Observers and experts of international relations across the world should not be in a grand denial about China’s hegemonic designs and aggressive intent. Paltan, the war classic which came out in 2018 was premised on the Chinese incursion in 1967 and is an apt illustration of the dire memories between India and China, particularly in so far as hegemonic ambitions of China is concerned. The recent incidents at Pangong Lake and Nakula La in Sikkim along with the Chinese Chopper incursions inside Indian air space are part of a new Chinese stratagem of keeping India perpetually in the state of alertness and military readiness. The Chinese excel in this and the incidents in the movie Paltan reminds of the physically threatening antics by the Chinese for many years now. An Indian officer in the movie Paltan throws a challenge to the Chinese commander, “Rok Lo Apne logoon ko” (stop your people), otherwise something wrong will happen here today, Commander!” The Sino-Indian border standoffs have become more intense and frequent since the days of Doklam, Dongl Li, Daulat Beg Oldi and Sumdorong Chu. The COVID-19 pandemic that originated in China, provides India and the US to arrive at a common purpose, especially in the light of the globally hegemonic ambitions of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese have time and again followed a strategy of clandestine aggression often mixed with seeming goodwill in its foreign policy. The argument that India is a part of the globalized order that does not amount to much weight internationally, can be corrected through the right steps by using the COVID- 19 pandemic as an opportunity.
Since China’s strategy towards India could not yield the desired strategic dividends, Beijing seems to have pressurized Nepal into raising the border issue with New Delhi. This, in the longer run, will be harmful to the state of stability and regional goodwill in South Asia. China’s role as a nation supporting smaller nations of South Asia financially and strategically does not augur well for regional stability in South Asia as well as for improving ties with India. As a small nation, Nepal has always been in need of support. The evolving circumstances in South Asia and in Nepal have created ample opportunities for China to intervene and support Nepal. China’s role in pushing Nepal against India is becoming clearer, including Nepal’s open steps against Indian interests since 2015.
Lipulekh, one of the contested areas by Nepal, is critical for India in its use for the Mansarovar pilgrimage. Why is Nepal contesting this and other parts now? It is perhaps due to a tacit assurance of financial and strategic support by China, given K.P. Sharma Oli government’s proximity to China. Nepal has boundary differences with India for long, but the current reaction and immediacy amount to cartographic aggression brought about by the Maoist majority in the ruling dispensation in Nepalese Parliament. It was long decided by the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816 between Pratap Shah, the King of Nepal and British India that the regions belonged to India. India has negated Nepal’s claims on the ground of wrong facts and historical falsification. Nepal’s muscular approach to the contestation does not augur well for political stability between India and Nepal. In so far as India’s approach is concerned, going in with a strong position in diplomacy and negation of the Nepalese claims may be the need of the hour
A new Cold War has already begun between the US and China at various levels. India should revisit its dependence on Chinese trade. Along with discussion with Nepal, India should be planning a long term strategy against China to limit its footprints in South Asia. India should emphasize its “Make in India” and take other steps to self-help its economic situation and align itself with the principle of self-sufficiency and “Global is Local”. On the other hand, India should be ready to face emerging Chinese designs at the LAC which could also lead to full-blown out military confrontation. India should also plan scrutiny of portfolio investors from China. India should ensure steps to prevent takeovers of Indian commercial interests by foreign investors while the COVID-19 pandemic harms the Indian economy indefinitely. As such, the Government in India is rightly wary of the Chinese companies buying interests in India.
** Dr. Manan Dwivedi is a faculty, International Relations and International Organizations, IIPA, New Delhi & Dr. Shonit Nayan is RO at IIPA.**