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Explained Ideas: Why China is flexing its muscle

India-China Galwan faceoff: New Delhi must reduce its military and economic imbalance with Beijing for long-term regional stability and its own security, says Raja Mohan.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 19, 2020 9:20:24 pm
India China border dispute, India China Line of Actual Control, Line of Actual Control dispute, Modi Xi Jinping, Indian Express Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Express Photo/File)

The tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between Indian security forces and China’s PLA have renewed the question of how New Delhi should deal with a rising, assertive Beijing.

According to C Raja Mohan, director of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and contributing editor on international affairs for The Indian Express, the Chinese establishment, and others, are using the changed constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir to justify the PLA’s aggression and make Beijing a party to the Kashmir dispute.

But this argument holds little water because the changes in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir have no impact on the current territorial disposition with China and Pakistan. In fact, Raja Mohan argues in The Indian Express, “It’s a pity that India’s debate on the Ladakh crisis is fixated in finding China’s motive.”

The reasons behind China’s muscle-flexing in fact, are “the PLA’s growing military capabilities and the political will to use them,” Raja Mohan says. New Delhi must reduce its military and economic imbalance with Beijing for long-term regional stability and its own security. While New Delhi has not changed the situation on the ground in the disputed parts of Jammu and Kashmir, China has done so in the South China Sea, and “matched those moves with physical steps to gain effective control over the disputed waters.”

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Former Foreign Secretary and India’s Ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale, looks at Beijing’s attempts to reorder the Indo-Pacific as its zone of influence. Taking off from an article by Singapore’s Prime Minister, Gokhale examines in The Indian Express how it is important for ASEAN to maintain a balance between the United States and China in the SCS.

Thus far, the littoral states and those with a stake in the Indo-Pacific had benefited from the security provided by the US — the primary maritime power in the region — as well as the economic rise of China. But Beijing’s recent territorial claims in the region — “neither treaty-based nor legally sound” — “are neither benign nor helpful for long-term peace and stability.”

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Yet, ASEAN will continue to try and balance China and the US, and a radical change in regional alignments is unlikely. India has been a stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific and SCS for millennia. It must do more to make its presence felt. “The real choice is not between China and America — it is between keeping the global commons open for all or surrendering the right to choose one’s partners for the foreseeable future,” Gokhale writes.

It is in India’s benefit to ensure that the SCS remains part of the global commons and China is encouraged to pursue its interests in a “legitimate manner”. For this, India must be responsive to ASEAN’s expectations. Regional arrangements like RCEP hold great importance in this respect.

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