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India is right to be firm in China | HT Editorial – Editorials


India has indicated that it will not back down in any of the border clashes it has with China. Presumably, this means that the Narendra Modi government will settle for nothing less than the Chinese troops returning to their original positions and the status quo restored to the Current Line of Control. There is no doubt that this is the correct position: the experience of all of China’s neighbors has been that concessions are treated as weakness, not friendship. Beijing may have hoped that its surprise three-point mobilization in Ladakh and Sikkim will result in a quick round of the ill-named Chinese ladies. Instead, both sides are settling for something more akin to the old Middle Kingdom go game, a battle of maneuver that will last all summer.

The Galwan Valley confrontation is the latest in a series of confrontations sparked by Chinese attempts to hinder, if not block, the construction of Indian infrastructure along the border. India has accelerated road construction to the Daulat Beg Oldie area in northern Ladakh since repeated clashes in that region. The construction of a connecting highway into the Galwan Valley was apparently the trigger for China to send thousands of soldiers. While China has tried to hamper construction before, the size of its intervention is unusual, indicating that there may be greater ambitions involved. China’s description of the situation as “stable and controllable” is slightly reassuring. But motives hardly matter. The Indian position must be the same independently. The difficult part will be calibrating India’s response to pressure China and establish the credibility of India’s response. New Delhi must be prepared to demonstrate that if events along the border spiral out of control, they will have a serious impact on other parts of bilateral relations.

China has long sought stability on its southern border, as well as mastery of the terrain. As India has stepped up its infrastructure, a process that has also included the deployment of fighters, new artillery, cruise missiles, and, more recently, US helicopters and airlifts, its dominance is under threat. India’s bold moves regarding Kashmir and China’s deteriorating geopolitical environment may be taking Beijing to the top. If so, it is one more reason for India to hold its ground.

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