As long as the Indian Army was at its peace-time locations due to the coronavirus, the Chinese were able to sneak into Indian territory at Pangong Tso lake and set up their bases. Once their chicanery was detected and the Indian forces roused from their locations, the People's Liberal Army (PLA) is having a rough time in actual combat.
Experts say that by threatening India, China is showing its true colors. Under President for Life Xi Jinping, the country will continue to be more nationalistic and driven by the power that the PLA provides the country with. After Xi ascendancy to power, the decision-making authority in the country has become highly centralized. China now feels that the land and maritime territorial issues, which it has a long list of, should be resolved in a manner that it seeks.
Dr Jagannath P. Panda, Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (MPIDSA), says: “China has become highly nationalistic and pursues an aggressive agenda under Xi Jinping. He will not make any concessions or show flexibility to India. What China wants is that India should stop building border infrastructure. Through its aggression, China is showing its reservations about India carrying out infrastructure development, building a strong military and even strengthening relations with the US.”
Panda says, by leading the transgressions across the border, China is putting pressure on India. Although the Chinese strategy of trying to browbeat India militarily has resulted in failure, the dragon will keep trying to harassing India. It will make more attempts to encroach and take over Indian territory as per its snitching habit—the salami slicing strategy. Also, these encroaching tactics will help during talks in a quid pro quo—in Beijing's perception, Indian troops should withdraw further into India while the Chinese troops remain in India or on the border.
Panda says that through these manoeuvres China wants India to compromise. “But India will not show flexibility because New Delhi knows that being flexible with the communist system will lead to bigger problems. Therefore, we can't compromise but have to stand up to the dragon. India has to accept that the Chinese problem will linger on, hence stay prepared.” For India it is important to keep talking to China even if there is no breakthrough. Right after the Galwan Valley incident, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had spoken with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to discuss peaceful ways to resolve the border problem.
Similarly, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too held talks with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe in Moscow immediately after the Aug-Sept border clashes. Talks do not hold much meaning for China, as it is not in the habit of respecting these whether it is with India or it is with the smaller nations in the South China Sea. The communist system does not bother about international covenants or UN mandates either.
Therefore, with India, China wants that its southern neighbor should accept its sovereignty in Asia and recognize China as the ultimate power and bow to its wishes. As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) follows grander geo-political objectives for the country, it expects India to remain a subordinate power. Panda feels that China was only looking for a suitable time to move against India.
“The CCP finds that the current climate is suitable for a number of reasons. China is under global pressure due to the corona pandemic, therefore does not want India to be critical over Covid. The CCP celebrates its 100 years next year so Xi has to show the country’s might and prestige before the people. As Xi has been building a national consolidation strategy, this is the right time to have a showdown with India.” However, with the Indian military humiliating the Chinese troops a number of times on the border, the latter’s strategy to show India poorly has floundered.
Even during the sneak attack on Indian troops at Galwan Valley on June 15, the PLA was repulsed and forced to go back to their territory behind the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The India Army lost 20 men while the Chinese are believed to have lost over 40 soldiers. It has been difficult to verify their exact numbers as the PLA and the top Chinese brass have kept quiet about their casualties.
Once again when the Chinese decided to take usurp more Indian territory through army action at Pangong Lake between August 31-Sept 2, they were forced to go back by Indian soldiers. As an angry PLA is licking its wounds repeatedly on the Indian border, a humiliated China has rushed even more arms and troops at the border.
He adds that China has made a big mistake by not acknowledging India's capability. “The way we have retaliated against China, they have been taken by surprise. Now, that China is caught in a Catch-22 situation, it is studying India's response on the border carefully,” adds Panda. The lesson for India is that the China problem is not going to go away, so India has to be cautious. The way out is to keep engaging China diplomatically and militarily..