Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

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.

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.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Pay attention to their objectives in dealing with China and Pakistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 370

Mains level : Paper 2- China-Pakistans overlapping interests in Kashmir and diverging objectives.

While their interests overlap, Pakistan and China diverge when it comes to their objective in Kashmir. Both want to keep the pressure on India to avoid it from changing the status quo. Extending this line of argument, the author in this article suggest that India should separate the policy response to China from Pakistan, as they differ in their objectives.

Coordinated efforts to corner India?

  • Latest news on the Ladakh front suggests that Chinese and Indian forces have begun to disengage in select areas.
  • But this does not detract from the reality that in the past few weeks Beijing and Islamabad are making coordinated efforts to challenge India’s presence in the Kashmir-Ladakh region.
  • There is stepped-up activity on Pakistan’s part to infiltrate terrorists into the Valley.
  • China has undertaken provocative measures on the Ladakh front to assert control over disputed areas around the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Let’s see how Pakistan and China’s interests overlap

  • In Pakistan’s case the intensification in its terrorist activities is related in part to the dilution of Article 370. 
  • Dilution of Article 370 helps India de-link Ladakh from the Kashmir problem.
  • For China, the division of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir allows India a freer hand in contesting China’s claims in the region.
  • Increasing road-building activity on India’s part close to the LAC augments this perception.
  • In addition, Ladakh borders China’s most restive provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • Ladakh is also contiguous to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan, where the Chinese have invested hugely under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s remark last year that India expects to have “physical jurisdiction over (POK) one day” has alarmed Beijing which sees any such Indian move as threatening the CPEC project.
  • These factors demonstrate the overlapping interests that Beijing and Islamabad have regarding India in this region.

The above factors explain why Pakistan and China would want India to be so preoccupied with taking defensive measures in Kashmir and Ladakh as to have little time and energy left to attempt to alter the status quo in POK or in Aksai Chin.

But there are major differences in Pakistani and Chinese objectives regarding India

  • These differences are related to their divergent perceptions of their disputes and their different force equations with India.
  • For China, Ladakh is primarily a territorial dispute with strategic ramifications.
  • China also believes it is superior to the Indian militarily and, therefore, can afford to push India around within limits as it has been attempting to do in the recent confrontation.
  • For Pakistan, its territorial claim on Kashmir is based on an immutable ideological conviction that it is the unfinished business of partition and as a Muslim-majority state is destined to become a part of Pakistan.
  • Islamabad also realises that it is the weaker power in conventional terms and therefore has to use unconventional means, primarily terrorist infiltration, to achieve its objective of changing the status quo in Kashmir.
  • China is a satiated power in Ladakh having occupied Aksai Chin and wants to keep up the pressure on New Delhi to prevent the latter from trying to change the situation on the ground.

Way forward-Pay attention to objectives while negotiating

  • China’s primary concern with regard to Kashmir is to prevent any Indian move from threatening the CPEC project.
  • It does not challenge the status quo in Kashmir.
  • Pakistan, on the other hand, is committed to changing the status quo in Kashmir at all cost.
  • It has been trying to do so since Partition not only through clandestine infiltration but also by engaging in conventional warfare.
  • Therefore, while it is possible to negotiate the territorial dispute with China on a give-and-take basis.
  • Doing the same is not possible in the case of Pakistan which considers Kashmir a zero-sum game.
  • India should, therefore, distinguish the different objectives on the part of Beijing and Islamabad and tailor its responses accordingly without conflating the two threats to its security.

Consider the question “Policy response of India in dealing with Pakistan and China should consider differences in their objectives in relation to Kashmir. And clubbing them together just because of their tactical overlap should be avoided. Elaborate.”


Lumping the twin threats posed by Pakistan and China together because of a tactical overlap between them makes it difficult to choose policy options rationally. So, the policy response must understand the difference in their objectives and avoid clubbing them together.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India-China border crisis: It is not about the U.S.


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nine dash line, Natuna Islands

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

India’s growing closeness to the U.S. could be the reason for China’s aggression along India’s border. This is the explanation we often come across. But is it really the case?. This article probes the same question. Example of China’s dispute with Indonesia and Philippine help us analyse the U.S. angle to Indo-China border dispute. So, what is the conclusion?

An easy explanation to India-China border crisis

  • Why has China precipitated a fresh military crisis with India in eastern Ladakh?
  • Among the many explanations making the rounds in Delhi, there is always the easy and attractive one — it’s all about America.
  • Delhi has incurred Beijing’s wrath by moving closer to Washington, goes the argument.
  • India’s renewed enthusiasm for the US-led Quad, it is said, is encouraging China to teach a lesson to Delhi.

But does this explanation applies to the other countries as well? Look at Indonesia

  • No!
  • This theory does not hold up in relation to other countries having problems with China.
  • Let us turn to the South China Sea, where China is on a bold and ambitious drive to expand its control over the disputed waters.
  • Let us start with gathering tensions over the territorial dispute between Beijing and Jakarta.
  • Over the last year and more, Jakarta is coping with a Chinese challenge in its waters off its Natuna Islands.
  • The Natuna are nearly 1,500 km from the Chinese mainland.
  • The Natuna themselves lie outside Beijing’s nine-dash line that claims nearly 80 per cent of the South China Sea.
  • The dispute is over the exclusive economic zone that the islands confer on Indonesia.
  • China says it has historic rights to these waters and has been dispatching its fishing fleet into these waters.

Maybe China sees a problem with Jakarta-Washington relations: Let’s analyse

  • Jakarta did not support the US approach to the Indo-Pacific.
  • and went to great lengths to develop a concept of its own and get it endorsed by the ASEAN.
  • Indonesia is not a member of the much-maligned Quad.
  • Its foreign policy is wedded to non-alignment.
  • And as the host of the historic Bandung Conference in 1955, Indonesia is a founding member and champion of Non-aligned Movement.

Now, let’s consider second example: Philippines

  • The story of the Philippines — one of the oldest military allies of the US in Asia — nicely complements the non-aligned Indonesia’s troubles with China.
  • When he came to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte decided to distance the Philippines from the US and embraced China.
  • He had a hope of finding a reasonable settlement to the substantive maritime territorial dispute with Beijing.
  • In February this year, Manila announced the decision to terminate the agreement that lets American troops operate in the Philippines.
  • But last week, the Philippines “suspended” the decision to terminate military cooperation with the US.
  • The reason: The PLA’s relentless military pressure on the South China Sea islands claimed by Manila and including them in a new Chinese administrative district.

So, what the two examples suggest?

  • Neither Jakarta that is scrupulously non-aligned nor Manila that was ready to break its alliance with the US has been spared from Beijing’s current muscular approach to China’s territorial disputes.
  • China has long-standing claims, right or wrong, on the territories of its neighbours.
  • The other is the dramatic shift in the regional power balance in favour of China.
  • Unlike in the past, China now has the military power to make good its claims and alter the territorial status quo, if only in bits and pieces.
  • This is what China is doing in the South China Sea.
  • And the situation may not be any different in Ladakh.

Consider the question “The shift in the regional power balance and not the growing Indo-U.S. relations explains the assertive nature of China in India-China border issues. Elaborate.”


The real challenge for Delhi in managing its expansive territorial dispute with Beijing, then, is to redress the growing power imbalance with China. The rest is detail.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IPAC

Mains level : Global move to curb Chinese overambitions

Senior lawmakers from eight democracies including the US have united to counter Communist China. They have launched the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).

Points to ponder:

The world is growing conscious against China after its coronavirus adventure. IPAC is the first step towards the institutionalization of the Anti-China consciousness!

What should be India’s stance here?


  • IPAC is a new cross-parliamentary alliance to help counter what the threat posed by China’s growing influence on global trade, security and human rights.
  • The participating nations include the US, Germany, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, as well as members of the European parliament.
  • It is an international cross-party group of legislators working towards reform on how democratic countries approach China.
  • Comprised of legislators from eight democracies it will be led by a group of co-chairs who are senior politicians drawn from a representative cross-section of the world’s major political parties.
  • The group aims to “construct appropriate and coordinated responses, and to help craft a proactive and strategic approach on issues related to China.”

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The China conundrum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BPTA 1993

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

India-China border issue and the latest standoff in Ladakh has forced India to consider the lasting solution to the problem. This article explains China’s anti-India strategy. And options available with India in the face of aggression are also considered.

LAC: the reason for frequent face-offs

  • The debate has persisted whether it was China’s National Highway 219 cutting across Aksai Chin or Nehru’s “forward policy” which constituted the actual reason for the Sino-Indian border-conflict of 1962.
  • After declaring a unilateral ceasefire on November 20, troops of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) withdrew 20 kms behind what China described as the “line of actual control” (LAC).
  • The LAC generally conformed to the British-negotiated McMahon Line.
  • In the west, the Chinese stuck to their 1959 claim-line in Ladakh, retaining physical control of the 14,700 sq km Aksai Chin.
  • The 1962 ceasefire line became the de facto Sino-Indian border.
  • But in a bizarre reality, both sides visualised their own version of the LAC, but neither marked it on the ground; nor were maps exchanged.
  • This has inevitably led to frequent face-offs.

So, what were the steps taken the resolve the border issue after 1962?

  • Post-conflict, it is customary for belligerents to undertake early negotiations, in order to establish stable peace and eliminate the casus belli.
  • Strangely, in the Sino-Indian context, it took 25 years and a serious military confrontation in 1987 to trigger a dialogue.
  • The dialogue led the two countries to sign the first-ever Sino-Indian Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA) in 1993.
  • Indian diplomats claim that this has helped maintain “mutual and equal security”, while the bilateral relationship has progressed in other spheres.
  • And yet, the failure to negotiate a boundary settlement after 22 meetings of special representatives of the two countries cannot be seen as anything but a failure of statesmanship and diplomacy.

Now, let’s analyse China’s anti-India strategy and how LAC and Pakistan problem fits into it

  • China’s post-civil war leadership had conceived an early vision of the country’s future.
  • Ambitious and realist in scope, this strategy visualised China attaining, in the fullness of time, great-power status and acquiring a nuclear-arsenal.
  • Since the vision saw no room for an Asian rival, neutralising India became a priority.
  • It was for this specific purpose, that Pakistan was enlisted in 1963 as a partner.
  • In China’s anti-India strategy, Pakistan has played an invaluable role by sustaining a “hot” border and holding out the threat of a two-front war.
  • In China’s grand-strategy, an undefined LAC has become a vital instrumentality to embarrass and keep India off-balance through periodic transgressions.
  • These pre-meditated “land-grabs”, blunt messages of intimidation and dominance, also constitute a political “pressure-point” for New Delhi.

Possibility of escalation into shooting war

  • While Indian troops have, so far, shown courage and restraint in these ridiculous brawls with the PLA.
  • But there is no guarantee that in a future melee, a punch on the nose will not invite a bullet in response.
  • In such circumstances, rapid escalation into a “shooting-war” cannot be ruled out.
  • Thereafter, should either side face a major military set-back, resort to nuclear “first-use” would pose a serious temptation.

What are the options available with India?

  • For reasons of national security as well as self-respect, India cannot continue to remain in a “reactive mode” to Chinese provocations and it is time to respond in kind.
  • Since India’s choices vis-à-vis China are circumscribed by the asymmetry in comprehensive national power, resort must be sought in realpolitik.
  • According to theorist Kenneth Waltz, just as nature abhors a vacuum, international politics abhors an imbalance of power, and when faced with hegemonic threats, states must seek security in one of three options: 1) Increase their own strength, 2) ally with others to restore power-balance, 3) as a last resort, jump on the hegemon’s bandwagon.

India’s decision-makers can start by posing this question to the military: “For how long do you have the wherewithal to sustain a combat against two adversaries simultaneously?” Depending on the response, they can consider the following 2 options.

1. Alliance with the USA

  • Nehru, when faced with an aggressive China in 1962, asked support from the USA.
  •  Indira Gandhi in the run-up to the 1971 war with Pakistan asked support from the USSR.
  • Both had no qualms of jettisoning the shibboleth of “non-alignment” and seeking support from the USA and USSR respectively.
  • Today, India has greater freedom of action and many options to restore the balance of power vis-à-vis China.
  • Xi Jinping has opened multiple fronts — apart from the COVID-19 controversy — across the South China Sea, South East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Asia.
  • Donald Trump is burning his bridges with China.
  • In the world of realpolitik, self-interest trumps all and India must find friends where it can.
  • Given China’s vulnerabilities in the Indian Ocean and the real possibility of America losing its strategic foothold in Diego Garcia, India has a great deal to offer as a friend, partner or even an ally; with or without the Quad.

2. Accommodation with China

  •  If ideological or other reasons preclude the building of a power-balancing alliance, coming to an honourable accommodation with China remains a pragmatic option.
  • Zhou Enlai’s proposal of 1960 — repeated by Deng Xiaoping in 1982 — is worth re-examining in the harsh light of reality.
  • The price of finding a modus vivendi [an arrangement or agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully]for the Sino-Indian border dispute may be worth paying if it neutralises two adversaries at one stroke and buys lasting peace.

Consider the question “In the harsh light of reality and faced with aggression from its neighbour, India has to ally with other powers to restore the balance of power. Examine.”


Neither option will be easy to “sell”. However, India cannot afford to continue with the current situation for long and must choose one of the options to end the to find the solution.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A chill in US-China relations and India as a collateral damage


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- U.S.-China tensions and impact on India

Even before the covid pandemic we could sense the rising tension between the U.S. and China. However, pandemic proved to be the tipping point. This article explains the role the U.S. played in China’s rise. And its recent acceptance under Donald Trump of not so peaceful rise of China.

Let’s look into recent announcements on China by the US President

  •  On May 29, the Trump administration said it would revoke Hong Kong’s special trade status under U.S. law.
  • It passed an order limiting the entry of certain Chinese graduate students and researchers who may have ties to the People’s Liberation Army.
  • The U.S. President has also ordered financial regulators to closely examine Chinese firms listed in U.S. stock markets.
  • And warned those that do not comply with U.S. laws could be delisted.

So, what all these measures indicate?

  • These announcements are a clear indication that the competition between the U.S. and China is likely to sharpen in the post-COVID world.

U.S. is complicit in China’s rise, but how?

  •  After the Chinese communists seized power, the Americans hoped to cohabit with Mao Zedong in a world under U.S. hegemony.
  • The Chinese allowed them to believe this and extracted their price.
  • U.S. President Richard Nixon gave China the international acceptability it craved in return for being admitted to Mao’s presence in 1972.
  • President Jimmy Carter terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan in order to normalise relations with China in 1978.
  • President George H.W. Bush washed away the sins of Tiananmen in 1989 for ephemeral geopolitical gain.
  • And Bill Clinton, who as a presidential candidate had criticised Bush for indulging the Chinese, proceeded as President to usher the country into the World Trade Organization at the expense of American business.
  • All American administrations since the 1960s have been complicit in China’s rise in the unrealised hope that it will become a ‘responsible stakeholder’ under Pax Americana.

China is creating its own universe

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union reinforced the view that the U.S. wants to keep its order and change China’s system.
  • This strengthened China’s resolve to resist by creating its own parallel universe.
  • China is building an alternate trading system: the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • A multilateral banking system under its control-Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, New Development Bank.
  • Its own global positioning system BeiDou.
  • Digital payment platforms like WeChat Pay and Alipay.
  • A world-class digital network-Huawei 5G.
  • Cutting-edge technological processes in sunrise industries.
  • And a modern military force.
  • It is doing this under the noses of the Americans and some of it with the financial and technological resources of the West.

U.S. accepting the uneasy fact that China’s rise has not been peaceful

  • It is only under Mr. Trump that the Americans are finally acknowledging the uneasy fact that the Chinese are not graven in their image.
  • He has called China out on trade practices.
  • He has called China out on 5G.
  • It was Mr. Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy document that, perhaps for the first time, clubbed China along with Russia as a challenge to American power, influence and interests.
  • His recent China-specific restrictions on trade and legal migration are, possibly, only the beginning of a serious re-adjustment.

Decoupling of the economies and new cold war

  • A full-spectrum debate on China is now raging across the U.S.
  • Former White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon declared that the U.S. is already at war with China.
  • Others like diplomat Richard Haass and former president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, warn that a new Cold War will be a mistake.
  • Scholar Julian Gewirtz, in his brilliant essay, ‘The Chinese Reassessment of Interdependence’, talks about a similar process underway in Beijing.
  • Both sides are acutely aware how closely their economies are tied together: from farm to factory, the U.S. is heavily dependent on supply chains in China and the Chinese have been unable to break free of the dollar.
  • If Mr. Trump’s wish is to disentangle China’s supply chains, Mr. Xi is equally determined to escape from the U.S. ‘chokehold’ on technology.
  • To what extent the de-coupling is possible is yet to be determined.
  • But one thing is inevitable, India will become part of the collateral damage.

Hong Kong: Sign of U.S. China rivalry entering in ideological domain

  • Will Hong Kong become a game-changer in the post-COVID world?
  • China’s decision to enact the new national security law for Hong Kong has been condemned in unison by the U.S. and its Western allies as an assault on human freedoms.

Why is this significant?

  • The points of divergence, even dispute, between them have so far been in the material realm.
  • With Hong Kong, the U.S.-China rivalry may, possibly, be entering the ideological domain.
  • For some time now there are reports about Chinese interference in the internal affairs of democracies.
  • Countries in the West have tackled this individually, always mindful of not jeopardising their trade with China.
  • Hong Kong may be different.
  • It is not only a bastion for Western capitalism in the East, but more importantly the torch-bearer of Western democratic ideals.
  • Think of it as a sort of Statue of Liberty; it holds aloft the torch of freedom and democracy for all those who pass through Hong Kong en route to China.
  • This is an assault on beliefs, so to speak.

Issue of China’s role in Covid-19 pandemic

  • These is growing demands that China should come clean on its errors of omission in the early days of COVID-19.
  • In the months ahead, more information may become public, from sources inside China itself, about the shortcomings of the regime.
  • That will further fuel a debate on the superiority of the Chinese Model as an alternative to democracy.

Will this form the ideological underpinning for the birth of a new Cold War?

  • That will depend on who wins in Washington in November.
  • It will also depend on whether profit will again trump politics in Europe.
  • Moreover, how skilfully the Wolf Warriors of China can manipulate global public opinion will also make the be an important factor.

Consider the question-“Various recent measures by the U.S. on China and the debate on the role of China in Covid-19 makes it clear that the next Cold War is all but imminent. And India has to be careful to avoid being collateral damage in that war. Comment.”


The lines are beginning to be drawn between the Americans on the one side and China on the other. A binary choice is likely to test to the limit India’s capacity to maintain strategic and decisional autonomy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Dilemma for Delhi in Ladakh standoff


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India-China trade

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China border issue

Though the rest of the world is preoccupied with Covid pandemic, China is busy in raising tension over border issues with its neighbour-India. What explains such actions by China? And timing selected by China has also puzzled many. India, on its part, faces a dilemma. This article dissects the various issues related to the standoff and explains the options available with India to deal with the Chinese intimidation.

Why the latest transgression by PLA is unprecedented?

  • There are around 400 transgressions/faceoffs each year on an average along the LAC.
  • But the recent spate of territorial transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is unprecedented in its scope and manner.
  • Even as independent accounts point out that Chinese troops are yet to withdraw from the transgressed territories and restore status quo ante.
  • Those territories are traditionally considered by both sides to be on the Indian side of the LAC.
  • Chinese officials have gone ahead and stated that the “Situation in China-India border is overall stable & controllable”.

What this move by China signals?

  • The Indian government is left with two basic choices: 1) accept territorial loss as a fait accompli or 2)  force or negotiate a reversal to status quo ante, unless of course the PLA unilaterally withdraws.
  • Either way, China’s growing territorial aggression on the LAC signals the end of Beijing’s peaceful rise and its traditional desire to maintain regional status quo with India.
  • China under its President, Xi Jinping, unequivocally seeks to demonstrate that it is the preponderant power in the region. 

Let’s analyse the aggression

  • While the timing could be explained by the global political distraction caused by COVID-19.
  • And also the international pressure on China (including by India) to come clean on the origins of the novel coronavirus could have played the role.
  • But the proximate causes could be several. Consider the following-

1. Statement by India on Aksai Chin

  • For one, New Delhi’s terse statements about Aksai Chin following the Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation in August last year had not gone down well with Beijing.
  • While not many in India believe that New Delhi was serious about getting back Aksai Chin from Chinese control, Beijing may have viewed it as India upping the ante.
  • More pertinently, in a clear departure from the past, New Delhi has been carrying out the construction of infrastructural projects along the LAC — a long overdue activity — which is something that seems to have made China uneasy.

2. Broader context of long-term geopolitical world view

  • The Chinese angle to the J&K conundrum deserves more attention here.
  • The aggression must also be viewed in the broader context of a long-term geopolitical world view China has for the region. Consider the following in this regard-
  • 1) China’s China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connectivity to Pakistan through the Karakoram and New Delhi’s criticism of it.
  • 2) The reported presence of PLA troops in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • 3) India’s new-found activism on Aksai Chin.
  • 4) The PLA’s incursions into areas in eastern Ladakh.

3. Strategic goals

  • It is equally important to appreciate the larger Chinese strategic calculations behind its recent spate of aggressions.
  • Having given up its traditional slogan of ‘peaceful rise’, China, under Mr. Xi, is beginning to assert itself as the next superpower.
  • Over the years, Beijing has perhaps realised that India is not keen on toeing the Chinese line in the region.
  • So this is Beijing sending a message to New Delhi to fall in line.
  • A message that will not go unnoticed in the smaller capitals around China — from Colombo to Kathmandu to Hanoi.

4. Political message

  • Given that China is currently engaged in what many analysts are describing as a new cold war with the United States, in the middle of a crackdown in Hong Kong along with fighting COVID-19 at home, one would not have expected the Chinese leadership to open another front.
  • And yet, by opening a limited military front with India on the LAC, China is signalling the U.S. that it can handle pressure.
  •  And telling India that it has the political and military wherewithal to put pressure on New Delhi notwithstanding its other preoccupations.

Why limited scope confrontation is cost-effective and preferred option by China?

  • China’s limited scope military expeditions on the long-contested border is cost effective for the PLA.
  • This is because the ever-growing conventional military superiority that it enjoys with India.
  • Moreover, because limited fights or smaller land grabs may not provoke an all-out confrontation or nuclear use.
  • The side with conventional superiority and more border infrastructure would likely carry the day.

India’s China dilemma

  • Picking a direct fight with India which might lead to an undesirable military escalation with India does not suit Beijing’s interests.
  • But carrying out minor military expeditions with the objective of inflicting small-scale military defeats on India is precisely what would suit the Chinese political and military leadership.
  • They are cost effective, less escalatory, and the message gets conveyed.
  • More so, India’s military response would depend a great deal on how far the regime in New Delhi is willing to acknowledge such territorial losses due to domestic political constraints.
  • If New Delhi acknowledges loss of territory, it would have to regain it, but doing so vis-à-vis a conventionally superior power would not be easy.
  • Put differently, growing conventional imbalance and domestic political calculations could prompt New Delhi to overlook minor territorial losses on the LAC.
  • But let us be clear: the more New Delhi overlooks them, the more Beijing would be tempted to repeat them.
  • These considerations lie at the heart of India’s China dilemma.

How India could respond?

  • Yet, there are limits to China’s LAC adventurism.
  • 1) There are several places along the several thousand kilometre long LAC where the PLA is militarily weak, the Indian Army has the upper hand.
  • And, therefore, a tit-for-tat military campaign could be undertaken by New Delhi.
  • 2)  While China enjoys continental superiority over India, maritime domain is China’s weak spot, in particular Beijing’s commercial and energy interest to which the maritime space is crucial.
  • 3) Finally, and most importantly, would Beijing want to seriously damage the close to $100 billion trade with India with its military adventurism on the LAC?

Way forward

  • In any case, for India, the age of pussyfooting around Chinese intimidation strategies is over.
  • The time has come to checkmate Beijing’s military aggression even as we maintain a robust economic relationship with our eastern neighbour.
  • It is also a reminder for us to get more serious about finalising a border agreement with China.
  • The bigger the power differential between India and China, the more concessions Beijing would demand from New Delhi to settle the dispute.

Consider the question-“There have been growing instances of PLA aggression on India-China border. Examine the multiple objectives China’s actions seek to achieve. What are the options available with India to deal with situation?


There is little doubt that China is our neighbour and that we have to live next to the larger and more powerful China. However, India should not accept Beijing’s attempts at land grabs, or military intimidation. That China is a rising superpower located next door to us is a reality, but how we deal with that reality is a choice we must make as a nation.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Private: National Security Law debate in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is burning again. Last year it was Fugitive Offenders Amendment bill, now it’s National Security Law. This anthem bill criminalises insulting China’s national anthem. No, this is not like the same dictum given to us by Supreme Court to stand up in multiplexes. But people actually fear that this law will take away Hong Kong’s basic freedoms.


Chinese lawmakers have approved a proposal for sweeping new national security legislation in Hong Kong, which democracy advocates say will curb essential freedoms in the city.

About Hong Kong

  • A former British Colony and Autonomous Territory: Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, in southeastern 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.

The ‘Basic Law’

  • One country, two systems: Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
  • It has observed a “one country, two systems” policy since Britain returned sovereignty to China on July 1, 1997, which has allowed it retain certain freedoms, the rest of China does not have.
  • Basic Law: It is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law – constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  • Under this, China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, the system of governance, an independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.

Why is Hong Kong fuming?

  • The handover agreement gave Hong kong special freedoms of press, speech, and assembly for at least 50 years.
  • These freedoms stand in stark contrast to China’s strict censorship and Jinping’s tight grip on power, which have seen dissidents jailed and interrogated in secret prisons.
  • This is why protesters here are desperate to protect their freedoms — because they fear Hong Kong to become just another Chinese city under Xi’s rule.

China vs. Basic Law

  • Mini-constitution: Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says that ultimately both the leader and the Legislative Council should be elected in a more democratic way – but there’s been disagreement over what this should look like.
  • China dominated system: The Chinese government said in 2014 it would allow voters to choose their leaders from a list approved by a pro-Beijing committee, but critics called this a “sham democracy” and it was voted down in Hong Kong’s legislature.
  • Issue: The new proposal is also controversial because it is expected to circumvent Hong Kong’s own law-making processes – leading to accusations that Beijing is undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Why Hong Kong matters for China?

  • Legitimacy to PLA: The handover of Hong Kong by Great Britain was a major achievement of the CCP and had helped boost the party’s legitimacy.
  • Extending nationalism: The handover strengthened nationalism debates within Chinese society and was perceived as righting the wrongs of the century of humiliation.
  • Since 1978, the basic tenet of the CCP has been reform and liberalisation of the economic sphere and command and control of the political sphere.
  • Political reform (So-called): Today, after more than 40 years of reform, mainland China is yet to witness any breakthrough in political reform.
  • Beijing expects other countries to acknowledge that there exists only one China.

The National Security Law

  • Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong has to enact a national security law “to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Chinese government.”
  • When the Hong Kong government first tried to enact the law in 2003, the issue became a rallying point for the city-wide protests which occurred that year.
  • Since then, the government has steered clear of introducing the legislation again.

Unrest in Hong Kong

  • Banning Sedition: The new law would ban seditious activities that target mainland Chinese rule, as well as punish external interference in Hong Kong affairs.
  • Many expect a revival of the protests that rocked the city last year.
  • China, on the other hand, has sought support and understanding of India and other countries for its controversial decision as a precautionary measure.

Rise of Taiwanese aspirations and Domino Effect

  • The upsurge in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is more closely linked to the developments in Taiwan than is commonly acknowledged.
  • The Taiwanese election results have given hope to the pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong.
  • However, to imagine that Beijing will stop interfering in the territory’s domestic sociopolitical space is perhaps over-optimistic.
  • National unity and the “One China Principle” are core issues of the Chinese communist party (CCP).
  • Hong Kong, however, is already seen as a part of China under the “one country, two systems” formula.

implications of the Security Law across the globe

China’s authoritarianism stands exposed in Hong Kong and its assertiveness seriously damages its soft power. The developments in Hong Kong, therefore, have global consequences for Beijing’s search of power and legitimacy.

On Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong is a global financial hub – so a hit to its economy affects business worldwide as well.
  • Experts warn that if the unrest continues, international companies could look to pull out of Hong Kong and relocate their branches elsewhere.
  • The stock market would likely crash, followed by the housing market. A mass exodus could follow, and other countries could see migrants’ incoming from Hong Kong.
  • Many Hong Kongers hold foreign passports, a legacy of 1997, and it is easy for them to move overseas.
  • On a more abstract level, some people have framed the unrest as a tug-of-war between Chinese authoritarianism and the Western ideals of freedom and democracy.

India’s concerns

  • India and Hong Kong have signed a double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA).
  • It gives protection against double taxation to over 1,500 Indian companies and businesses that have a presence in Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong is similarly host to a large number of Indian companies and professionals in banking, IT and shipping.
  • India was Hong Kong’s third-largest export market (after China and the US) in 2017 and Hong Kong was India’s third-largest export market (after the US and the UAE).
  • Hong Kong has a very well established Indian diaspora and has much wealth and business influence within the territory.

India and Chinese diplomatic take(Informal take)

  • Possibly due to its leadership’s idolization of communism, India for long-neglected the basic principle of reciprocity in its relationship with China.
  • India has consistently upheld the “One China” policy. It was one of the first countries to recognise Tibet as a part of China.
  • Today, India is a democracy and only has to deal with the Kashmir issue.
  • But China is facing resistance movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Southern Mongolia. Hong Kong and Taiwan, too, remain a concern for Beijing.
  • This makes Delhi’s One-China policy lopsided in terms of diplomacy.
  • China expects India to remain silent on 60 per cent of the contested area under China’s territorial control, and also Hong Kong and Taiwan, while China refuses to stand with India only on Kashmir.

Way forward

  • China and India should never let their differences shadow the overall bilateral ties and must enhance mutual trust.
  • India’s firm military and diplomatic posturing for the ongoing border dispute has made it clear to Beijing that India is in for the long haul.
  • Given its own problems at home and the focus on Hong Kong over the coming days, de-escalation on its borders with India suits China well.


China under Xi’s leadership is one of the most assertive and aggressive powers the world has encountered in a long time. Hong Kong’s protest has been continuing for a long time now. Not just Hong Kongers but even India feels the heat of Dragon’s assertiveness on borders. No one knows the result yet but it is going to be long fight that is for sure.


Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Depsang Plain near LAC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Depsang Plain and its location

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

Reports of a heavy Chinese presence at Depsang, an area at a crucial dip (called the Bulge) on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have increased the recent tensions between Indian and Chinese troops.

For the Depsang Plain, a prelim based question is hardly possible. However one must know all the fronts of border disputes from mains perspective.

Depsang Plain

  • The “Depsang Plain” is one of the few places in the Western Sector where light armour (vehicles) would have ease of manoeuvre, so any Chinese buildup there is a cause for concern.
  • India controls the western portion of the plains as part of Ladakh, whereas the eastern portion is part of the Aksai Chin region, which is controlled by China and claimed by India.
  • The buildup invokes memories of both the 1962 war, when Chinese troops had occupied all of the Depsang plains.
  • More recently in April 2013, the PLA crossed the LAC and pitched tents on the Indian side for three weeks, before they agreed to pull out.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] India-China Skirmish in Ladakh

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A phantom called the Line of Actual Control with China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ladakh Region, Pangong Lake.

Mains level : Paper 2- Border issue between India and China

Yet again, India and China are engaged in a standoff on the border. But why the issues persist even after four agreements with a view to solve the boundary problem? This article explains the problem in wording of the agreement. And also explains the lack of intent from China’s part.

Four agreements: vision of progress or strategic illusion?

  •  At the heart of India’s and China’s continued inability to make meaningful progress on the boundary issue are four agreements.
  • Those agreements were signed in September 1993, November 1996, April 2005 and October 2013 — between the two countries.
  • Ironically, India and China keep referring to these agreements as the bedrock of the vision of progress on the boundary question.
  • Unfortunately, these are deeply flawed agreements.
  • And also make the quest for settlement of the boundary question at best a strategic illusion and at worst a cynical diplomatic parlour trick.

Let’s look into LAC provision in 1993 and 1996 agreements

  • According to the 1993 agreement, “pending an ultimate solution”, “the two sides shall strictly respect and observe the LAC between the two sides No activities of either side shall overstep the LAC”.
  • Further, both the 1993 and the 1996 agreement—on confidence-building measures in the military field along the LAC— say they “will reduce or limit their respective military forces within mutually agreed geographical zones along the LAC.”
  • This was to apply to major categories of armaments and cover various other aspects as well, including air intrusions “within ten kilometres along the LAC”.

Okay, but where is the LAC?

  • The specification of this phantom LAC as the starting point and the central focus has made several key stipulations and articles of the four agreements effectively inoperable for more than a quarter of a century.
  • In fact, many of the articles have no bearing on the ground reality.
  • Article XII of the 1996 agreement, for instance, says, “This agreement is subject to ratification and shall enter into force on the date of exchange of instruments of ratification.”
  • It is not clear if and when that happened.
  • Nowhere in the 1993 agreement is there the provision to recognise the existing lines of deployment of the respective armies, as they were in 1993.
  • The agreement does not reflect any attempt to have each side recognise the other’s line of deployment of troops at the time it was signed.
  • That would have been the logical starting point.
  • If both armies are to respect the LAC, where is the line?
  • The ambiguity over the LAC has brought a prolonged sense of unease and uncertainty and thus exponentially contributed to the military build-up in those areas.
  • The absence of a definition of this line allows ever new and surreptitious advances on the ground.

What could have been done?

  • Had the 1993 agreement begun the exercise with the phrase “pending an ultimate solution, each side shall strictly respect and observe the line of existing control/deployment” instead of the “LAC”, it would have been more possible to keep the peace.
  • In such a case there would have been two existing lines of control on the map — one for the physical deployment of the Chinese troops and the other for the physical deployment of the Indian troops.
  • This would have rendered the areas between the two lines no man’s land, and would have ensured that the two armies were frozen in their positions.

The issue of two LAC in the eastern and western sector

  • The LAC is two hypothetical lines in the following two sectors-
  • 1) In the eastern sector, where the Chinese have not accepted the loosely defined McMahon line which follows the principle of watershed.
  • 2) The western sector, which is witnessing another episodic stand-off.
  • The first is what Indian troops consider the extent to which they can dominate through patrols, which is well beyond the point where they are actually deployed and present.
  • The second is what the Chinese think they effectively control, which is well south of the line they were positioned at in 1993.

Why map exchange didn’t happen for the western sector?

  • It is in this theatre of the militarily absurd that we should look at the outcome of the attempted exchange of maps in the western sector.
  • It is the sector where this round of confrontation continues between India and China.
  • This came after the exchange of maps in the middle sector.
  • In the middle sector, divergences were the least, i.e., the existing line and the Chinese and Indian idea of the LAC were more or less the same (in 2002).
  • The Foreign Secretary India and the head of the Chinese delegation, met in New Delhi in 2003 for sharing the map of the western sector.
  • It had been agreed that both sides would exchange maps to an agreed scale on each side’s perceptions of the location of the LAC in the western sector.
  • The idea was to superimpose the maps to see where the perceptions converged and, crucially, where they diverged.
  • Due to the contentious nature of the sector, it would provide a starting point, not the end point, to discuss how to reconcile divergences presumed to be significant, given Chinese military behaviour on the ground there.
  • Each side handed over its map to the other.
  • But, head of the Chinese delegation gave it a long, hard look, and wordlessly returned it.
  • They provided no reason for their action.
  • The meeting effectively ended there.

Consider the question “Examine the reasons for the persistent nature of the India-China border issue.”


By disregarding the map, China is not bound in any way by New Delhi’s perception of the LAC, and therefore does not have to limit liberty of action. This was evident then and is especially evident now. Because the nature of the terrain, deployment, and infrastructure and connectivity asymmetries in the border areas continue to be so starkly in China’s favour that it is clear that the Chinese are in no hurry to settle the boundary question. They see that the cost to India in keeping this question open suits them more than settling the issue.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

THAAD defence system


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : THAAD defence system

Mains level : THAAD and its features to define geopolitics

China has issued a statement reiterating its long-standing objections to the presence of the US THAAD missile defence system in South Korea.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q. What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?

(a) An Israeli radar system

(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile programme

(c) An American anti-missile system

(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

What is THAAD?

  • THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a transportable, ground-based missile defence system.
  • It is coupled with space-based and ground-based surveillance stations, which transfer data about the incoming missile and informs the THAAD interceptor missile of the threat type classification.
  • THAAD is alarmed about incoming missiles by space-based satellites with infrared sensors.
  • This anti-ballistic missile defence system has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin. South Korea is not the only country with the THAAD missile defence system.
  • It has been previously deployed in the UAE, Guam, Israel and Romania.

The South Korea-China controversy over THAAD

  • In South Korea, the THAAD missile defence system is operated by the US army stationed in the country.
  • The US had previously announced that the deployment of this missile defence system was a countermeasure against potential attacks by North Korea, particularly after the country had engaged in testing ballistic missiles.
  • In 2017, matters escalated in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea test-fired a few missiles in the direction of US bases in Japan.
  • Following this incident, the US amended its plans and moved the systems to its army base in Osan, South Korea while the final deployment site was being prepared.
  • These moves by the US and by extension, South Korea, particularly angered China.

China’s reservations against THAAD

  • China’s opposition has little to do with the missiles itself and is more about the system’s inbuilt advanced radar systems that could track China’s actions.
  • The controversy also has much to do with the geopolitics and complex conflicts in East Asia, with the US having a presence in the region particularly through its many military bases in Japan and South Korea.
  • According to some observers of East Asia, China believes the US exerts influence over South Korea and Japan and may interfere with Beijing’s long-term military, diplomatic and economic interests in the region.
  • The US and South Korea have consistently maintained that these missiles are only to counter potential threats by North Korea.
  • South Korea also issued a statement saying the number of missiles had not increased but had only been replaced with newer versions.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China and the Rhineland moment in Hong Kong


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G-7 countries, TPP

Mains level : Paper 2- US-China relations and implications for India

While the world is busy battling pandemic, China has embarked upon completing its pet project: stripping Hong Kong off its special status. This article explains the significance of China’s actions. And the options the U.S. could explore as a response to China’s move.

Tipping points in History

  • In 1911 Germany sparked an international crisis when it sent a gunboat into the Moroccan port of Agadir.
  • Winston Churchill wrote in his history of the First World War, “all the alarm bells throughout Europe began immediately to quiver.”
  • In 1936 Germany provoked another crisis when it marched troops into the Rhineland, in flagrant breach of its treaty obligations.
  • In 1946, the Soviet Union made it obvious it had no intention of honoring democratic principles in Central Europe, and Churchill was left to warn that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

Analogies: Not perfect, but not inapt, either.

  • Analogies between these past episodes and China’s decision this week to draft a new national security law on Hong Kong aren’t perfect.
  • First, Hong Kong is a Chinese port, not a faraway foreign one.
  • Second, Hong Kong’s people have ferociously resisted Beijing’s efforts to impose control, unlike the Rhineland Germans who welcomed Berlin’s.
  • And lastly, the curtailment of freedom that awaits Hong Kong is nothing like the totalitarian tyranny that Joseph Stalin imposed on Warsaw, Budapest and other cities.
  • But the analogies aren’t inapt, either.
  • Beijing has spent the better part of 20 years subverting its promises to preserve Hong Kong’s democratic institutions.
  • Now it is moving to quash what remains of the city’s civic freedoms through a forthcoming law that allows the government to punish speech as subversion and protest as sedition.
  • The concept of “one country, two systems,” was supposed to last at least until 2047 under the terms of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  • Now China’s rulers have been openly violating that treaty, much as Germany openly violated the treaties of Locarno and Versailles.

Rethink of the U.S. strategic approach to China

  • US administration has undertaken a sober rethink of it’s strategic approach to China.
  • The outlines of which are described in a new inter-agency document quietly released by the White House last week.
  • Gone from this new vision are the platitudes about encouraging China’s “peaceful rise” as a “responsible stakeholder” in a “rules-based order.”
  • Instead, Beijing is described, accurately, as a habitual and aggressive violator of that order.
  • It also describes China as a domestic tyrant, international bully and economic bandit that systematically robs companies of their intellectual property, countries of their sovereign authorities, and its own people of their natural rights.
  • A critic might note that this description of China’s behavior sounds a lot like Trump’s.
  • Sort of, except that the comparison trivializes the scale of China’s abuses and neglects the breadth and longevity of its challenge.

Why Now and what is the US response?

  • Beijing almost certainly chose this moment to strike because it calculated that a world straining under the weight of a pandemic and a depression lacked the will and attention to react.
  • On Friday, Trump said he would strip Hong Kong of its privileged commercial and legal ties to the U.S.
  • Issue with the move: That punishes the people of Hong Kong at least as much as it does their rulers in Beijing.

What’s a better course for the U.S.? A few ideas:

  • Sanction Chinese officials engaged in human-rights abuses in Hong Kong under the Global Magnitsky Act.
  • Upgrade relations with Taiwan and increase arms sales, including top-shelf weapons’ systems such as the F-35 and the Navy’s future frigate.
  • Re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)agreement as a counter to China’s economic influence.
  • Publicly press all G-7 countries to stop doing business with telecom-giant Huawei as a meaningful response to the Hong Kong law.
  • Give every Hong Kong person an opportunity to easily obtain a U.S. residency card, even a passport.


If all this and more were announced now, it might persuade Beijing to pull back from the brink. In the meantime, think of this as  Rhineland moment with China — and remember what happened the last time the free world looked aggression in the eye, and blinked

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India-China confrontation: Not a standalone event


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hong Kong, Taiwan location in the map

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relation and tension over border dispute

The recent India-China standoff in Ladakh points to a larger picture of the Chinese agenda of regional dominance. The US-China tension has proved to be the backdrop against which the Ladakh standoff is playing out. This article suggests that this standoff is not a standalone event. It could well be a trigger for domino effect.

What the intensification of tension between India-China suggests?

1) China is feeling threatened

  • An authoritarian regime whose legitimacy rests primarily on its economic performance is faced with a situation where growth is expected to plummet.
  • It is a sign that Beijing is increasingly feeling beleaguered.
  • In response, it has embarked on a strategy of brinkmanship with several goals in mind.
  • External adventurism, when cloaked in the garb of ultra-nationalism, can shore up a regime’s legitimacy at home.

2) It could be a move to divert the attention of the world

  • Simultaneously, it can act as a diversionary measure to escape international criticism for Beijing’s attempt to cover up the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Many countries hold China responsible for the huge cost in human lives and suffering as well as the unprecedented economic distress.
  • In the face of such criticism, the Chinese regime is increasingly using jingoistic jargon to build up domestic support.
  • President Xi Jinping’s recent speech to the PLA is an outstanding example of this strategy.
  • He exhorted the Chinese armed forces to “prepare for war” in order to “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty” and “the overall strategic stability of the country”.
  • This is a sign that the Communist Party of China (CPC) feels increasingly threatened both domestically and externally.

Let’s look at the deterioration of the US-China relations

  • China’s relations with the U.S. have been going downhill almost since the beginning of the Donald Trump presidency.
  • Washington has periodically imposed economic sanctions on China and Beijing has retaliated in kind.
  • Trade talks have faltered because of growing protectionist sentiments in the U.S. and Chinese inability to adequately respond to them.
  • The chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomous status by Beijing and the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has led to severe criticism by the U.S. administration and in the Congress.
  • Differences over the issue of Taiwan have added to tensions, with China viewing the U.S. as the primary impediment preventing Taiwan’s integration.
  • The Trump administration has significantly increased support to Taiwan with arms sales that have added to China’s concern.

U.S.-China rivalry in South-China Sea

  • Above all, the U.S.-China rivalry in the South China Sea acts as the potential flashpoint that may well lead to a shooting war.
  • So far, it has been careful that these moves do not trigger a serious confrontation with the U.S.
  • Washington has a strong interest in preventing China from asserting control over the South China Sea as maintaining free access to this waterway is important to it for economic reasons.
  • It also has defence treaty obligations to the Philippines, which has vigorously contested Chinese territorial claims.
  • Further, China’s control of the South China Sea would be a major step toward replacing the U.S. as the foremost power in the Indo-Pacific region.

India-China relation questions have been the leitmotif in the UPSC papers. Just the theme of the question changes. Consider 2017 question “China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as a tool to develop potential military power status in Asia. In light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbour.”


Increased Chinese adventurism could result in an escalation of U.S.-China confrontation in the South China Sea. If that happens, the India-China face-off in Ladakh could become part of a much larger “great game”, with the U.S. trying to preserve the status quo and China attempting to change it to further its objective of regional dominance at the U.S.’s expense. The current India-China crisis should, therefore, be seen in its proper context and not as an isolated event.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Analysing three-pronged strategy of China in Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various location mentioned in the article.

Mains level : Paper 2- Implications of dispute for India China relation

The article gives an in-depth analysis of the current border dispute between India and China in Ladakh. But the present dispute follows the pattern. China has been encroaching and gaining control over the disputed territory since the 1980s. And this dispute also fits into that pattern.

China acting strategically in Ladakh

  • While India has pursued its core national interests in J&K, China’s response was strategic — a shift that may have a lasting imprint on geopolitics.
  • We have been harping on the “differing perception” theory of the LAC for decades.
  • But in reality China has been gaining control over a massive “disputed territory” in Eastern Ladakh since the 1980s.

Major Chinese encroachment events

  • The Chinese first made encroachments into the 45-km long Skakjung pastureland in Demchok-Kuyul sector.
  • This resulted in local Changpas of Chushul, Tsaga, Nidar, Nyoma, Mud, Dungti, Kuyul, Loma villages gradually losing their winter grazing.
  • Ladakh’s earlier border lay at Kegu Naro — a day-long march from Dumchele.
  • Starting from the loss of Nagtsang in 1984, followed by Nakung (1991) and Lungma-Serding (1992), the last bit of Skakjung was lost in 2008.
  • The PLA followed the nomadic Rebo routes for patrolling in contrast to Indian authorities restricting Rebo movements that led to the massive shrinking of pastureland and border defence.
  • By the 2000s, the PLA’s focus shifted to desolate, inhospitable Chip Chap which remains inaccessible until end-March.
  • After mid-May, water streams impede vehicles moving across Shyok, Galwan, and Chang-Chenmo rivers leaving only a month and a half for effective patrolling by the Indian side.
  • No human beings inhabit here, a 1962 war site, an entry point into Ladakh for the Uyghurs and Tibetans.
  • Local Ladakhi personnel manned the posts here, but patrolling in the 972 sq km Trig Height area has been lax.
  • Easier accessibility allowed the PLA to intrude into Chip Chap with impunity during July-August — its regulars usually spent a few hours before crossing back.
  • But, during the 21-day Depsang stand-off in 2013, when Burtse became a flashpoint, the PLA set up remote camps 18-19 km inside Indian territory.
  • Chinese soldiers virtually prevented Indian troops from getting access to Rakinala near Daulat Beg-Olde (DBO) where the IAF reactivated the world’s highest landing strips in 2008.
2008 Daulat Beg Oldi Stand-off
  • This plus the reopening of Fukche and Nyoma airbases perhaps provoked the PLA’s intrusion in Depsang.

So, what is the current stand-off about?

  • Despite topographical challenges, the BRO has lately fast-tracked the 260 km long Shayok-DBO road construction.
  • That road construction probably triggered the PLA intrusion in early May sparking the current Galwan stand-off.
  • Towards the south at Pangong Tso, forces had physical scuffles over area-denial for patrolling at Sirijap on May 5-6 and on May 11.
  • The situation remains tense at Sirijap’s cliff spurs and also at the Tso, where troops are chasing each other in high-speed patrol boats.
  • Clearly, intrusions are part of China’s never-ending effort to push Indian troops westward of the Indus and Shyok rivers and reach the 1960 claimed line.

Details of the disputed border in Ladakh

  • Out of the 857 sq km long border in Ladakh only 368 sq km is the International Border, and the rest of the 489 sq km is the LAC.
  • The two traditional disputed points included Trig Heights and Demchok.
  • At eight points, the two sides have differing perceptions.
  • But lately, China has raised two fresh dispute points at Pangong Tso 83 sq km and at Chumur where it claims 80 sq km.
  • The old dispute sites were at the end point of Pangong Tso and at Chushul — the 1962 battle-site.

Three-pronged strategy

  • 1) The Sirijap range on the northern bank of the lake remains most contested, from which several cliff spurs jut out — the “finger series” 1 to 8.
  • India’s LAC claim line is at Finger-8, but the actual position is only up to Finger-4.
  • The Chinese are asserting further west to claim 83 sq km here.
  • The PLA has built a 4.5 km long road to prevent patrolling by Indian troops.
  • The PLA’s road network from here extends to Huangyangtan base located near National Highway G219.
  • 2) Further south in Demchok, China claims some 150 sq km.
  • The PLA has built massive infrastructure on its side, moved armoured troops into Charding Nalla since 2009.
  • Tibetan nomads pitch tents on Hemis Monastery’s land throughout 2018-2019.
  • 3)In Chumur, China claims 80 sq km and probably wants a straight border from PT-4925 to PT-5318 to bring Tible Mane (stupa) area under its control.
  • For India, holding of Chumur is critical for the safety of the Manali-Leh route.
  • PLA demanded removal of India’s fortified positions in Burtse (2013) and Demchok and Chumur (2014) for its retreat.

What could be the implications for India?

  • Overall, the pattern shows the PLA’s desperate design to snatch the lake at Lukung through a three-pronged strategy of attacking from Sirijap in the north, Chuchul in the south and through the lake water from middle.
  • This is the key chokepoint from where the Chinese can cut off Indian access to the entire flank of Chip Chap plains, Aksai Chin in the east and Shayok Valley to the north.
  •  Which means that Indian control is pushed to the west of the Shyok river and south of the Indus river, forcing India to accept both rivers as natural boundaries.
  • And once China gets control of the southern side of the Karakoram it can easily approach Siachen Glacier from the Depsang corridor.
  • And meet at Tashkurgan junction from where the CPEC crosses into Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • That would be disastrous for Indian defence, leaving the strategic Nubra vulnerable, possibly impacting even India’s hold over Siachen.
  • China’s access to Changla-pass through Lukung and Tangtse would threaten the entire Indus Valley.
  • It is quite possible that China is eyeing the waters of the Shyok, Galwan and Chang-Chenmo rivers, to divert them to the arid Aksai Chin and its Ali region.

Consider the question “What could be the strategic and security implications of China’s claim in Pangong Tso region for India?”


India should resist the Chinese design which could have disastrous consequences for India’s defence and strategic interests. This should involve diplomatic channels rather than skirmishes on the borders.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Private: India-China Skirmish in Ladakh

“Hindi Chini bhai bhai” – The tale of these brothers is filled with so much action and drama that it can give Bollywood writers a run for money. See, border issues is never easy to resolve, never has been and never will be. Pangong Tso or Doklam – All point to Troubled LAC and an aggressive neighbour, which is a tough combination for India. Let’s dive into this article to learn about the border skirmishes.

Current Incidents

On May 5, around 250 Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area of Ladakh, in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries. In a separate incident, nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on May 9. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.

After Chinese accusation of Indian Army’s border transgressions and strong Indian pushback, Ladakh has become a new festering point for the Sino-Indian relations.

A deeper look into reasons of present tensions

  • The stand-off in Galwan valley, according to reports, was triggered by China moving in troops and equipment to stop construction activity by India.
  • Delhi claims that it was well within India’s side of the LAC. The LAC was thought to be settled in this area which has not seen many incidents in the past, but China now appears to think otherwise.
  • The northern bank of Pangong lake has, however, been a point of contention where there are differing perceptions of the LAC.
  • The Sikkim incident is unexpected as the contours of the LAC are broadly agreed to in this sector.
  • Unofficial reason: The broader context for the tensions appears to be a changing dynamic along the LAC, as India plans to catch-up in improving infrastructure there.

Some old bruises in border relations

  • India and China do not have a well-defined border, and troop face-offs are common along its 3,500 km Line of Actual Control (LAC), though not a bullet has been fired for four decades.
  • After the 1962 Sino-Indian war, one of the longest standoffs between the Indian and Chinese armies happened at Sumdorongchu (near the Bhutan tri-junction) in 1986, when the troops had an eye-to-eye stalemate.
  • In 2017, at Doklam, near the same Bhutan tri-junction, the troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off, triggering fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The Gandhi-Deng bargain

    • A year after a military skirmish between India and China in the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, then PM Rajiv Gandhi visited his counterpart Deng Xiaoping in Beijing to mend ties.
    • The two leaders agreed to establish a forward-looking relationship but border dispute were temporarily set aside.
    • The reason for this pragmatism was rooted in economic and strategic factors: Both China and India needed a stable external environment to promote domestic economic development.
    • China was already a decade into the dramatic economic reforms that Deng had initiated, while Gandhi’s India had also embarked on a similar path.
    • The Gandhi-Deng bargain paved the way for a number of border management agreements (including the 1993 and 1996 agreements related to confidence-building measures.

Then, Why do face-offs occur so frequently?

  • Basic: Face-off and stand-off situations occur along the LAC in areas where India and China have overlapping claim lines. The LAC has never been demarcated.
  • The boundary in the Sikkim sector is broadly agreed but has not been delineated.
  • Face-offs occur when patrols encounter each other in the contested zones between overlapping claim lines.
  • Protocols agreed to in 2005 and 2013 detail rules of engagement to prevent such incidents, but have not always been adhered to.

What are the various sectors on the India-China border?

  • The border can be broadly divided into three sectors—Western, Middle and Eastern.
  • The Western sector, which includes Ladakh, is governed by the Johnson Line, making Aksai Chin (controlled by China) in Jammu and Kashmir contested territory for India.
  • The Middle sector, consisting of Uttarakhand and Himachal, is relatively tranquil. Even map exchanges between the two countries have taken place, based on a broad understanding of borders.
  • In the Eastern Sector (where Indian controls territory based on the MacMahon Line), China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.
  • The MacMahon Line was drawn at the tripartite 1913-14 Simla Convention attended by British India, Tibet and China; the problem: Tibet is involved and China is not a signatory to this pact.

LAC: Why no solution yet?

  • It’s not like nothing has been done!
  • Maps have been exchanged in the Middle Sector, but the exercise fell through in the Western Sector where divergence is the greatest.
  • China has rejected this exercise, viewing it as adding another complication to the on-going boundary negotiations.
  • India’s argument is rather than agree on one LAC, the exercise could help both sides understand the claims of the other, paving the way to regulate activities in contested areas until a final settlement of the boundary dispute.

Also, Chinese transgressions are frequent: Dragon’s aggressiveness

  • A higher number indicates that the Chinese soldiers are coming to the Indian side more often, and their movements are being observed and recorded by the Indian soldiers.
  • This can be seen as an indicator of increased Chinese assertiveness.
  • Since 73-day Doklam standoff on Sikkim-Bhutan border in 2017 there had been no major standoff.
  • PM Modi and President Xi met in Wuhan, following the Doklam crisis, and passed some instructions.

Wuhan Coziness turned sour

  • Modi and Xi had met for their first informal summit at Wuhan in April 2018, where the two leaders had issued strategic guidance to their respective militaries.
  • These guidelines aimed to strengthen communication in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs.
  • They had also directed their militaries to earnestly implement various confidence-building measures agreed upon between the two sides, including the principle of mutual and equal security.
  • But the latest border issues show hollowness of such talks.

International forces in this bilateral ties

  • In addition to the border dispute, some of the core issues in the Sino-Indian rivalry include Tibet (the presence of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government-in-exile), the burgeoning China-Pakistan partnership, and the two countries’ overlapping spheres of influence in Asia.
  • These issues have become more salient in the context of the two countries’ simultaneous but asymmetric rising power.
  • In addition to accruing power domestically, India is also building strong strategic partnerships with China’s other rivals, especially the US and Japan.
  • Meanwhile, a rising China has stabilized its northern borders with Russia and is working to undermine the US primacy in the East Asian maritime (particularly the South China Sea).
  • This basically leaves only one border issue with a rival unresolved: namely, the Sino-Indian border.
  • It is hardly surprising that it is exerting periodic pressure on India along this front—a trend that is only likely to escalate.

India should not fear. Why?

To be sure, China’s regional aggression is COVID-proof. From Japan to Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Taiwan, everyone has had to push back against Beijing’s marauding missions.

1) India can retaliate

  • India, while still under-resourced, is no longer a pushover, having emerged stronger and wiser from the Depsang incident of 2013, when Chinese troops pitched tents to establish their control over the area.
  • India and China are both nuclear-armed countries with strong militaries.
  • India has been building a road along the Galwan River to Daulat Beg Oldie that would improve India’s access to the Karakoram Highway, as well as 61 border roads with a total length of 3,346 km across the Himalayan frontier.
  • The Indian Air Force’s capabilities have improved as well.

2) China is wooing its people

  • Presently, China is in the midst of its annual “2 Sessions” of the CPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Process) and NPC (National People’s Congress), where the ruling sentiment is how China is being bold and tough.
  • Hong Kong was an example of that sentiment. It is likely the India moves may be related. No softening or reasonableness can be expected from China until the NPC ends.
  • China is, as usual, changing the ground realities to influence a future boundary agreement.

The ground realities before we think settlement

  • India sees China as occupying 38,000 sq km in Aksai Chin. In the east, China claims as much as 90,000 sq km, extending all across Arunachal Pradesh.
  • A swap was hinted at by China in 1960 and in the early 1980s, which would have essentially formalized the status quo.
  • Both sides have now ruled out the status quo as a settlement, agreeing to meaningful and mutual adjustments.
  • At the same time, the most realistic solution will involve only minor adjustments along the LAC, considering neither side will be willing to part with territory already held.

Way forward

  • India and China should grasp the current situation as an opportunity to revive the stalled process of clarifying the LAC.
  • Clarifying the LAC may even provide a fresh impetus to the stalled boundary talks between the Special Representatives.
  • Beyond the posturing, both sides know a final settlement will ultimately have to use the LAC as a basis, with only minor adjustments. Only a settlement will end the shadow boxing on the LAC.
  • With both countries in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, the time to push for a settlement to a distracting, protracted dispute is now.


The issue is basically the fundamental difference in how both sides view the boundary question. India insists that its relations with China won’t improve until the border dispute is resolved. But China differs here. In some sense, Beijing appears to view an unsettled border as holding some leverage with India, one of the many pressure points it could use to keep India off-guard.

But for now, India should resist the Chinese design which could have disastrous consequences for India’s defence and strategic interests. Lastly, Diplomatic channels is always a better option than skirmishes on the borders.



Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Importance of the Pangong Tso Lake


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pangong Tso Lake

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

(Note: No higher resolution is available for the image)

The recent incidents at the Pangong Tso lake area between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the LAC involve a picturesque lake, mountains, helicopters, fighter jets, boats, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, fisticuffs and injuries.

Apart from the geo-physical significance of the Pangong Tso for prelims, other general information should be necessarily known to aspirants, particularly for Personality Tests.

The Pangong Tso Lake

  • Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh has often been in the news, most famously during the Doklam standoff, when a video of the scuffle between Indian and Chinese soldiers.
  • In the Ladakhi language, Pangong means extensive concavity, and Tso is a lake in Tibetan.
  • Pangong Tso is a long narrow, deep, endorheic (landlocked) lake situated at a height of more than 14,000 ft in the Ladakh Himalayas.
  • The western end of Tso lies 54 km to the southeast of Leh. The 135 km-long lake sprawls over 604 sq km in the shape of a boomerang and is 6 km wide at its broadest point.
  • The brackish water lake freezes over in winter and becomes ideal for ice skating and polo.
  • The legendary 19th century Dogra general Zorawar Singh is said to have trained his soldiers and horses on the frozen Pangong lake before invading Tibet.

Tactical significance of the lake

  • By itself, the lake does not have major tactical significance.
  • But it lies in the path of the Chushul approach, one of the main approaches that China can use for an offensive into Indian Territory.
  • Indian assessments show that a major Chinese offensive if it comes, will flow across both the north and south of the lake.
  • During the 1962 war, this was where China launched its main offensive — the Indian Army fought heroically at Rezang La, the mountain pass on the southeastern approach to Chushul valley, where the Ahir Company of 13 Kumaon led by Maj. Shaitan Singh made its last stand.
  • 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 Sirijap-1 outpost which was essential for the defence of Chushul airfield.

Connectivity in the region

  • Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along their banks of the Pangong Tso.
  • At the People’s Liberation Army’s Huangyangtan base at Minningzhen, southwest of Yinchuan, the capital of China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, stands a massive to-scale model of this disputed area in Aksai Chin.
  • It 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 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.

Fingers in the lake

  • The barren mountains on the lake’s northern bank, called the Chang Chenmo, jut forward in major spurs, which the Army calls “fingers”.
  • India claims that the LAC is coterminous with Finger 8, but it physically controls area only up to Finger 4.
  • Chinese border posts are at Finger 8, while it believes that the LAC passes through Finger 2.
  • Around six years ago, the Chinese had attempted a permanent construction at Finger 4 which was demolished after Indians strongly objected to it.
  • Chinese use light vehicles on the road to patrol up to Finger 2, which has a turning point for their vehicles.
  • If they are confronted and stopped by an Indian patrol in between, asking them to return, it leads to confusion, as the vehicles can’t turn back.
  • The Chinese have now stopped the Indian soldiers moving beyond Finger 2. This is an eyeball-to-eyeball situation which is still developing.

Confrontation on the water

  • On the water, the Chinese had a major advantage until a few years ago — their superior boats could literally run circles around the Indian boats.
  • But India purchased better Tampa boats some eight years ago, leading to a quicker and more aggressive response.
  • Although there are well-established drills for disengagement of patrol boats of both sides, the confrontations on the waters have led to tense situations in the past few years.
  • The Chinese have moved in more boats — called the LX series — in the lake after the tensions which rose in the area from last month.
  • The drill for the boats is agreed upon by the two sides, as per the Standard Operating Procedure.

Out of bounds for tourists

  • Indian tourists are only allowed up to Spangmik village, around 7 km into the lake. This is where a famous movie climax was shot.
  • In fact, tourists were not allowed at all at Pangong Tso until 1999, and even today, you need to obtain an Inner Line Permit from the office of the Deputy Commissioner at Leh.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

How China is seeking more control on Hong Kong?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Secessionist tendencies across the world and their handling

China has started pushing for an “improvement” in the Basic Law — the mini-constitution that defines ties between Hong Kong and Beijing — signalling a fundamental change in the way the highly autonomous city-state is run. The Chinese parliament is debating a controversial national security law for Hong Kong.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Democracy and authoritarianism cannot co-exist in the same country. Comment in context to the situation generated in Taiwan. How is the situation different from the withdrawl of special category status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Chinese authoritarian grip on Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s ‘Basic Law’

  • Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
  • It has observed a “one country, two systems” policy since Britain returned sovereignty to China on July 1, 1997, which has allowed it certain freedoms, the rest of China does not have.
  • It is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law — which affirms the principle of “one country, two systems”.
  • The constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  • Under this, China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, the system of governance, an independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.

Uproar in Hong Kong

  • China accuses that the Hong Kong SAR has not acted out its constitutional duty for national security in line with China’s Constitution and the Basic Law.
  • Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have time and again taken to the streets to protect their Basic Law freedoms, with the first major pro-democracy protest taking place in 2003.
  • In 2014, over one lakh city residents took part in the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ to protest against China’s denial of democratic reforms.

Impact of the 2019 protests

  • The largest protests since the 1997 handover took place last year in 2019 when for months tens of thousands of Hong Kongers agitated against a proposed extradition law.
  • The protest continued with pro-democracy marches even after the legislation was withdrawn.
  • These protests were seen as an affront by mainland China, which under President Xi Jinping has increasingly adopted a more hardline approach to foreign policy and internal security issues in recent years.

Rise of Taiwanese aspirations

  • The Hong Kong unrest is also believed to have left its mark on Taiwan, another prickly issue for Beijing which considers the island state as its own.
  • In this year’s presidential election, Taiwanese voters brought to power the Democratic Progressive Party, which openly opposes joining China.

The National Security Law

  • Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong has to enact a national security law “to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Chinese government.
  • When the Hong Kong government first tried to enact the law in 2003, the issue became a rallying point for the city-wide protests which occurred that year.
  • Since then, the government has steered clear of introducing the legislation again.
  • Beijing could now make the law applicable to Hong Kong by another route — by inserting the legislation in Annex III of the Basic Law.
  • The Chinese parliament is expected to vote on a resolution that will make way for the new law, which could be promulgated in Hong Kong.

What could happen if such a law takes effect?

  • The new law would ban seditious activities that target mainland Chinese rule, as well as punish external interference in Hong Kong affairs.
  • Many expect a revival of the protests that rocked the city last year.
  • China, on the other hand, has sought support and understanding of India and other countries for its controversial decision as a precautionary measure.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Rising incidences of Chinese Transgressions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : India-China border disputes

As tensions remain high between Indian and Chinese soldiers, the number of recorded Chinese transgressions across the disputed India-China border surged by 75 per cent in Ladakh in 2019, and the Chinese forays into Indian Territory in the first four months of the current year have also witnessed an increase compared to the same period last year.

Chinese Transgression:

    • The border between India and China is not fully demarcated and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries.
    • This leads to different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides while soldiers from either side try to patrol the area.
    • Observation Methods: Use of surveillance equipment, face-offs by patrols, reliable indications by locals, or evidence left by the Chinese in the form of wrappers, biscuit packets etc. in an unmanned area.
    • Official data shows that 80% of Chinese transgressions across the LAC since 2015 have taken place in four locations of which three are in eastern Ladakh in the western sector.
      • These areas of eastern Ladakh are Pangong Tso, Trig Heights and Burtse.
      • The fourth area is the Dichu Area/Madan Ridge area (Arunachal Pradesh) of the Eastern sector.
  •  Implications of Increased Number of Transgressions:

    • It is an indicator of increased Chinese assertiveness.
    • Even if there are no major incidents, it should not be taken lightly.
    • So far, there has been no major standoff between the two sides after the 73-day Doklam standoff on Sikkim-Bhutan border in 2017.


  • India is worried about the tensions at Naku La in Sikkim and at Galwan river and Pangong Tso in Ladakh.
  • The increased transgressions lead to more tensions between both countries which are already struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Nepal’s recent behaviour on the Mansarovar Link Road raising the border map issue also raises Indian concerns.
  • The constant accusations on each other also cause tensions and disrupt the peace on borders.
    • Recently, Chinese media accused India of building defence facilities in the Galwan Valley region of the contested Aksai Chin area.
  • India and China are both nuclear-armed countries with strong militaries and the constant border conflicts are not a desirable thing.

Way Forward

  • In the Wuhan and Mahabalipuram summits, both China and India had reaffirmed that they will make efforts to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas.
  • On 1st April, 2020 India and China completed their 70 years of diplomatic relations.
  • Both countries have resolved border issues peacefully in the past four decades which gives the hope that the tensions will subside soon.
  • Establishment of peace between the two big powers of such an important geopolitical region is essential for their own growth and development as well as for maintenance of global peace.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Clear demarcation of the national borders is the need of the hour. Discuss.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Tracking Chinese diplomacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Afro-Asian conference.

Mains level : Paper 2- Rise of China and changes in diplomacy.

We are no stranger to the assertive nature of China in geopolitics. But had it always been the same? This article captures the transformation of the nature of Chinese diplomacy. Two personalities that had a profound impact on the nature of the diplomacy of that country are Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Each of them imparted special characteristic to diplomacy. Now, that all seems lost from present China. Read the article to know about the contribution of two personalities and trends in Chinese diplomacy now.

Zhou Enlai: Preference for Persuasion and compromise

“All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.” – Zhou Enlai

  • If Mao Zedong represented the crude face of Chinese communism, then Zhou was the epitome of its refinement.
  • Zhou preferred to seduce his opponents through word and gesture in the pursuit of national self-interest.
  • Force was used rarely, and only when all other means of persuasion failed.
  • So, amid Korean War in 1950, when the U.S. Army crossed into North Korea, Zhou Enlai delivered message against crossing 38th Parallel through Indian Ambassador, instead publicly declaring this.
  • He chose to give diplomacy a chance.

Role in First Indochina War

  • In 1954, the Chinese made their entry onto the world stage in Geneva.
  • The Vietnamese were winning against the French in the First Indochina War.
  • And the Americans were preparing to intervene fearing that another “domino” would fall to communism.
  • China’s self-interest lay in ending this war while denying the U.S. a foothold in its backyard.
  • Zhou’s strategy was to undermine western unity.
  • His watchwords were persuasion and compromise.
  • He even gave “face” to the French who had just lost to the Vietnamese in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, by travelling the “extra mile” to meet Prime Minister of France to secure the peace.

Low profile at Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung

  • In 1955, at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Zhou used the same tactics to pursue another objective: Developing relations with leaders of the Afro-Asian countries.
  • He deliberately kept a low profile, allowing Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian President Sukarno to take the lead.
  • His tactic, he reported to Mao, was “not to be involved in provocative or disruptive debate”.
  • His guidance to his team was to “strive to expand the united front of the world peace force.
  • He also instructed the team to create conditions for est