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The first move on the India-China chessboard | HT Editorial – Editorials


The first round of talks with China regarding territory is similar to the pawn move that opens a chess game. In fact, it would have been a surprise if the meetings between middle-level diplomats and military officials from India and China last week had resulted in something concrete. Initial commitments consist of establishing motives, determining red lines and establishing credibility. Many more rounds of this type can be expected. Arguably, New Delhi’s initial interest will be to find out exactly what led Beijing to block access to the disputed central part of Pangong Tso. It is still unclear if there is any geopolitical reason behind China’s sudden move to raise the temperature on the border, going beyond concerns about new roads and bunkers. If so, the stakes will be much higher and will require the deployment of a wide range of pressure points to convince China to withdraw.

India expects a long period of negotiation and confrontation. The Doklam confrontation took more than two months to resolve and Sumdorong Chu’s previous altercation took almost eight years. Today, with an even more assertive and secure China, and the rest of the world distracted by coronavirus disease, India’s task will be much more difficult. Beijing tends to see democracies as weak in character. The government will have to communicate in deed and word, both nationally and internationally, that it is impossible to accept China’s unilateral and coercive actions. The Indian government must also communicate with its people and the media about the need for patience.

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