India: Foiling China’s post-COVID Designs

By Jagdish N Singh*
Friday, July 10th, 2020 @ 4:48PM

An ineluctable message from the new pandemic and its continuing devastations across the globe is that all nations fight it together or perish. But the communist leadership in Beijing has taken advantage of India’s current predicament to advance its imperial cartographic aggression against the country. On  June 15, 2020, Chinese communist troops killed twenty Indian Army personnel, including the Commanding Officer of 16th Bihar Regiment, in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh. India’s former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao says that since 1959 nothing of this scale had happened in the run-up to a full-fledged war ( 1962) between New Delhi and Beijing. According to one study, it was the worst violence since 1967.

In a media interview, India’s former  Ambassador to China and Pakistan Gautam Bambawale has confirmed China does not believe in its  1993 Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement and subsequent confidential building agreements with India. Beijing believes in unilaterally defining the LAC and moving its ground positions accordingly.

India’s former diplomat Jayant Prasad has rightly warned against any complacency vis-a-vis China because the recent standoffs in Depsang, Chumar, and Doklam were defused. There are also reports of Chinese build-up at Pangong Tso in India’s eastern Ladakh.

New Delhi would do well to take all steps aimed at countering  Beijing’s anti-India designs.    There is a near consensus across the Indian strategic spectrum that at present New Delhi cannot take on Beijing economically. The current balance of India-China trade is estimated to be in favor of Beijing.   India’s imports from China in 2019-2020 reached $65 billion, out of $81 billion two-way trade. India does not attract global supply chains. 

In this situation, New Delhi could use its status as the world’s largest democracy to rope in powerful democracies, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and  Israel and isolate China on the diplomatic chessboard.

A  greater part of the enlightened international community is furious over China’s highly negative role in the outbreak of the coronavirus. The feeling across this spectrum is that the WHO is under the influence of China and has done little to arrest the virus. India could lead in efforts to cure the health body and,  in the process, expose China and isolate it internationally.   

New Delhi could use its naval command to arm-twist China into behaving reasonably. Over 90 percent of Chinese trade takes place through the Malacca Straits. The Straits is near India’s Andaman- Nicobar Islands. New Delhi could play its card from there.

The consensus goes that India’s ever-growing bonhomie with the United States can be put to best use to counter China. Time is opportune for this. During his 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump claimed the Chinese were stealing jobs from the American people.  US-China frictions have since reached a new high during the global coronavirus crisis. President Trump has been claiming China is responsible for the virus that has paralyzed the US economy and as of now resulted in historic levels of unemployment and more than 133,000 US deaths.

The current administration in Washington is on fine terms with India. Recently, American President Donald Trump has announced he would like to expand the G-7 to G-11 by adding India into it.  Trump has invited India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the G-7 summit likely to be held around the UN General Assembly session in September, in New York.

New Delhi shouldn’t wait until then to declare it is ready to be adequately involved in the Quad ( Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, including Australia and Japan)) aimed at containing China’s growing naval and military build-up in the region. 

* The author is a New Delhi-based journalist.

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