Alka Acharya, Professor of Chinese studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University told in a telephonic interview that India must think of ways to improvise its ties with China more than focusing on its relations (India-China) with the West.
At least 20 Indian soldiers including an officer were killed in a clash with the Chinese troops in the disputed Himalayan border region. The violent face-off in Ladakh on Monday night was the first deadly skirmish along the Line of Actual Control with China since 1975.
Alka Acharya, Professor of Chinese studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University told in a telephonic interview that India must think of ways to improvise its ties with China more than focusing on its relations with the West. Acharya, who is also the author of the book China and India: Politics of Incremental Engagement adds that China is in a position of strength and the stand-off is a serious one.
Q. PM Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence on the ongoing standoff in Ladakh, saying that soldiers’ deaths won’t go in vain. Keeping these words in mind, what do you think could be India’s next move in the ties of India China?
Prime Minister Modi didn’t really get into the details of the standoff, it was just about India’s sovereignty. Considering the Foreign Minister’s statement on the skirmishes, he makes it clear that the Chinese had made pre-meditated and planned action. There is no other option to deal with the matter other than having a dialogue at this moment.
Q. India China: While India could put out the number of casualties, why not the Chinese?
It’s difficult to have a concrete view on this but can still speculate a few reasons. The Chinese might not want to get into the battle of numbers or there could be more casualties on their side or it’s just a difference in the method of governance.
Q. Military buildup began in April but India addressed it only in May. Why do you think there was a delay?
As we don’t have much information about what’s really going on, it’s difficult to assess. The larger perspective on the stand-off is built from the pieces that have been reported on each day. It’s kind of bizarre but under speculations, one can say that the intelligence wasn’t working or the government didn’t take it up seriously.
Q. Do you think India’s bromance with the United States could be a major reason that could have irritated China?
India’s closeness with the United States has been an irritant for quite some time now but I don’t think that could be the major reason for this escalation. India’s partnership with the anti-China countries – Japan, the US, and Australia, might have made the Chinese worry a little more. Australia has been serious about making China accountable for the pandemic in recent time and that’s well-known.
Q. Do you think boycotting Chinese products is a possibility when there is so much of trade going on between India China and not forgetting the fact that China was India’s largest trading partner till 2017-18.
This rise in nationalism and boycotting campaigns are just immediate fall-outs. Boycott of Chinese products is a problematic and painful thing particularly at a time of a global pandemic. I don’t see such a thing can happen anytime soon. There can only be chances for both the nations to improvise their trade once the problem is sorted.
Q. What’s your view on President Trump’s mediation offer?
Trump is a joke and no one takes him seriously.
Q. What should India be doing now to ease the standoff?
China is in a position of strength. India has lost its territory and what it would do depends on how the government would react. The trust factor is obviously zero. De-escalation is important and it’s already happening and India would be holding talks and this can go for months. More than having an alliance with the West, India thinking of ways to improve ties with China is significant.
Q. How do you rate the Modi administration’s policy towards China?
It started off quite right. China was helping India in different ways but the Pakistan factor ruined the relation. Pakistan’s closeness with China and framing an opinion based on the phrase that your enemy’s friend is an enemy, the relationship was kind of affected. Belt and Road Initiative and China Pakistan Economic Corridors are the major reasons. Not thinking of ways to deal with China is kind of crippling India’s strategic space. Well, that’s where the Modi administration went off the rails.