The joint statement after the seventh round of military talks between India and China had a positive tone towards it, but without any progress. What is your assessment of the progress since the September 10 meeting between the two foreign ministers in Moscow?
The fact that joint statements are being issued can be seen positively. But then, if the meetings ended without any joint statement, it would mean that no common minimum basis could be found and that a stalemate had occurred. Neither side wants to give the impression that the talks have broken down. They want to keep communication channels open, failing in which the chances of obstruction in an armed conflict increase. In the five points agreed upon by the Foreign Ministers, no tangible progress is visible. No disconnection occurred. In the sixth round of military talks it was agreed not to position more troops at the border, but with 40 to 50,000 troops already assembled, the need for more could be dispersed.
What is the cause of the cramp? There is also no mention of a return to the status quo ante if you look at the latest statements from military and diplomatic talks. Why is she?
China has committed aggression. He seeks to change the ground position in her favor by occupying disputed areas patrolled by Indian forces so far. It seeks to impose its own version of the LAC (Current Control Line) by force. Now there is talk of 1959 that even (former Prime Minister Jawaharlal) Nehru had rejected. India cannot accept this loss of claim on its territory, and consequently stall. The immediate need is to secede if a conflict is to be avoided, as in the Pangong Tso area, the forces are very close and, given what happened in Galwan and the changed engagement rules on our side that now allow the use of firearms for self-defense, things can get out of control. Restoration of the ante status quo can realistically be discussed only after the secession is made and followed by de-escalation.
So you are saying that the chances of another violent clash cannot be ruled out?
This is a real concern. It appears that north of Pangong Tso forces are nearby and south are within listening distance. After what happened in Galwan, our distrust of China has grown exponentially. South of Pangong Tso, the Chinese had tried to use primitive tactics of using nailed sticks etc. to displace us from one of our positions and the shooting seems to have been shot there and north of Pangong Tso as well, according to reports. Any impulsive action under pressure from either side could result in a much larger clash than in the Galwan Valley due to the use of firearms. The Chinese will be careful to avoid this, so will we, but the danger is there, and so the emphasis on secession, which is not a simple process, let it be said.
The two servicemen appear to be spending the winter in the highlands of Ladakh. Is that your assessment too?
We are running out of time. Once the transitions approach the force distribution in the summer positions it will no longer be possible. Recognizing this, the Indian side has made preparations for the winter setting. A major operation of supplying fuel and supplies, arranging winter clothing and tents has been taking place in very difficult conditions. Now we have to wait for the forces to spend the winter at these extreme heights. This display of determination on our part sends a strong message to the Chinese, who will also feel the pressure of winter setting. The Chinese have dug themselves into an uninhabitable position and forced us to respond.
At the last Quad meeting (October 6 in Tokyo), India did not name China by name. Both Japan and Australia. The US was the only one to call on China’s actions. Was this a missed opportunity for India to come out strongly against China’s aggressive behavior?
Official statements aside, Quad in reality intends to counter the growing Chinese threat. For diplomatic reasons there is reluctance to publicly project the Quad as run by China, though the Chinese see it as such. Japan and Australia have large economic stakes in China and want to limit its ambitions through pressure, not open confrontation. The US, which sees China as a strategic adversary and has become a problem in the presidential election, explains why it is vocal about Quad developing a security framework. Although India is cautious in its statements, its participation in the Quad at the ministerial level is a signal in itself. As border negotiations continue with China for a non-military solution, India would like to avoid complications. There will be ample opportunity for India in the future to call on China for its aggressive behavior.
Is India still very sensitive to China’s core interests? Is not it time for a rethink? And in that regard, do you agree with US Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun that India and the US have been very cautious?
Yes, in the face of China consistently rejecting constitutional changes in the J&K and not recognizing Arunachal Pradesh, India’s response seems timid. If China consistently undermines our strategic interests internationally and regionally and uses border military pressure to deny all existing border agreements, India must retaliate. China defines its core interests unilaterally, but for others to recognize those interests requires reciprocity. China is an elephant in the room as a result of US policies, not India. India stayed with China in Doklam and is now doing so in Ladakh, while the US did not push it into the South China Sea. China’s territorial claims on India stem from its invasion of Tibet, which requires us to modify our existing policy on Tibet.
When he returned to the Framework meeting, there was no joint statement after the talks. Without a joint statement, was the group able to portray unity or alignment of views?
The US would have pushed for a joint statement with a clear reference to the Chinese threat, the need for a security framework and China’s responsibility for Covid-19. Electoral needs would need a strong statement. The quad agenda includes other areas as well, whether linkage, humanitarian cooperation and disaster relief, healthcare and counter-terrorism, and this Quad wider agenda was highlighted in the India statement. The emphasis in the countries’ statements may have been different, but they did not contradict each other. India has supported the regular Framework meetings, noting its commitment to the group. A united front is being built against China, but at a pace that will depend on China’s future policies and actions.
How do you see the Framework “evolving in the coming years? Do you see it taking on a military dimension? Do you see other countries New Zealand, Vietnam or Indonesia joining the QuQad group”?
President Xi Jinpings’ ambitions to make China a prominent power will not change. China has focused on the areas that enable it to achieve this goal: a leadership in the development of new technologies, control over critical raw materials, and a link to the Chinese economy. He can not be repulsed without consequences both inside and outside the country. China needs to emerge from the first island chain for which it is building its fleet at a pace not seen historically. A stronger Framework will be a clear answer. The quad members emphasize ASEAN’s focus so as not to divide Asia, but the need is to co-select key ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. With China spreading its tentacles in the Pacific, New Zealand can unite. The Quad has a military dimension already, with the US-India-Japan Malabar tripartite exercise that Australia can join.
The US under President Donald Trump has been very vocal about China. Do you think one of the reasons why India is not calling China is because we are not sure what will be the US policy towards Beijing after the November elections?
What will be the US policy on China after the next presidential election will definitely have an impact on how India will treat China. However, we have issues with China that have nothing to do with US-China relations. These existed when US-China ties were strong. The issues are China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia for which India is an obstacle, its invasion of Tibet, claims to Indian territory, Pakistan building strategically against us, CPEC, harming us in our neighborhood, opposing our NSG membership, defending Pakistan in terrorism etc. Of course, US pressure on China serves our interests. We are partners in countering Chinas maritime threats in particular.
Do you see any change in world opinion towards China after the pandemic spread and its aggressive behavior towards its neighbors?
Yes, China is now seen as an aggressive, expansionist power by the US in particular, and Europe is also increasingly aware of its systematic changes with China, the threat it poses to European unity, the lack of reciprocity in trade, and the dislike for the model. its authoritarian. There is a backlash against the Belt and Road Initiative in some parts of Africa. Chinas debt trap policies are exposed in Sri Lanka. Western countries and Australia are closing the doors to 5G. The treatment of the Wuhan virus by Chinas, denying all its responsibility and its wolf warrior diplomacy have alienated the public in many countries. Its aggression in Ladakh has consolidated its negative image. This is helping us with some of our neighbors, especially in the Maldives. Our provision of a submarine in Myanmar is a significant step forward, balancing China’s sale of two submarines in Bangladesh
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