Question – China’s increasing aggression in recent times not only presents a serious challenge to India, but also provides an opportunity to reinvent itself on international and domestic issues. Explain. – 22 January 2022
Answer – China recently named 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh and justified the move by allegedly claiming its historical, cultural and administrative rights over the region. In addition, from January 1, 2022, China’s new land border law, which assigns the People’s Liberation Army full responsibility to take measures against “invasion, encroachment, intrusion, provocation” and defend Chinese territory.
Along with this, a bridge is being constructed by China over Pangong Tso lake, while India has been claiming this area as its own. All these developments indicate further deterioration of an already bad relationship.
In recent times, especially since the COVID-19 global pandemic, China has signaled its intention to be acknowledged as a global power. This has triggered an aggressive political, ideological, economic and military competition and confrontation on a global scale. In the military and security sector, it has expressed its aggression towards the military standoff along the LAC with India in the South and East China Sea, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and eastern Ladakh.
The India-China partnership has bilateral and macro-geo-strategic dimensions. This includes the long-standing border dispute. In this context, China’s growing assertiveness presents a significant challenge for India:
- Economic Expansion: China has tried to take advantage of India’s rules-based trade and investment policies. India’s trade deficit with China is huge. Along with a widening economic gap, there is also the danger of China marginalizing Indian influence regionally and globally.
- China’s diplomatic aid has forced developing Asian and African countries, especially neighboring countries in the Indian Ocean such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to access their resources and ports. Nepal has also become a new ‘enthusiast’ country to seek China’s help.
- Military Interval: Excessive surveillance on the LAC requires the use of scarce or exceptional resources. India’s defense budget is already limited, with limited financial resources and meager private funding hindering India’s options in this regard.
- Tough Strategic Choices: So far, India has maintained strategic autonomy, but if the situation worsens, it could force India to adopt balancing options such as closer ties with the US.
On the other hand, Chinese assertiveness has also forced countries around the world to rethink the global balance and come together to fulfill their ambitions. This presents a significant opportunity for India to re-establish itself both domestically and internationally.
- On the economic front, the intensification of the USA-China trade war has heightened caution between European countries and Japan on expanding economic ties with China. There has been an increased desire among major economic powers to reduce trust in Beijing and reliance on other subject countries for “repetitive” investments and supply chains. As a result of COVID-19, the disruption of supply chains has prompted many businessmen to consider relocating their businesses outside China and India may be one of the most preferred destinations for them. The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) between India, Japan and Australia is a sign of this trend.
- It also presents a historic opportunity for India to pursue a revitalizing reform agenda in all sectors and initiate transformational structural changes that ensure economic independence. India has also initiated efforts on land and labor transformation, reaffirming its interest in integrating global value chains. Several states have temporarily lifted labor restrictions, while others intend to ease land acquisition.
- As those carrying out commercial activities reconsider the need to diversify international value chains, India has an opportunity to act on the regulatory position, formulate stable taxation policies and reduce trade barriers.
- Location for Diplomatic Skills: India’s recent actions in the light of China’s aggression in Ladakh suggest that India is taking steps towards an active participation in geopolitics, including in the South China Sea. The consolidation of the Quad consultations involving India, Australia, Japan, US can bring strategic balance to the region. This is an opportunity for India to clearly define its role and participate in the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region.
- Strengthening the wider national power- Empowering the people, strengthening economic, diplomatic and military capabilities are keys to facing an aggressive China. The actions taken at this juncture for sustained high growth and maintaining its strategic autonomy will determine India’s future.