[UPSC Mains Focus] Reading China Right


June 29, 2020 | Indian Express [Link]

GS 2: India and its neighborhood-relations


CONTEXT:

  1. The motive behind China’s incursion in Ladakh is to push India to settle the boundary issue and cede(surrender) Aksai Chin to China.
  2. Experts phrase China’s border policies differently, but the overriding assessment is that they are essentially an outward projection of internal security concerns.
  3. The key, in essence, is to ward off the threat at the periphery to achieve internal stability.


SIMILAR PATTERN:

  1. A pattern is being noticed after China’s last experiment of settling borders with Russia and three Central Asian states in the 1990s.
  2. 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.
  3. The Chinese border negotiation tactics with these countries blended “incentives with coercion”.
  4. Beijing settled for a third of territories it claimed from Kazakhstan. Yet, the Kazakhs had to admit they had gained.
  5. In addition to what it had lost, Kazakhstan had to denounce(give up) Uyghur separatism and curb anti-China activities.
  6. In a similar pattern, Kyrgyzstan had to cede 1,20,000 hectares in a dubious(faulty) exchange for Chinese assistance.
  7. Tajikistan was made to surrender 1,100 square miles in 2010.
  8. Here, China claimed some 28,000 sq km, but settled for 3.5 percent of it.
  9. The Tajiks had to cede land and yet were made to feel the victor.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. But China’s appetite for territorial expansion did not stop here.
  13. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. A view popular now is that the early surrender to China was a mistake. Its tactics are fuelling tensions and resentments across Asia.
  3. China’s past border tactics should offer some example, if not a complete cue to Chinese strategy.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. This was reflected in the drafting of the guiding principles. But both countries hoped to clinch a solution through this mechanism.

ELUDING TALKS:

  1. In March 2013, China once again pushed for a settlement.
  2. 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.
  3. Post-Depsang events showed the officials of two sides had drawn certain lessons.
  4. 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.
  5. Importantly, the boundary resolution was deemed important from the Chinese point of view.
  6. So far 22 rounds of special representative-level talks have been held since the drafting of the guiding principles.
  7. But a framework agreement still eludes these talks. Meanwhile, China has created more suspicion through its economic expansion in and around India.
  8. India too has responded while building up its infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

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