India on Friday warned China that trying to alter the status quo on the ground by resorting to force will not just damage the peace that existed on the border areas but can also have "ripples and repercussions" in the broader bilateral relationship, and demanded that Beijing stop its activities in eastern Ladakh. The disengagement may happen, but the problem will not go away. The Chinese will be back, because they are pushing more than a boundary claim with India. However, is there a playbook to counter China?

Experts say China's manoeuvres along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are aimed at securing strategic gains in the area, as it invests heavily in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — a BRI project — that snakes through Aksai Chin and Pak-occupied Kashmir towards Gwadar, near the Persian Gulf.

That means talks aimed at disengagement, though crucial, can only achieve so much. India needs a long-term strategy to counter China — one that requires partners and thus multilateralism (as against protectionism).

The conflict will bring New Delhi closer to Washington, as New Delhi sheds the hesitations of "putting all its eggs in the American basket", Tanvi Madan of Brookings Institution writes on Foreign Affairs. The expectations are, the informal "quad" group comprising US, India, Japan and Australia could be strengthened.

But Quad is still not a formal alliance, and there is no military protection (unlike NATO). Hence, some warn against expecting too much from it, at least in the current form. There are also differences between India and the US, over trade, Russia and Iran. "Will the US give India the room it needs", Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the former chief of the Centre for Policy Research, asks here.

Donald Trump's transactional approach to foreign policy is also a concern. An explosive tell-all by John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, alleges that the US President was "pleading with" Xi Jinping to increase agricultural purchases from the US to improve his electoral prospects in the farm states. Also, in an interview with Axios, Trump said he held off on sanctions against China over the Uighur issue because "we were in the middle of a major trade deal".

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, currently pursuing PhD on China under Xi Jinping at Oxford University, calls for a magnificent 7 or 10 to counter China by strengthening multilateralism. He says European countries of Germany, France, and the UK, and in the Asia Pacific, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, India and Australia, plus Canada and Mexico should pool their "diplomatic, financial and political capital" to triage international institutions. Rudd cites Shinzo Abe's Japan as a model — maintaining economic relations even as it opposes China's territorial claims over Senkaku Islands. Japan, though, has the US military guarantee.