Some historical clashes
China builds 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) road connecting Xinjiang and western Tibet, of which 179 kilometers (111 miles) ran south of the Johnson Line through the Aksai Chin region claimed by India.
In 1960, based on an agreement between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai, officials from India and China hold discussions to settle the boundary dispute.
China and India disagree on the major watershed that defined the boundary. It ultimately escalates into the Sino-Indian War in October 1962, leading to nearly 3,000 causalities from the Indian side, and 700 from the Chinese.
(Nehru was blamed a lot for mishandling China, being soft on them) (some of the criticism was valid)(he indeed had a soft approach, he was toooooo innocent a person, extended a friendly hand. He once called “Aksai Chin”( a very strategic location), a barren land where “no grass grows.” He could have done more to secure that land)
Nathu La and Cho La clashes
The clashes begin on Sept. 11, 1967, when the Chinese army reportedly attacks an Indian post at Nathu La, a mountain pass in the Himalayas in the East Sikkim state.
Indian and Chinese armies clash at Tulung La, Tulung La, Tawang district of the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Four Indian soldiers are killed. Later it is to be described as an accident, as two patrols losing their way in the fog.
India says Chinese troops establish a camp in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector, 10 km (6.2 mi) on their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two countries.
This figure is to be later revised to a 19-km (11.8-mi) claim.
Soldiers from both countries briefly set up camps facing each other, but the tension is defused when both sides pull back soldiers in early May.
A standoff starts when India begins constructing a canal in the border village of Demchok. China protests and posts troops in the region leading to a faceoff. It ends after about three weeks when both sides agree to withdraw troops.
Chinese and Indian troops face-off in the Burts region of northern Ladakh after Indian troops dismantle a watchtower built by the Chinese.
A military standoff occurs in the disputed territory of Doklam, near the Doka La pass along the Indian state of Sikkim and Bhutan border.
China brings heavy road-building equipment to the Doklam region and begins constructing a road. This results in the Indian intervention of China’s road construction on June 18, two days after the construction begins.
What happened in June?
While the world was battling the pandemic, a violent skirmish broke out between Indian and Chinese forces in the Galwan valley on June 15. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed even though both sides claimed that “no shots were fired”
It is believed that the Chinese side also suffered casualties.
Though there have been occasional scuffles, shots have not been fired from either side in the last 40 years.
In the first part of disengagement that took place on June 6, both the armies pulled back their troops from Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra post. The second part of the disengagement followed with the withdrawal of armies from Finger 4, though few Chinese soldiers were stationed on the ridgelines to keep track of Indian troops. Therefore, mistrust colors all negotiations and disengagement talks. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) blocked the Indian patrols at Finger 4 after the May 5-6 stand-off. Later, the Chinese army also blocked patrolling points 10, 11, 12, and 13 at Desang.
What prompted the aggression?
The crux of the conflict between the two major Asian countries lies in unresolved border issues.
A retired Major General G G Dwivedi wrote in an Indian Express article that India considered the Johnson Line of 1865 as the border, however, the Chinese had considered the Macartney-MacDonald (M-M) Line of 1899 as the border. The M-M Line is west of the Johnson Line, thereby, creating confusion over the Line of Control.
Currently, there are about 90,000 personnel in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, a mountain-warfare trained force, which is tasked to guard the 3,488-km-long LAC with China. It was raised in 1962 in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression and had decided to move at least 60 fresh companies to various locations along the LAC in the wake of the situation in Ladakh.
How did India react?
Apart from the de-escalation process that is conducted by the Indian Army officials, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has assured people that no part of Indian soil will be compromised, “I can assure you that India is not a weak country. No power in the world can touch even an inch of India’s land.” He also dismissed claims by critics that China’s aggressive action forced a change in the perception of the Line of Actual Control.
Days after the initial altercation, India banned 59 Chinese apps to preserve the “sovereignty, integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.” This was widely seen as ‘retaliation’ to the Chinese aggression.
Basically what happened then, is a series of core commander-level talks, along with ministry-level talks and finally, after soooooo many rounds, we reached some sort of a disengagement consensus.
In the first major breakthrough in talks to resolve the nine-month military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, China’s Defence Ministry announced Wednesday that Chinese and Indian troops on the southern and northern shores of Pangong Tso began “synchronized and organized disengagement” in line with the consensus reached between Corps Commanders when they last met on January 24.
While there was no statement from the Indian Army on Wednesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement in Rajya Sabha Thursday about the “present situation in eastern Ladakh.”
What is the new disengagement plan in eastern Ladakh?
According to the statement made by Rajnath Singh Thursday, and the statement issued by the Chinese Defence Ministry a day before, troops from both sides have started disengaging from the Pangong Tso area in eastern Ladakh.
As of now, the disengagement process seems restricted to the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.
Sources in the security establishment have mentioned that 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.
The ground commanders have started meeting since Tuesday to figure out the nitty-gritty of the process.
What does this disengagement process entail?
According to the statement made by Rajnath Singh in Rajya Sabha, “both sides will remove the forward deployment in a phased, coordinated and verified manner”.
“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 at the Dhan Singh Thapa post 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.
Based on this agreement action started from Wednesday, he said, on the north and south bank. “It is expected that this will restore the situation to before the standoff of last year,” Singh said. Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, had said in a written statement on Wednesday: “The Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake start synchronized and organized disengagement from February 10.”
“This move is in accordance with the consensus reached by both sides at the 9th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting,” the Chinese statement said.
It is important to note that the process, as announced, will send Indian and Chinese troops back to their traditional bases on the north bank. While India has its traditional base at the Dhan Singh Thapa Post, just west of Finger 3, China has had its base east of Finger 8.
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.
Further, it is on 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, which 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.
After this action, India had also re-positioned its troops on the north bank to occupy heights overlooking Chinese positions on the north bank as well.
During this jostling, warning shots had been fired more than once. And troops from the two sides had been sitting just a few hundred meters apart from each other at many of these heights, making the region a tinderbox.
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. Singh mentioned on Thursday that in the military and diplomatic discussions with China since last year, “we have told China that we want a solution to the issue on the basis of three principles: (i) LAC should be accepted and respected by both the parties.
(ii)Neither party should attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.
(iii)All agreements should be fully adhered to by both parties.
Also, for disengagement in the friction areas, he said, “India is of the view that the forward deployments of 2020 which are very close to each other should be pulled back and both the armies should return to their permanent and recognized posts”.
Does this mean that the standoff is resolved?
That’s a clear no.
Even Singh said in his statement that “there are still some outstanding issues that remain regarding deployment and patrolling on LAC” and mentioned that “our attention will be on these in further discussions”.
“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. It is our expectation that China will work with us seriously to resolve the remaining issues.” the Defence Minister said.
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.
What are the hurdles?
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 that 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 defense assets.
As the standoff progressed in the months of May, June, and July, there was a mirrored military build-up from both sides. 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.
Sources in the military establishment have reiterated multiple times that what was China’s intent for diverting its troops last May from their traditional exercise in the region to the LAC, which led to the standoff is not known.
IMPACT ON INDIA-CHINA RELATIONS
How will India-China relations evolve in 2021?
Forecasting the trajectory of this complex relationship is becoming a challenging endeavor; yet its predictability is still very much drawn on both countries’ past practices, especially China’s.
Competing nationalism, coupled with geopolitical interests factoring in the land and maritime domain, will continue to influence India-China relations in 2021, indicating that their bilateral ties will remain far from normal in the coming year.
Besides, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) centenary celebration in 2021, which will no doubt ratchet up nationalism, will be a defining moment for China’s policy posture in the near future.
Clashing perceptions and rising nationalisms(imp)
In 2020, relations between the two Asian giants deteriorated due to differing perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), resulting in the Galwan clash. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not their border technicalities that have dented India-China ties, but rather rising tempers on both sides alongside more robust nationalism in each country that frames the other as an antagonistic power. Border technicalities have been a constant contentious factor in this bilateral relationship over the last
seven decades. What has changed is the temperament of the current regimes in both states, which prioritize building national strength and pursuing an active and action-oriented foreign policy.
In the coming year, the CCP can be expected to celebrate its achievements by displaying a stern posture vis-à-vis India and other competitors like the United States and Japan. Acquiring territory, building an assertive maritime posture, and trying to strengthen President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” agenda are parts of such nationalistic thinking, and India’s stature as a rising power is beginning to threaten China’s regional and global ambitions. As we move into a new decade with 2021, this growing contrarian nature of Beijing-New Delhi ties implies that the relationship is set to continue along similar lines, if not become more contentious.
India’s evolving global strategy
The evolution of India’s foreign policy and strategic thinking, coupled with a surge in nationalism, has been, and will likely continue to be, an unfavorable development for China. Beijing has long been uncomfortable with New Delhi’s growing ties with Washington, which could not only bring the United States to its southern border but also put it face-to-face with an immense alliance that would hinder its aspirations. Indeed, some analysts have labeled India a strategic “pawn” of the United States.
China’s desire to restrict India as a regional power has been further exacerbated by the latter’s vocal criticisms of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative and New Delhi’s shift to an active foreign policy which has seen it deepening partnerships with the United States and other Indo-Pacific powers. Moving from its long-standing “Act East” policy, New Delhi has swiftly adopted the Indo-Pacific concept into its strategic thinking. Beijing no doubt realizes India’s centrality in its competition with the West, particularly the United States, and thus sees India’s Indo-Pacific approach and partnerships as a potential threat to its own interests. It increasingly perceives New Delhi’s focus on building strategic partnerships around the Indo-Pacific as a hedging attempt against Chinese interests in the region. Although India remains far behind China in terms of its economy, these developing ties could certainly pose a threat to Chinese global ambitions. The Modi government has also accelerated the up-gradation of border infrastructure
along the LAC. The abrogation of article 370 and transforming Ladakh into a Union Territory only provides India greater power across the border regions, much to China’s dismay.
China regained its position as India’s top trade partner in 2020, as New Delhi’s reliance on imported machines outweighed its efforts to curb commerce with Beijing after a bloody border conflict.
Two-way trade between the longstanding economic and strategic rivals stood at $77.7 billion last year, according to provisional data from India’s commerce ministry. Although that was lower than the previous year’s $85.5 billion total, it was enough to make China the largest commercial partner displacing the U.S. — bilateral trade with whom came in at $75.9 billion amid muted demand for goods in the middle of a pandemic.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned hundreds of Chinese apps, slowed approvals for investments from the neighbor, and called for self-reliance after a deadly clash along their disputed Himalayan border, India continues to rely heavily on Chinese-made heavy machinery, telecom equipment, and home appliances. As a result, the bilateral trade gap with China was at almost $40 billion in 2020, making it India’s largest.
Total imports from China at $58.7 billion were more than India’s combined purchases from the U.S. and the U.A.E, which are its second-and third-largest trade partners, respectively. Heavy machinery imports accounted for 51% of India’s purchases from its neighbor. That said, India did manage to lower imports from its Asian neighbor amid demand disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The South Asian nation also managed to increase its exports to China by about 11% from a year ago to $19 billion last year, which makes any further worsening of ties with Beijing a threat to New Delhi’s export revenue.
China accounted for 5% of India’s exports and 14 % of India’s imports in 2019
The Indian startup sector has some of the biggest investments from Chinese companies. Chinese investment giants like Alibaba Group, Tencent, Steadview Capital, and Didi Chuxing dominate investments in over 18 of the 30 Unicorn companies in India. These 18 Unicorn companies in India have over $3,500 million of Chinese investments.
Unicorn companies with a valuation of more than 1 billion dollars.
Unicorn companies like Bigbasket, Zomato, Delhivery, Byju’s Flipkart, Make my trip, Paytm, Policy Bazaar, Swiggy, among others, have millions of dollars in Chinese investments.
For example, Zomato has over $200 million of Chinese investment by the Alibaba group, while the same Alibaba group has invested more than $200 million of Chinese money into India’s leading online grocer Big Basket. Tencent Holdings, on the other hand, have invested over $50 million into the tech learning startup Byju’s. The same Tencent Holdings, along with Steadview Capital, both Chinese investors, also has over $500 million investment in India’s first-ever online cab aggregator Ola.