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India China – Geopolitics to Border Standoff, Differences Intensify

Two high level summits during September – BRICS and the SCO saw active joint participation by Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

As these were held virtually there was no scope of a summit on the sidelines, thus the vexed India China border standoff in Eastern Ladakh is expected to see no breakthrough in the near future.

More over there is no immediate forcing event such as a Summit with participation of the two leaders that may lead to resolution of the impasse in Ladakh even as geopolitical factors may also impact relations.

With QUAD [Australia, India, Japan and the United States] leaders holding the first in person summit in Washington and Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi reaffirming commitment to strengthening India United States relations during a summit with President Joe Biden as well as a meeting with the Vice President Kamala Harris, Chinese perception of India joining the United States block as a quasi ally is likely to have been strengthened. Adding to China’s concerns is strengthening of the Australia – UK and US strategic alliance through the AUKUS deal which has received some strong reactions in Beijing given the pact for construction of eight nuclear powered submarines in Australia.

It is no surprise then that after the disengagement at the Gogra Post in Eastern Ladakh, India and China are again sulking with no signs of the much awaited 13th Senior Commanders Meeting in the offing amidst expectations of continuing process of disengagement.

The intensification of differences was also reflected in a differing perception of the Galwan incident which emerged. On September 24, 2021, In response to media queries about Chinese MFA spokesperson’s comment that ‘Galwan valley incident took place because India violated all the treaties and agreements and encroached upon China’s territory illegally and crossed the line’, the MEA Spokesperson said, “We reject such statements.

Our position with regard to developments last year along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh has been clear and consistent. It was the provocative behavior and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo in contravention of all our bilateral agreements that resulted in serious disturbance of peace and tranquility. This has also impacted the bilateral relations. As emphasized by EAM in his meeting with Chinese FM earlier this month, it is our expectation that the Chinese side will work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols as indicated by a MEA India Press release.

For the record India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishanker met State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China Mr. Wang Yi on 16th September 2021 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the sidelines of the 21st SCO Meeting of the Head of States. The two Ministers exchanged views on the current situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh as well as on global developments touching on familiar differences.

On the defence preparedness front, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is continuing upgradation of defence works on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as in the depth areas where airfields are being upgraded and modern fighters are replacing vintage J 7 fighters.

With India planning to test nuclear-capable ICBM Agni-V ballistic missile, which has a range of 5,000 kms in October, Chinese reactions are likely to be hostile. “Maintaining peace, security and stability in South Asia meets the common interests of all, where China hopes that all parties would make constructive efforts,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a media briefing in September.

From the geo-political to the regional and the strategic defence to improvement of defence posture in Eastern Ladakh India China relations appear to be going through another phase of expanding differences.

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