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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

ExplainSpeaking: Both New Delhi and Beijing are weighing their options – what can they be?

India-China border dispute: As things stand today, this crisis appears set to surpass the nearly two-and-a-half-month stand-off at Doklam in 2017.

Written by Ravish Tiwari , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 7, 2020 2:18:32 pm
India China dispute, coronavirus latest news, Madhya Pradesh cabinet reshuffle, Corps Commander talks India China, Galwan, express explained, indian express Both sides have dug their heels in – China has unilaterally taken actions to alter the LAC, which India demands should be rolled back. (File/PIB)

Hi there,

It has been two months since clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the LAC in Ladakh resulted in a military standoff. The first clashes took place during the night of May 5-6 at Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley, and there are now not only more friction points but also a a bigger military build-up by both sides.

As things stand today, this crisis appears set to surpass the nearly two-and-a-half-month stand-off at Doklam in 2017. It also threatens to sink the dictum of “differences should not become disputes” that was reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping after the Doklam stand-off.

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There appears to be no progress on the ground since the last Corps Commander level talks on June 30 to inspire confidence. In fact, both sides have dug their heels in – China has unilaterally taken actions to alter the LAC, which India demands should be rolled back.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the troops in Ladakh sought to suggest that the burden of the 1962 defeat is not going to weigh down New Delhi’s response to Beijing’s military posturing.

The military talks don’t seem to heading anywhere. With differences on the build-up having escalated into a dispute now, the reliance on the diplomatic dialogue crafted for differences appears gasping for breath. The veiled economic threats – banning Chinese apps like TikTok and WeChat, obstructing Chinese firms from bidding for Indian contracts in telecom, infrastructure or power projects – from New Delhi do not seem to have had much impact in Beijing so far.

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It may now be the time for both capitals to look at their strategic calculations again. For New Delhi, the nature (economic, military or diplomatic) and intensity of escalation to press its point remains the moot question, while Beijing has to weigh its calculations on precipitating a permanently disputed relationship.

The next steps from both sides this week may offer a window into these calculations. No change will mean a protracted stand-off with the risks associated with militaries standing eyeball-to-eyeball.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 continues its upward trajectory of adding more cases every week over the previous one. About 1.44 lakh new Covid-19 positive cases have been detected last week. This is about 60 per cent of all active cases as on date. The four hotspot states – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Gujarat – still continue to contribute over 60 per cent of weekly new cases across the country. These states are home to major industrial/business activities, and the high caseload is a drag on economic activities across the country.

In politics, Madhya Pradesh witnessed a massive tussle and background negotiations within the BJP before Shivraj Singh Chouhan finally got a full fledged Cabinet almost 100 days after taking over as chief minister. This has fuelled speculation about an organisational and government rejig in the BJP at the Centre too. Political activity will slowly start gaining pace in poll-bound Bihar as well.

The rising Covid-19 caseload, however, continues to subdue public confidence. The last one month of unlockdown has seen an uptick in economic activities and economic demand, but these remain far from normal levels. Postponing entrance examinations to professional courses in medical and engineering, and keeping schools and colleges shut reflects the uncertain path ahead.

It’s going to be a tentative and slow path to recovery to normalcy. We must walk with all safety and precautions.

Cheers,

Ravish

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