India’s National Security Strategy 2020 Inescapable Imperatives “China Containment”
China presented itself as India’s ‘Implacable Enemy’ when a China Occupied Tibet obliterating Independent Tibet as a centuries old buffer state in 1950, China imposed its borders with India on India’s Himalayan Watershed raising irredentist claims against India on centuries-old established geographical frontiers.
China in 2020 with its military adventurism in Eastern Ladakh sequentially and relentlessly following seven decades of similar military provocations violating multiple China-India Border Agreements, emboldened by “China Appeasement’ and ‘Risk Aversion’ policies of past Indian Governments leaves no political or strategic space for India other than adopting a firm policy of “China Containment”.
China foisted a militarily adventurist borders dispute on India which China has perpetuated for 70 years defying all reasonable solutions. Chi has deliberately impeded solution of China Occupied Tibet-India Himalayan Border Dispute as any demarcation resulting from satisfactory solution would rob China of leverages against India of political and military coercion.
Fast forwarding history of China-India conflictual relations and border turbulences inflicted by China ‘Slow Creep’ of nibbling away at Indian Line of Actual Control on pretext of ‘Perceptional Differences” on alignment of the demarcated Line of Actual Control, interspersed with the Sino-India War 1062 and the 1967, 1975 and 1986.87 major China-India militany standoffs the picture in Mid-May 2020 is “Grim”.
China –India Military Confrontation in 2020, as I have reflected in my Book ‘China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives’ in 2015 and my various Papers and Lectures thereafter is that China-India Military Confrontation is no longer a mere “Boundary Dispute” but has graduated into the realm of Asia’s most pronounced and defining geopolitical rivalries with long term strategic implications.
Geopolitical rivalries draw-in other Major Powers with stakes in Asian Security and more pointedly in the new geopolitical construct of Indo Pacific, and especially when Asia’s two Major Powers are militarily jostling each other on their contested borders with massed military strengths.
Contemporaneously, it needs to be highlighted that in the backdrop of the current intensifying China-India Military Confrontation in 2020 is marked by two major factors—one geopolitical, and the other military.
Geopolitically, China in 2020 is geopolitically weakly placed, both regionally and globally. This arises from global concerns of Major Powers that China is on a wild aggressive rampage across Indo Pacific reminiscent of Hitler’s unchecked rampage across Europe on eve of World War II in late 1930s.
The military factor that pervades and rattles China in 2020 is that especially in the period 2014-20 under current Indian PM Narendra Modi, India has fast-tracked its border defence infrastructure in Eastern Ladakh in terms of roads, bridges and forward airfields in close vicinity of Indian Territory of Aksai Chin militarily usurped by China in 1050s to build the Chinese Highway through it linking China Occupied Tibet with China Occupied Xingjian. China perceives that India’s developed border infrastructure makes both the Aksai Chin Highway and China’s flagship Pakistan project of CPEC Highway passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Additionally, India in the last six years India has started closing in the asymmetrical differentials in its military power with China in conventional military power. India has achieved credible nuclear deterrence with China with Beijing under India’s missiles ranges.
it is against this geopolitical and military backdrop that the current Galwan Military Clashes and Standoff needs to be viewed and analysed.
India after 70 years has finally shed its ‘Political Timidity’ in facing China’s relentless mix of political and military coercion on the Line of Control, China’s relentless offensive to downsize India and to impede India’s emergence as an Emerged Power.
In Mid-2020, India’s relations with China can be characterised as one of intense “Strategic Distrust” of China, and to use the Chinese phrase applied by China to its friendship with its ‘Iron Brother’-Pakistan’ that India’s ‘Strategic Distrust’ of China is as “High as the Himalayas and as Deep as the Indian Ocean”.
Seventy years of ‘China Appeasement’ and ‘Risk Aversion’ policies of past Indian Governments has resulted in India reaching a ‘Tipping Point’ in post Mid-May 2020 Eastern Ladakh military clashes inflicted by PLA Chinese Army resulting in PM Modi assertively declaring that “Era of Expansionism is Over”
This assertion was made by PM Modi on his visit to HQ 14 Corps and troops of Ladakh Garrison facing China’s massed Army formations in China Occupied Tibet. The Indian Prime Minister without naming China but abundantly and unmistakeably aimed this expression at China made in context of Galwan clashes.
The assertion ‘Era of Expansionism is Over’ and that India’s Sovereignty will be defended at every inch was putting China on notice of India’s intent that henceforth in relation to Chinese military misadventures against India on the Line of Actual Control will be militarily contested with matching Indian military force.
The ‘Expansionism’ reference was very apt and timely because China in the period 2004-14 of Congress Government had nibbled away at Indian Territory in Ladakh to expand its military presence in Eastern Ladakh contested space on Line of Control claimed by China as per their perceptions.
The Indian Prime Mistier has given full control to Indian Army Commanders along India-China Occupied Tibet Borders to deal with PLA Chinese Army military provocations, intrusions and transgressions displaying an unprecedented political trust in India’s Military Commanders facing Chinese Armed Forces might.
Where does India go from here in terms of its National Security Strategy in face of China’s intensifying military escalation along the Line of Control and its stubbornness in not agreeing to disengage and deescalate and respect the military status quo ante as it existed in Eastern Ladakh as it existed on May 05 2020 when China first clashed with Indian Army in Galwan Area and which led to two weeks later of the May 15 clashes in which Indian Army lost 20 soldiers lives and China had 43 soldiers killed by ferocity of Indian Army troops foiling the Chinese Army attempts to enlarge its presence in Galwan Valley.
At the time of this writing, it is being reported that China has reluctantly started making token withdrawals from the clash-points in Eastern Ladakh but not from the Pangong Lake area.
China under contemporary geopolitical pressures may seemingly be giving up its stubbornness of not restoring status quo ante by token and partial disengagement and de-escalation. But that should only be deemed as a politically expedient step but not a credible change in China’s implacable hostility or cessation of its military adventurism and brinkmanship in times to come.
The Indian Republic has to guard against unnecessary hype with such developments as stated above or celebrate any forthcoming Chinese disengagement of troops in Eastern Ladakh or de-escalation.
The Indian Prime Minister with the contextual backdrop of May-July 20202 Chinese military adventurism should finally recognise and concede that China despite his political outreaches to the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan Informal Summit 2017 and Chennai Informal Summit 2019 is lathe to give up Chinese military adventurism on India’s Borders with China Occupied Tibet.
Objective analysis by even impassioned political observers would concede that in 2020 viewing the geopolitical dimensions that now dominate China-India Military Confrontation, no political or strategic space exists for India to hope that “Expansionist China” would be amenable to any Conflict Resolution or Confidence Building Measures.
India in 2020 has now seriously deliberate and consider that contextually in terms of Indian National Security Strategy India has only one prudent policy option to undertake, and that is one of “China Containment”
India’s ‘China Containment” will obviously be frowned upon in Indian policy establishment and diplomatic circles but wisdom should dawn on them that historically “Revisionist Powers” bent on imposing an “Expansionist Template” need to be checked by “Containment Strategies” by all Powers—Major or Small-= – in unison before Indo Pacific security and stability is irretrievably fractured.
India cannot be a back-bencher and shy away from “China Containment” when China seemingly and demonstrably by its military adventurism is inviting such a reaction.
India’s “China Containment” strategy would necessarily be multi-pronged—political, economic and military and architectured with long term perspectives in view and more importantly unmindful of and independent of any politically expedient Chinese policy reach- outs to wean away India from India’s adoption of the Indo Pacific Security Template by the multilateral “QUAD” Initiative.
Detailed recommendations for “China Containment” strategy that India should put it motion would be the subject of analysis of a separate Paper.
Concluding, it needs to be asserted that with a case for “China Containment” policy by India having been established above, despite the opposition of India’s ‘China Apologists’ and ‘;Non Alignment Gladiators” of yore, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the onerous task of finally dispensing India’s decades old ‘China Appeasement’ and ‘Risk Aversion’ policies of past Congress Governments. China’s Expansionism can only be curtailed by headlong push-back with a National Security Strategy of “China Containment.
The Indian Republic has to put in motion the process of a devising a new National Security Strategy. Inherent in such a new Strategic Blueprint would be a realisation that the ‘China Threat’ is LIVE and unlikely to fade away. It also entails incorporating in such a new Strategy the inescapable strategic imperative of “China Containment”.
By Dr Subhash Kapila