McMahon line, is the border line between India and Tibet, from when Tibet was a free country in 1914. In 1950, after China annexed Tibet, it refused to recognise the McMahon line partition claiming that China was never present in the meeting when this demarcation was decided.
After the Indo-Sino war in 1962, People’s Republic of China (PRC) started encroaching inside Indian territory on the Arunachal Pradesh side and built their military camps on the south of McMahon Line.
In the recent months, the next provocative step China took was put up a military standoff on the eastern Ladakh territory. The Army of China, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is trying unilaterally to change the status quo on the border issue. The standoff has continued on for more than four months with the issue escalating to military and political dialogue exchanges. PLA has denied Indian Army from patrolling 5 major Patrol points which lies on the Limit of Patrol (LoP) line. PLA has entered 18 km deeper into Indian territory away from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
This is not the first time China has tried to showcase its military dominance and forcefully taken the territories of its neighbouring nations.
1950-1951 was a time when PRC annexed Tibet, causing damage to Tibet’s cultural heritage, systematically torturing, raping, killing millions of Tibetans who raised their voices against PRC. Dalai Lama the spiritual leader of Tibet had to flee and form a secret government in exile. Till today PRC controls Tibet, but Tibetans still follow Dalai Lama and are angry with China for altering their political and religious activities. It is claimed that the PLA causes inhumane atrocities against any Tibetans who raise their voices against China.
Hong-Kong and Macau are two islands on the south of China, in the South China sea. Hong-Kong and Macau are two separate “relative autonomous” country but under the surveillance of China’s dictatorship. They have their separate government, separate languages, currency, flag, different trade and custom policies but they don’t have their separate military forces. For defence purpose both the nations are dependent on PLA. This shows that although China accepts them as independent nations but don’t want them to grow as a separate military enforced nation.
9 dash line is an uncertain demarcation done by PRC on the South China sea (SCS) to showcase its maritime dominion on the oil field, fisheries, islands and other harnessable resources on SCS. China has started building artificial islands in SCS to make it ‘Our Sea’, hindering the trade and commerce transport of other smaller Asian countries, thereby forcing them to become dependent on China to allow free movement of their merchandise.
In the last couple of months China was in headlines for jamming a Vietnamese fishing ship, buzzing off a Philippines naval vassal and bullying a Mauritius ship as well proclaiming that SCS is their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). During a time when one of the world power nation like China is claiming its dominion of the SCS, ASEASN countries have turned their heads towards another potential powerful Asian country, India. ASEAN is expecting that by involving India in the Indo-Pacific affair it can somehow encourage China to cooperate with the ASEAN countries in a legitimate way and not create a debt cycle for these small nations.
But what is the strategic benefit of India in the SCS issue?
Around 200 billion$ trade of India passes from the SCS via Strait of Malacca (SoM) into the Pacific Ocean, without any impediment until now. The leverage which India can have here is by blocking the Chinese trade into the Indian Ocean through the Malacca strait, cutting off China and Africa major trade sea route channel. SoM is a geopolitical bargaining chip for India, it is high time now India must oppose this decision with greater aggression unlike the neutrality it was maintaining before.
SoM is a fish thorn in the jugular of PRC, hence China terms it as ‘Malacca dilemma’. To minimise its dependency on SoM China persuaded Thailand to build Kra Canal cutting through the mainland of Thailand. If Thailand agrees for Kra canal project, it could be used by China to deploy its naval vassals in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in all time red alert situation for the Indian navy troops stationed near Andaman and Nicobar union territory. For the time being Thailand has cancelled the Kra project causing a huge strategic blow to China.
Let us now delve deeper into the economic and political strategy of PRC. China is investing billions of dollars into smaller nations with opaque(non-transparent) conditions. PRC tells these countries to give the infrastructure and construction tender to Chinese companies, leading to China creating jobs in the source country and revenues are generated by them, eventually nothing is gained by the source nations, leading them to fall into debt traps and causing them to give away their natural assets (example: port, road, any trade significant area) on lease to China.
The political agenda behind this is to overthrow US from all major world banks and agencies, organisations and became a veto power. China is a permanent member of United Nations and hence many nations don’t want to go against any decision of China fearing a veto vote. India has been applying to become a permanent member of United Nations for many years.
Beside the conventional warfare method, China has also adopted the mechanism of Hybrid warfare. Zhenhua data is an open source data collecting company of PRC and till date Zhenhua monitors about 2.5 million influential people all over the world. Who are the ones being monitored in India? It is the Prime minister, CM, chief justice, opposition leaders, important bureaucrats, diplomats, ex-servicemen, scientists of ISRO and atomic energy, media chairpersons and many others. The data collection is accomplished using free, open source available in public domains like social media, newspaper, campaigns, patents, so in a way they are not violating the data privacy acts of India. But the real thing to worry about is what are they going to do with the information, will it be used for strategic manoeuvring or spread misinformation or threaten the intelligence security of the nation.
Quadrilateral group between US, Japan, India, Australia was formed to encourage, maintain economic and defence strategies on a global level. The foundation was laid by Shinzo Abe the then Prime minister of Japan. After the recent summit meeting a joint declaration was separately announced by secretary of all the four nations mentioning that global trade rules and regulations must be followed on the Indo-Pacific water ways. Was this an indirect warning to China over its growing aggression to take over SCS?
India didn’t participate in the Kavkaz 2020 military drills mentioning covid situations, but looks like this is an indirect indication to Russia that since the other participants were Pakistan, Turkey and China. Should India continue to be a member of BRICS? If yes, then how can it also be a member of the Quadrilateral Military Dialogue.
What kind of message are we trying to send out to our allies and opponents? Looks like India’s military and diplomatic stand is holding a messy position.
But most importantly India needs to build better relationship with its other neighbours, especially Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia as we all be needing the alliance for each other’s prosperity, safety, peace and harmony.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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