The Indian Army is prepared for the long haul in Eastern Ladakh, while the Modi government rips apart the Chinese economy with apps ban, exclusion of Chinese companies in government contracts and boycott of imports from China.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is now desperate for disengagement talks, as it is Beijing’s only chance to save face after an unforgiving assault on the Chinese economy. On the other hand, India is taking it slow. There is no hurry or panic on India’s part because New Delhi understands that it gets to hurt China on the economic front as long as the standoff continues.
The longer the PLA takes to disengage, the more embittered Sino-India ties will become. And embitterment means India issuing product-specific restrictions to hurt Chinese imports like the latest restriction on colour TV sets. The education and telecom sectors are also on the government’s radar, and as long as the military stand-off continues, India has strong justification for every such move. Moreover, New Delhi also gets to throw customs-related obstacles in the way of Chinese products.
India can afford to keep the economic front open, in fact, this is an unprecedented opportunity for India to drastically reduce trade deficit with China and cut dependence on Beijing. But China doesn’t relish economic warfare. China is an exports-based economy that cannot afford to lose a huge market next door like India. This explains the restlessness within the PLA when it comes to disengagement talks.
According to HT, the PLA made an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a new normal at the Line of Actual Control (LAC)- the de facto Sino-India border. China has been trying to get an upper hand in the disengagement talks and wants to create a new status quo. But the Indian side remains adamant about restoration of status quo ante and the Chinese moving back to the pre-April 20 positions at the friction points.
HT has quoted a top government official familiar with the government discussions regarding the standoff situation as saying, “The PLA has made it out to be a staring match and wants India to blink. We are also prepared to wait it out and take other steps to make Beijing realise the adverse impact the boundary dispute has on the bilateral relationship.”
China wants to play the ‘who blinks first’ game and is pinning its hopes on the Modi government facing domestic pressure to hurry into disengagement. India’s assertiveness has also caught China by surprise. New Delhi’s attitude regarding face-offs and stand-offs has become more and more assertive and altering the status quo is no longer a cakewalk for the PLA.
As for Beijing, status quo ante doesn’t seem a very comfortable option. The PLA lost way too much of blood during the Galwan valley face-off with the Indian Army’s 16 Bihar Regiment and the Chinese nationals are already angered by the manner in which the PLA casualties were demeaned by the CCP. Returning with dead bodies and a status quo ante will bring a lot of shame for PLA Commander-in-chief and CCP General Secretary, Xi Jinping.
China had starting pushing the PLA troops around April 19, when the Coronavirus Pandemic had gripped India. China was thinking that the Pandemic was an opportunity to grab Indian territory. But China met an assertive Indian soldier that led to a dramatic military stand-off.
China wanted to create a new normal in Eastern Ladakh, but India hasn’t let it go ahead with its ambitious plans. Now, India has caught China on the backfoot. New Delhi can use this opportunity to reverse encroachments that might go beyond the present stand-off itself. New Delhi can arm-twist Beijing into reversing the 2013 land grab or even the territories that China started occupying only after the 1962 Sino-India war. The fact remains that the Chinese economy will keep getting debilitated as long as the stand-off continues. It is China, not India, which is desperate to end the stand-off soon.