On June 15, 2020, an altercation between Indian and Chinese troops resulted in the deaths of twenty Indian soldiers and an undetermined number of Chinese soldiers. The conflict is a part of a larger border standoff between the two sides on the Line of Actual Control that is taking place along the Galwan River.

The majority of the Indian strategic community agrees that the border conflict heralds an irreversible downturn in India-China relations. They contend that the entire foundation of the relationships that developed during the visit to Beijing in 1988 by the former Indian prime leader Rajiv Gandhi has been weakened, if not completely destroyed. But how did relations between the two nations deteriorate to this point, and what does the Galwan conflict mean for relations going forward?

Present day scenario

A turning point in the conflict will be marked by the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers in a bloody encounter near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on June 15, 2020.

The longest-standing modern alliance in Asia is between these two powers.
Both sides’ experts hold this opinion.
Hu Shisheng refers to it as the “lowest moment since the border conflict of 1962,” while Brahma Chellaney labels it the “tipping point” in relations between China and India.
Each side holds the other accountable for the current situation. Hu asserts that the Indian government has “stepped up attempts to act harsh toward China,” whilst former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon says that what transpired in Ladakh represents a “fundamental and profound shift in [China’s] behaviour.”

According to India, China’s most recent actions on the LAC in eastern Ladakh have severely harmed relations between the two countries and broken the framework for border management that both sides have established since 1993.
Misperceptions seem to be getting worse, and the root of the conflict is a lack of trust. In order to understand the reasons why the relationship has deteriorated, this article analyses the dynamics between India and China.

The majority of Indian academics agree that India’s government revised its foreign policy ten years before China did the same.

By the late 1990s, the equidistance or nonalignment policy was out of date. India, unlike China, was not actively looking for a new organising principle or overarching plan. Instead, it made a number of changes as a result of its experience.

The nuclear dimension was added by the Vajpayee administration, the American dimension by the Manmohan Singh administration, and the marine dimension by the present Modi administration.

Despite the perception in some Chinese circles that Modi’s foreign policy represents a dramatic change from past practise, the theory of multi-alignment and the pursuit of international space are familiar themes in Indian foreign policy.

However, there is a clear distinction in the factors that led China and India to alter their foreign policies. China was a significant factor for India, although China didn’t seem to give it much thought when coming up with a new strategy. The successive Indian governments deliberately pursued two goals: forging a strategic alliance with the United States and creating the infrastructure for interaction with China.

When Modi and Xi met in September 2014, the positive perception stood in contrast to the new prime minister’s straightforward approach to expressing India’s concerns. There were more positive indicators of chemistry when Modi visited China again in April 2015, even if India did not appreciate Xi’s dedication of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The Chinese strategic community appeared to have conclusions regarding the Modi administration inside a year. Early predictions indicated that Modi’s foreign policy would be “assertive.” They pointed out that the goal of the “neighbourhood first” strategy was to support India’s authority in South Asia and provide economic advantages to fight China’s strategic advances.
It was assumed that it might be harmful to China’s interests.

The India-China-U.S. Trilateral journey

Since 1945, the United States has served as the protector of the regional order in Asia. Chinese history viewed the United States to be an ideological rival, but because China needed American technology and money to modernise, Beijing learned to live with American hegemony until it was confident in its own abilities. Even while India and America occasionally hold opposing views, their disagreements have never been motivated by the same ideologies, and India regards America as a vital ally in its own modernization. It is important to consider the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific, particularly how likely it is to influence future India-China ties as China gears up to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and India restructures its maritime policy to satisfy domestic and strategic requirements.

It appears like the two countries are at a turning point. A downward spiral toward armed conflict, armed coexistence, coexistence with collaboration and rivalry, and partnership are the four possible outcomes. Partnership seems unlikely just now. Armed conflict would be foolish since both would suffer, to a lesser or larger extent. It is hoped that China does not see a complete victory. Trust is what distinguishes coexistence with weapons from coexistence with collaboration and rivalry. None exist right now. Building the trust piece by piece will be necessary, starting with the LAC in eastern Ladakh. China should be ready to abandon any notion that the boundary dispute can be separated from the greater bilateral relationship in order to rebuild confidence.

They ought to be able to discuss the false impressions of their own identities and potential solutions. As China moves toward the centre of the global stage, a crucial question would be whether it can afford to have an unfriendly India on its border, and whether India can afford to block one or two doors to multialignment that have been beneficial to it (Russia). A road map that might start a top-down examination of the relationship could result from an honest discussion followed by wide understandings. If the two presidents are successful in doing this, there are political figures with sufficient expertise on both sides, such as the respective national security advisers (or equivalent) and foreign ministries, who can convert the general understandings into policy.

This might be the only way to gradually develop understanding and trust. When both parties have distinct processes for making decisions and negotiating strategies, it may also be helpful to address specific issues at the functional levels so that there is more than just one-sided communication.

By piyush

Writes on Geopolitics and Foreign Affairs, Avid learner. Reads books and sips Tea.

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