June 29, 2020 | Indian Express [Link]
GS 2: India and its neighborhood-relations
- The motive behind China’s incursion in Ladakh is to push India to settle the boundary issue and cede(surrender) Aksai Chin to China.
- Experts phrase China’s border policies differently, but the overriding assessment is that they are essentially an outward projection of internal security concerns.
- The key, in essence, is to ward off the threat at the periphery to achieve internal stability.
- A pattern is being noticed after China’s last experiment of settling borders with Russia and three Central Asian states in the 1990s.
- Fearing its sensitive Xinjiang region becoming an object of external power play after the Soviet collapse, Beijing had displayed urgency in settling the border with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
- The Chinese border negotiation tactics with these countries blended “incentives with coercion”.
- Beijing settled for a third of territories it claimed from Kazakhstan. Yet, the Kazakhs had to admit they had gained.
- In addition to what it had lost, Kazakhstan had to denounce(give up) Uyghur separatism and curb anti-China activities.
- In a similar pattern, Kyrgyzstan had to cede 1,20,000 hectares in a dubious(faulty) exchange for Chinese assistance.
- Tajikistan was made to surrender 1,100 square miles in 2010.
- Here, China claimed some 28,000 sq km, but settled for 3.5 percent of it.
- The Tajiks had to cede land and yet were made to feel the victor.
- In essence, China ultimately gained a bit of land, nixed the Uyghur issue, and pushed its economic agenda by making Xinjiang a pivotal link to the Eurasian markets.
- The success gave birth to a self-serving SCO, lauded as an exemplary multilateral cooperation mechanism, essentially meant to blunt any US-led Asian alliance in Eurasia.
- But China’s appetite for territorial expansion did not stop here.
- In Russia’s Far East, weaker states are induced to let out agriculture and forestland to Chinese farmers. Borders and rivers are being altered to meet China’s new interests.
UNDERSTANDING THE GAME:
- India desperately wanted to join the Chinese-led SCO, without perhaps understanding its game. The Belt and Road Initiative has since been added by Xi Jinping in 2013.
- A view popular now is that the early surrender to China was a mistake. Its tactics are fuelling tensions and resentments across Asia.
- China’s past border tactics should offer some example, if not a complete cue to Chinese strategy.
- Ever since India and China agreed in 2005 on a new set of guiding principles to settle the vexed boundary dispute through the Special Representative (SR) level talks, China has been seeking a substantive adjustment concession especially on Tawang.
- India probably prefers having a marginal modification in the current alignment of the boundary to settle the issue. For India, ceding Tawang confronts a political difficulty.
- This was reflected in the drafting of the guiding principles. But both countries hoped to clinch a solution through this mechanism.
- In March 2013, China once again pushed for a settlement.
- Remember, the motive behind the PLA’s 19-km intrusion in Depsang in April 2013 was to press India to show “urgency” and “redouble” efforts to settle the boundary issue.
- Post-Depsang events showed the officials of two sides had drawn certain lessons.
- The officials described the Depsang standoff as an “isolated” incident, but the important thing was to underscore how it was resolved without making the issue big enough to affect relations.
- Importantly, the boundary resolution was deemed important from the Chinese point of view.
- So far 22 rounds of special representative-level talks have been held since the drafting of the guiding principles.
- But a framework agreement still eludes these talks. Meanwhile, China has created more suspicion through its economic expansion in and around India.
- India too has responded while building up its infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).