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China will not give up its demands on India

India and China were ‘eyeball to eyeball’ for 73 days at the Doklam tri-junction area of India – China –Bhutan. The standoff began when China attempted to construct a road to Doklam plateau, a disputed territory between Bhutan and China.

Nov 4, 2017
By Ashna Joy
 
India and China were ‘eyeball to eyeball’ for 73 days at the Doklam tri-junction area of India – China –Bhutan. The standoff began when China attempted to construct a road to Doklam plateau, a disputed territory between Bhutan and China.
 
Why did India become concerned about Doklam, which is neither part of its territory nor is it party to the dispute? India became seriously concerned and sent some forces there because of the area’s proximity to the strategically vital Siliguri corridor connecting Northeastern India to the Indian mainland.
 
The Chinese claim over Doklam was not an exception because it claims a wide number of territories which are disputed with neighbouring countries extending from Japan to India and Bhutan.
 
China's recent attempt to ‘slice’ Doklam has been characterised by India’s Chief of Army staff Bipin Rawat as "salami slicing strategy". China went to war with Vietnam in 1974 to forcefully take control of Paracel Island and illegitimately made the island theirs by constructing an artificial island called Sansha Island.
 
The irony of the Chinese justification for these incursions is that they reiterate the fact that they are not interested in expansionism, but only in defending their 'core interest,' which means control over their supposed ancient sphere of influence either militarily or economically. China is ambitiously trying to regain the perceived lost pride by gradually laying claim to the lost territories and establish control over traditional land and sea routes to become the powerful overlord and empire in the region.
 
In furtherance of this aim, Chinese national military defence follows a distinctive mode of warfare based on Sun Tzu's book 'The Art of War'. He propagates that a victory over the enemy can be achieved through psychological advantage and suggests avoidance of direct conflict.
 
Sun Tzu's art of psychological warfare is evident in the Doklam incident. The art of deception is the tool used by China to try to tame India and other countries to gain control over their so called traditional territory.
 
Chinese media and leaders have used deceptive dialogues to intimidate India to get control over the territory. During the impasse over Doklam, the Chinese media opined that “the countdown to clashes between the two forces has begun and the clock is ticking away to what seems to be an inevitable conclusion”. The state owned Global times reiterated belligerent articles reminding India that it should ‘learn from the 1962 war’.
 
In his book ‘Choices’, former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon writes that the PLA’s incursion into Ladakh during Xi Jinping’s 2014 India visit could be seen as an early attempt to establish psychological dominance over the new Modi government. Similarly, at the time of disengagement of Indian troops from the Doklam, Xi indirectly said China has the “confidence to defeat all invasions”. This declaration by the president was  again to remind India that China was still the dominant country in the region, aligned with the Chinese idiom “one mountain cannot accommodate two tigers”. 
 
Xinhua released a video mocking India saying it had violated bilateral and international law. It’s quite funny to hear China speaking about India violating international law when it has violated various international laws repeatedly. China threatened to withdraw from UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) and refused to accept a verdict on islands in the South China Sea which went in favour of the Philippines. China has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by selling nuclear technology to Pakistan.
 
What is the difference between India and China’s strategy to spread its influence? China’s strategic ambition is more assertive and favourable to Chinese interests while India’s strategic ambition is to favour India’s standing in the region and also make sure there is benefit between India and the recipient countries.
 
Chinese interest in Africa is well known fact that China is more interested in the resources which benefits its increasing population.  China invests in industrial and manufacturing plants, employs Chinese men, establishes its own railway track connected to the harbour, from where Chinese ships will take the resources home.
 
Chinese assertiveness, dominance, deception, diplomacy are an inherent part of Chinese characteristics. Since ancient times China was very clear about how they want to be seen in the world. They put themselves in the centre of the world, which means there cannot be two suns in the sky, neither the USA nor India.
 
On the other hand, India invests in African countries in the IT sector, telecommunication or social sector where it is beneficial for the local African population. Indian characteristics are more of peaceful coexistence, non–aggressive cooperation, mutual respect for territorial integrity and independence and upholding international law.
 
It would be quite a risk for China to replicate 1962 war. Any hostile action by China can face retaliation from the Indian military. The Malabar maritime exercise, defence and trade relations among India, Japan and the USA has made China think about possible reactions from India’s friends, in case of war. The close bonhomie has worried China to an extent that it has openly stated that ‘India is encircling China with the help of the USA and Japan’. All these are assumptions which can deter China but it is not necessary it will counter or contain Chinese influence in the region.
 
China will not give up its demand on territories it assumes as its core interest. Army chief Rawat said Beijing was attempting to “change the status quo” on its border with India and predicted that incidents like the impasse in Doklam are likely to increase in the future.China can be deceptively aggressive with India even in future.
 
(The author is on the faculty at Shankar IAS Academy, Chennai.  She can be contacted at ashnajoy@gmail.com)

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