​Snake In The Garden

The time has come for India to reassess, if not reset, its relationship with China, and not just in parts but in its entirety.

The stand-off on the Ladakh border is only symptomatic of Beijing’s larger political disdain, which has, for years, refused to accept — if not proactively check — India’s growing profile.

​The Military Standoff

The current build-up across the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh is quite serious. It’s bigger in size, wider in area of deployment, and likely to stretch longer compared to earlier stand-offs.

Indian and Chinese troops are in direct sight of each other at four points — the closest in Galwan and Pangong Tso — but have moved up resources and deployed artillery across a larger length of the LoAC. In all, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has mobilised an estimated 5,000-plus troops, closing in on a division’s worth of resources.

​The Chinese Reaction

There’s a key factor that distinguishes this stand-off. It’s not an Indian reaction to Chinese construction activity, but a Chinese reaction to India’s road-building effort. Much through 2000-10, China carried out hectic construction to consolidate its position, improve its access, and speed of deployment along the LoAC. On most occasions, India protested, but looked the other way.

China’s Game Plan

In broader terms, this is China trying to deny India any sort of respectable parity on the LoAC, just like it tried to deny nuclear parity when it sought to block the India-US civil nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Ensuring an ever-widening power differential with India is a strategic objective for China, and what’s happening in Ladakh is in keeping with that policy.

In the image: An Indian Army truck crosses Chang la pass near Pangong Lake in Ladakh region, India. Indian and Chinese soldiers are in a bitter standoff in the remote and picturesque Ladakh region, with the two countries amassing soldiers and machinery near the tense frontier.

​India’s Card

It’s important that India also starts to have this discussion within its domestic polity. Unlike Pakistan, where there’s clear unanimity on public positioning, China tends to evoke different responses on the domestic front. But if a need to reassess the nature of the relationship is on the table, then a reset of the political narrative may also be warranted.