Beijing still does not seem to be in a mood to resolve it on a priority basis. New Delhi has done well to insist that Beijing must be serious about resolving the border issue.
Will Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s talks ( New Delhi, March 25, 2922) with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar normalise ties between India and China? Signs are ominous.
Observers say Wang proposed in his New Delhi talks that New Delhi and Beijing should focus on economic cooperation. There is hardly any problem with this proposition. Despite the serious setbacks to India-China ties in the wake of its aggression in India’s Ladakh in 2020, economic relations between the two nations have continued to grow in recent years.
According to a report, India’s trade with China in 2021 reached $125.6 billion. The trade between the two nations crossed the $100 billion mark. India’s imports from China accounted for $97.5 billion. Its exports reached $28.1 billion. India’s biggest imports are electrical and mechanical machinery, various chemicals used by industries, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), auto components, and many medical supplies. Indian exports to China are mostly raw materials such as ores and cotton, and seafood.
The real problem lies with Beijing’s continued approach to resolving the more than half-century-old India-China border disputes. Beijing still does not seem to be in a mood to resolve it on a priority basis. Given its experience with Beijing on this issue since the Nehruvian years, New Delhi cannot afford to overlook it.
New Delhi has done well to insist that Beijing must be serious about resolving the border issue. Regrettably, the intentions of China’s apex political leadership on the India-China border issue continue to be far from benign. It is believed that Chinese President Xi Jinping himself masterminded the 2020 Galwan valley intrusion that has led to the present tension between New Delhi and Beijing.
Today China does not seem to be willing to withdraw from its previous positions behind the Line of Actual Control. According to a U.S. Department of Defence report, in 2020, China “built a 100-home civilian village inside the disputed territory between PRC’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state…”
According to a Pentagon report ( 2021), “The PRC has continued taking incremental and tactical actions to press its claims at the LAC.” Another report says that China has flown at least one long-range strategic H-6K bomber along its borders with India; New Delhi is within the combat range of the H-6K and the striking range of the CJ-20.
A former Corps Commander of India’s Fire and Fury Corps in Ladakh says China is “a quintessential expansionist country” out to “establish Pax Sinica.” In a recent media interview, India’s former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to China Nirupama Rao has warned: “We are now faced with a situation where we can have… potential clashes… in many other contested areas, too.”
(The author is a New Delhi-based journalist)