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India-China standoff: Be patient, it's a long-drawn-out game, say experts

india | IST

India-China standoff: Be patient, it's a long-drawn-out game, say experts


China-India border tensions 'remain high' despite some force pullbacks this year, feels the US intelligence community. On the challenge of de-escalation, an expert pointed out that the danger is that the negotiation is left to the field commanders. 'Both sides would just stick to their guns.'

It is 16 months since the Galwan clashes, when 20 Indian soldiers, and at least four Chinese soldiers were killed. While Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at Pangong Tso and Gogra Post, the two sides remain locked in a tense standoff at the line of actual control (LAC).

Where do things stand? To discuss this further, CNBC-TV18’s Parikshit Luthra spoke to former Indian diplomat Vishnu Prakash; Lieutenant General (retired) Syed Ata Hasnain, who is former GOC 15 Corps and former military secretary of the Indian Army; and Andrew Leung, independent China strategist and chairman of Andrew Leung International Consultants
China-India border tensions "remain high" despite some force pullbacks this year, the US intelligence community has told the US Congress, asserting that Beijing seeks to use coordinated, whole-of-government tools to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbours to acquiesce to its preferences, including its claims over disputed territory.
Prakash said, “With China, one should expect the unexpected. They are masters in brinkmanship, they will push the envelope and test your patience. It’s a battle of wits. They will also always try to see who blinks first. So one thing that you do not do with the Chinese is impatience. Strong language is generally a hallmark of Chinese diplomacy. They always use stronger language. The 13th round has not made progress. But the dialogue process is on and we need to play the game as the Chinese played it. It is a waiting game, and we have to let keep our guard up and build our infrastructure.”
Hasnain said, “I fully endorse every word spoken by Vishnu Prakash, I think he has put it very appropriately, China is a difficult player to contend with. That is why I’m personally not disappointed by what has emerged from the 13th commander (level) talks. If you go there with huge expectation, you do come out disappointed. But I for one know that this is a very long-drawn-out game.”
He added, “As far as tension on the line of actual control is concerned well, it is nothing compared to what exists on the LoC. There you have troops every meter to meter; here you have 50,000-60,000 troops deployed now. But not all of them are on the LAC. They are primarily at the friction points and there are large tracts of area which are really not held but on patrol to some extent.”
“What is very important to remember here is the Chinese doctrine way back in 2003, they decided that they would adopt the three-warfare strategy -- a cyber, media, and legal. Now, obviously, everything is working as per that doctrine. You can see that there is an attempt to browbeat you on the ground, while at the same time playing a psychological game, and these mind games will carry on for fairly long. They know the Indian side thinks it is not very good at this, and perhaps will get perturbed or take some actions… once you have that kind mental turbulence, you tend to make a lot of mistakes. This is a typical Chinese way of working on the border,” Hasnain said.
Andrew Leung said, “China’s dream is leadership, reclaiming China's vital place in the world. But I think we should not theorise too much in terms of these border disputes. Let us be more specific and more pragmatic on the ground. The reality remains that leaderships on both sides of the boundary recognise the need to de-escalate, because both countries don't want a war. Because the war can easily escalate into something catastrophic for both countries. Now, that is easier said than done, because the line of actual control is not clearly defined to the other side. Of course, it is clearly defined in the eyes of India. It is also clearly defined in the eyes of China, but there is no meeting of minds and that is why both sides need to negotiate.”
He added, “I think the danger is that the negotiation is left to the field commanders and the field commanders of course do not want to err on the side of generosity, and both sides would just stick to their guns. This is not very conducive to de-escalation.”
For full interview, watch accompanying video...
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