How India has made it clear to China that good relations and tranquilly at border cannot be separated First Post 04 Aug 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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How India has made it clear to China that good relations and tranquilly at border cannot be separated First Post 04 Aug 2023

          Wang Yi, reappointed as China’s foreign minister, met the Indian NSA, Ajit Doval in Johannesburg, on the sidelines of the Friends of BRICS meeting, last week. The Indian handout of the interaction quoted Doval stating, ‘the situation along the LAC in the Western Sector of the India-China boundary since 2020 had eroded strategic trust and the public and political basis of the relationship.’ It added that Doval ‘emphasized the importance of continuing efforts to fully resolve the situation and restore peace and tranquillity in border areas, to remove impediments to normalcy in bilateral relations.’

          A couple of days later, addressing the media, Indian foreign office spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, stated that President Xi and PM Modi had interacted on the sidelines of the G 20 meet in Bali last year. He mentioned that they had spoken of the need to stabilise bilateral ties. This was initially revealed in a Chinese statement quoting the Wang Yi- Doval interaction, compelling the Indian government to react.

The Indian foreign secretary, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, had then stated that the two leaders had only ‘exchanged courtesies’ in Bali. Why was the interaction hidden from the nation then is unknown. It could possibly be to avoid a political fallout. The fact that it was mentioned by the Chinese compelling the Indian government to react is an embarrassment by itself.

          Despite interactions at multiple levels, there are no signs of any thaw in bilateral ties. China issued stapled visas to three Indian wushu players from Arunachal, compelling the government to cancel the team’s participation. India announced that it has the right to respond. Since June this year, neither country has any journalist in the other. Both countries have refused to extend visas of journalists.

Simultaneously, there are media reports that there is ‘heightened’ Chinese military activity along the entire LAC. As per reports, Chinese infrastructure buildup continues unabated, and military and diplomatic talks have failed to yield any breakthrough. With China currently deployed close to its 1959 claim lines, the chances of its pull back are remote.

          India too has not been idle and has retaliated in its own way. India rejected Chinese automaker BYD’s USD 1 billion proposal, to set up a factory, on security concerns. Chinese mobile manufacturers are being investigated for financial wrongdoings. The Global Times stated, ‘About USD 670 million of Xiaomi’s funds have reportedly been frozen by India’s government since last year.’ Apple’s Chinese contract manufacturer’s request to establish a third plant in India has been rejected. MG Motors is being investigated for financial irregularities. The company is now seeking to sell 15% share of its India market to prevent its collapse.

China has vehemently protested Indian actions but to no avail. The Global Times in an editorial last Thursday stated, ‘India has also intensified scrutiny of investments by Chinese firms, undermining the confidence of Chinese investors.’ It also stated, ‘India has approved fewer than one-quarter of the 435 FDI applications from China since April 2020, when the government tweaked the FDI policy.’

The world is discussing the China plus 1 concept. Post COVID, companies investing in China have reduced. Even those which have invested in China are cutting back due to multiple reasons including greater interference by the Chinese government. They are seeking an alternative destination, most attractive of which is India. Ajay Banga the World Bank president recently stated, ‘India’s opportunity is to cash in on the China-plus-one opportunity. This is a three-to-five-year opportunity.’

Such has been the Chinese concern on companies quitting the mainland that the Global Times tweeted last Friday, ‘nearly 90% of 800 foreign enterprises have expressed satisfaction with China’s policies concerning foreign investors.’ How surveys are conducted and results drawn in an autocratic country like China are well known.

India had rejected Elon Musk’s offer of importing his China manufactured Tesla cars. But the Indian market was too attractive to ignore. The end result is that Tesla is in talks to establish a factory in India producing upto 500,000 electric cars annually for both the domestic market as also export to the Indo-Pacific. This will imply cutting down production lines in China. For China, India is an emerging competitor. Its mouthpieces keep harping that China cannot be removed from the global supply chain and investments in India will not make any difference.

          In the recent SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) online summit, India refused to endorse Chinese BRI (Belt Road Initiative) as also its supported Economic Development Strategy. In multiple global forums India has accused China of siding with Pakistan and blocking listing of global terrorists. Indian rejection of Chinese proposals has angered Beijing which has begun to believe that India is unwilling to accept any Chinese suggestions, solely due to spite.

          In the forthcoming BRICS summit in South Africa, India will continue refusing to back Chinese views. The common BRICS currency is unlikely to see the light of day as India believes that currencies remain a national issue, scuttling Chinese plans of making the dollar redundant. India will also delay expansion of the block as most nations seeking membership are being pushed by China. India’s insistence on multilateralism and rules based global order is a direct challenge towards China dominated policies in Asia.

          Militarily, Indian deployment matches the Chinese along the LAC. Rapid infrastructure development (though behind China) is steadily changing Indian reactions. The Chinese Yangtze debacle in the Tawang sector last year, is a lesson they will not forget for some time. India’s growing proximity to the west and its increased participation in anti-China groupings is a matter of concern for Beijing. India only agreed to export arms including the Brahmos missile to Chinese neighbours’ post deterioration in ties.

For China, India is a stumbling block which has emerged post Galwan. It is preventing Chinese companies from expanding their Indian market share. It has blocked Chinese investments though opening doors to other global concerns as also wooing companies looking to quit China or seeking the China plus 1 concept. Diplomatically, India is adamantly refusing to back any Chinese proposal in global bodies. India is embarrassing China by blocking its plans to dominate Asia.

Simultaneously, India is expanding its participation in groupings with an anti-China objective. India has been hinting to China that it must resolve the LAC in case it seeks a friendlier India. Delhi has also conveyed that it will not be cowed down by Beijing’s power. Despite all interactions, the message from India is that it will counter it at every stage. China remains aware that India is no pushover and attempting any military action could be foolhardy.

Delhi-Beijing ties have visibly deteriorated in diplomatic, economic and military spheres. They are in the freezer but have the possibility of being pulled out provided Beijing takes the initiative.