Sino-India Border Clashes Have Grave Implications for South Asia

The Sino-India border standoff in eastern Ladakh is expected to be resolved peacefully soon, says the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Chief –the outfit is India’s primary border patrol organization with its border with Tibet. A tweet by Indian newspaper Times of India (TOI) cited it and came the same day a videoclip by the South Asian United Social Media Front touted “Ladakh we are coming”.

According to Pravin Sawhney, “What is single important thing India could do to ease tensions with China & Pakistan? Restore 370!”.

Sawhney, an ex-Indian army and renowned analyst, has written “why India can’t defeat China or Pakistan in a war”, and is now writing on “Wars India should prepare for this century”. His book “Dragon on our footstep” is well read and quoted. “His tweets make sense,” says an independent observer, given that there are implications for South Asia’s strategic environment, a recent webinar recently said.

Key talking points:

There is a severe perception gap between China and India. Both sides believe that their policies are purely defensive. However, despite their self-perceived defensive purposes, the current conflict is not going to end anytime soon.

The United States is using a binding military strategy to ally with India against China gradually.

Interdependence means China and India cannot afford to be enemies.

India is only concerned with prestige, not with deterrence.

Border disputes are unlikely to escalate to nuclear conflicts.

Without an improvement in Indo-Pak relations, and to some extent, US-Iran relations, an important reason for instability though not the only one in Afghanistan, will continue to fester.

While evaluating the US’ role and stance on the Sino-India border clashes in the webinar, Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC, was of the view that the Ladakh crisis underscored growing Indian diplomatic problems in its backyard, putting New Delhi in hot water with both its top rivals –Pakistan and China. He warned that the South Asian environment was increasingly volatile, raising the prospects of miscalculation that could lead to a dangerous escalation.

Kugelman also pointed out that the Galwan crisis was not only impacting India and China; India-Pakistan relations would also be affected. ‘New Delhi and Islamabad are both worried that the other side could take advantage of the Ladakh crisis to harm the other.’ He also agreed with other speakers that US-India relations would further improve, given the Sino-India crisis.

A Chinese analyst at the webinar stressed that New Delhi’s defense technology cooperation with Washington may bring it closer to the US orbit and change the geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific region.

May be not so much, according to an Indian analyst. “Indian thinking that its closeness to US keeps China in check is outdated -especially when Xi has directly challenged the US in South China Sea!,” says Sawhney in his latest tweet.

According to a Pakistani defense analyst, “with Indo-US strategic alliance now taking tangible shape, Pakistan will find itself in the other side of the fence.”

“This will happen if the Pak-US relations are viewed through Indian lens,” he said earlier.

US policy on global agenda is driven by their State interests, according to an Islamabad-based observer who served as Ambassador in a Middle East capital. “One (however) has to be clear what America’s state interests are on global agenda…they will pursue that,” says the former envoy. “Secondly, their defense policy for national security declares China as their enemy”. “So we will be on the wrong side of the fence when it comes to “containment of China policy”, says the observer, dovetailing Pakistani defense analyst’s take: “Indo-US budding alliance is in response to this (Sino-US strategic rivalry”.

But “we can navigate this tricky path and minimize the damage by adopting a pragmatic approach.”

The world as a whole faces a lot of uncertainty, unpredictability, and instability, the webinar concluded. “What is needed is global leadership, consensus, and flexibility.”