In his latest column ‘Diplomacy after Galwan’, C Rajamohan, director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and contributing editor on international affairs for The Indian Express, evaluates how the ongoing stand-off between India and China will play out.
He states that while there is “a general consensus in Delhi that the Galwan encounter has produced a discontinuity in India’s China policy”, skeptics point out that structural constraints would limit dramatic changes in policy once the heat of the moment dissipates.
Rajamohan argues that “the potential direction of the Sino-Indian relationship is likely to depend on how the current military confrontation in Ladakh is resolved”.
In his view, “if it ends with a quick return to the status quo that prevailed in April, (the Sino-India policy) inertia is likely to limit radical policy departures”. If, on the other hand, “the Ladakh crisis ends in a setback for India, the pressure on Delhi to radically reorient its China policy will mount”.
He asserts that “at a time when most of the world is finding it hard to stand up against relentless political, economic and military pressures from Beijing, successful Indian resistance to China’s expansionism would be a definitive moment in the geopolitical evolution of Asia”.
But he clarifies that doing this will not be easy.“While Delhi is in a better position today than it was in 1962, China’s capabilities and standing have grown manifold since then,” he writes. “China today is the world’s second-most important power and a valued political and economic partner for most countries in the world. Very few capitals would want to insert themselves into the conflict between India and China”.
That is why, he argues, “Delhi should not waste its diplomatic capital in seeking public expressions of support from around the world”.
But Rajamohan analyses the contrasting stance of two key countries: Russia and the US.
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“While the past suggests India has a special claim to Russian affections, there is a Sino-Russian strategic cohabitation today in opposition to America. Both Russia and China have been grumbling about India’s growing warmth towards the US in the last few years… Unlike Russia’s public stance of neutrality between India and China, Washington has come out in favour of Delhi”.
He concludes by asserting that “if Delhi comes out of this crisis wounded, its troubles at home and the world will mount significantly. A weakened India will find re-casting its China policy even harder. But an India that comes out of this confrontation with its head held high, will find its international political stock rising and its options on China expanding”.
It is for this reason, “the stakes for India and the world, then, are far higher today than in 1962”.
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