unprecedented capacity for disinformation.
  • Rather than wish away this reality — and adopt a stand that it is above questioning — the government needs to come to terms with it. 

Dealing with the politicisation of stand-offs

  •  First, it needs to keep the Opposition informed, which it is clear it hasn’t.
  • Second, it needs to proactively engage with the media, even if that may be through low-key engagement as was the case on June 9, that does not escalate into a public war of words.
  • At the same time, expectations of having a public debate about the intricacies of every border stand-off — or for the Prime Minister to weigh in even while negotiations are ongoing — need to be tempered.
  • This will only risk inflaming tensions, and reduce the wiggle room for both sides to find an off-ramp.
  • The broader objective shouldn’t get lost in political debates.
  • That objective is to ensure India’s security interests remain protected — and that the status quo on India’s borders isn’t changed by force.

Consider the question “Border issue between India and China has several times resulted in the stand-off between the two countries but the use of quiet diplomacy helped defuse the tension. But the politicisation of such issue could complicate the situation in the future. Comment.


  • Past incidents have shown that quiet diplomacy, coupled with strong military resolve that deters any Chinese misadventures, has been more effective than public sabre-rattling, even if we may be inhabiting a media environment that misconstrues loudness as strength, and silence as weakness.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890 and its significance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes

The skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops at Naku La in Sikkim that is considered settled may be Beijing’s way of attempting a new claim. Defence experts highlighted the historical Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890 as proof of India’s ownership of the territory.

Practice question for mains:

Q. China’s actions on dormant areas mask a hidden agenda of broader assertiveness in the entire Asia-Pacific. Comment.

China creates a new flashpoint

  • Referring to a major scuffle that took place at Naku La in May, it was unusual for Chinese troops to open up a part of the LAC that has not been in contention before.

Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890

  • Of the entire 3,488km Sino-Indian border, the only section on which both countries agree that there is no dispute is the 220km Sikkim-Tibet section of the boundary.
  • This is because under the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1890, the Sikkim-Tibet border was agreed upon and in 1895 it was jointly demarcated on the ground.
  • Not only that but the new government of People’s Republic of China, which took power in 1949, confirmed this position in a formal note to the government of India on 26 December 1959.

Chinese claims

  • Prior to Sikkim’s merger with India in 1975, the Chinese side accepted the Watershed based alignment of the International Border (IB).
  • The Sikkim – Tibet boundary has long formally been delimited and there is neither any discrepancy between the maps nor any dispute in practice.
  • The Chinese reiterate that, as per para (1) of the Convention of 1890, the tri-junction is at Mount Gipmochi.

India’s stance

  • The geographic alignment of the features was so prominent that it could easily be identified and recognized.
  • Even analysing the available Google images of the past, the location of Naku La could be discerned by anyone as the watershed parting line in the area was very prominent. “
  • There exist no ambiguity with respect to the location of the pass, since geographic realities cannot be altered.

How Sikkim came into the picture?

  • Earlier, Sikkim came into the limelight in 1965 during the India-Pakistan conflict, when the Chinese suddenly and without any provocation sent a strongly-worded threat.
  • Then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri neatly sidestepped the issue by stating that if the bunkers were on the Chinese side they were well within their rights to demolish them.
  • The point that the Chinese were trying to make was not military, but political, for they wanted to bolster the Pakistani spirit, which by then was rapidly losing steam.
  • As India stood firm with the backing of USSR and the US, nothing emerged from Chinese threats on the Sikkim-Tibet border.

Series of activity since then

  • In 1967, the Chinese again activated the Sikkim-Tibet border and on 11 September, suddenly opened fire on an Indian patrol party near Nathu La pass. The main point was that India did not lose any position, nor did it yield any ground.
  • The next important episode was in 2003. When PM Vajpayee conceded during his visit to China in 2003 that “the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) was a part of the PRC” with the expectation that China would recognize Sikkim as a part of India.
  • This did not materialize then but in the joint statement issued by premier Wen Jiabao and prime minister Manmohan Singh on 11 April 2005.
  • In part 13, the Chinese recognized “Sikkim State of the Republic of India”. Wen even handed over an official map of the People’s Republic of China to Singh, showing Sikkim as a part of India.

Nothing new about the skirmishes over Sikkim

  • History would thus indicate that the present stand-off between India and China over the Sikkim-Tibet boundary is nothing new.
  • The latest episode after a road construction party entered Doklam area, despite Bhutanese attempts to dissuade them.

Ignoring usual behaviour

  • The clearly orchestrated actions on an otherwise dormant area mask a hidden agenda.
  • The Chinese push at several points along the LAC and also the ongoing aggression in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits are testimony to this.
  • The timeline of initiating this incident indicates a high level of pre-planning, possibly at senior levels of the PLA as well as the Chinese government.

Way forward

  • There is no question of India bending to Chinese “demands”, for like in 1967, it must stand its ground firmly.
  • That would be a sufficient lesson for the Chinese that the Indian Army is no pushover and this is perhaps the only way to deal with China that likes to flaunt its economic and military prowess.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Strategic importance of Daulat Beg Oldie, Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shyok river, Nubra Valley, Sassar la pass

Mains level : Read the attached story

In the reporting on the LAC stand-off, the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road has often appeared in news.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. Discuss how India’s all-weather border infrastructure has created new festering points for the Sino-Indian border skirmished.

Daulat Beg Oldie

  • DBO is the northernmost corner of Indian Territory in Ladakh, in the area better known in Army parlance as Sub-Sector North.
  • DBO has the world’s highest airstrip, originally built during the 1962 war but abandoned until 2008 when the Indian Air Force (IAF) revived it as one of its many Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) along the LAC.

The DSDBO Road

  • DSDBO is an all-weather 255-km long road 255-km long built by India over nearly 20 years.
  • Running almost parallel to the LAC, the DSDBO road, meandering through elevations ranging between 13,000 ft and 16,000 ft, took India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) almost two decades to construct.
  • Its strategic importance is that it connects Leh to DBO, virtually at the base of the Karakoram Pass that separates China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region from Ladakh.

A trigger for PLA incursions

  • Of the possible triggers cited for the PLA targeting of Indian Territory along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, the construction of DSDBO all-weather road is possibly the most consequential.
  • The Chinese build-up along the Galwan River valley region overlooks and hence poses a direct threat to the DSDBO road.

Significance of DSDBO Road

  • The DSDBO highway provides the Indian military access to the section of the Tibet-Xinjaing highway that passes through Aksai Chin.
  • The road runs almost parallel to the LAC at Aksai Chin, the eastern ear of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state that China occupied in the 1950s, leading to the 1962 war in which India came off worse.
  • The DSDBO’s emergence seemingly panicked China, evidenced by the 2013 intrusion by the PLA into the nearby Depsang Plains, lasting nearly three weeks.
  • DBO itself is less than 10 km west of the LAC at Aksai Chin. A military outpost was created in DBO in reaction to China’s occupation of Aksai Chin.
  • It is at present manned by a combination of the Army’s Ladakh Scouts and the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Other strategic considerations

  • To the west of DBO is the region where China abuts Pakistan in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, once a part of the erstwhile Kashmir principality.
  • This is also the critical region where China is currently constructing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), to which India has objected.
  • As well, this is the region where Pakistan ceded over 5,180 sq km of PoK to China in 1963 under a Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement, contested by India.

Also read:


Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

LAC row: China reaches accord with India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes and their impacts on bilateral relations

China said that it had “reached an agreement” with India on the ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a day after India announced troops from both sides had begun a “partial disengagement” from some of the stand-off points.

Practice question for mains:

Q. “Early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries”. Discuss in light of the ongoing border skirmishes between India and China.

Read the complete story here:

Troops moving back

  • Partial deinduction has happened from some points in Galwan and Hot Springs areas.
  • Chinese side removed some of the tents and some troops and vehicles have been moved back, and the Indian side to has reciprocated.
  • At some points in the Galwan Valley, Chinese troops have moved back 2-3 km. However, there is no change in the ground situation at Pangong Tso.

De-escalation begins

  • India and China held Major general-level talks to discuss further de-escalation at several standoff points in Eastern Ladakh including Patrolling Point (PP) 14, following a broad accord reached on Saturday in talks held at the Corps Commander-level.
  • As per the agreement, a series of ground-level talks would be held over the next 10 days, with four other points of conflict identified at PP15, PP17, Chushul and the north bank of Pangong Lake.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry said both sides had agreed to handle the situation “properly” and “in line with the agreement” to ease the situation.
  • However, it did not provide specific details on some of the stand-off points, such as Pangong Lake, where Chinese troops are still present on India’s side of the LAC.

No final solution yet

  • At present, the two sides are taking actions in line with the agreement to ameliorate the border situation.
  • Government officials said a partial disengagement had happened at some points in the Galwan area and at Hot Springs, but there was no change at Pangong Lake.
  • Chinese state-run media has revealed that the ongoing dispute will not escalate into a conflict.
  • But it added due to the complexity of the situation, the military stand-off could continue for a little longer.

Way forward

  • The military-level talks showed that both sides do not want to escalate tensions further.
  • It showed that China and India remain determined to peacefully resolve border issues.
  • However, the ongoing stand-off is not likely to end immediately, as concrete issues must still be resolved.