top of page

India-China along the LAC - How Does China Use Diplomacy to Acquire Leverage?

India and China’s border issue along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is not a recent phenomenon. The two countries have clashed along the LAC over the world’s longest border repeatedly in the last decade. The article argues that China has used diplomatic engagements with India to bolster its capabilities along the LAC for regular skirmishes in the last decade. In this case, China has utilised diplomatic forums with India to limit its rival’s border patrolling capabilities and infrastructure for developing an asymmetry along the LAC. 


An Illustration on India China along the LAC by The Geostrata

Illustration by The Geostrata


CHINA'S INSTRUMENTALISATION OF LAC


In 2021, Wang Yi, the Director of China’s Foreign Affairs Commission commented that the boundary issue is not the entire story of India and China relations. The other Chinese commentators have commented that the border issue has been ‘instrumentalised’ pointing out the existing difficulties in resolving the border issue. Therefore, it can be argued that

China has repeatedly used statements as India lost its ground along the border. India has lost access to almost the majority of the patrolling points due to the clashes with China in eastern Ladakh. 

Therefore, it has resulted in India making additional efforts to expand its capabilities along forty-seven new border posts and invest in excess in a fragile environment that requires time-consuming repairs and development.


 China’s incursions along the LAC have also forced India to pull out thirty-five thousand troops along with divisions from Rashtriya Riflesand Gajaraj Corps from important counter-terrorism, and counter-insurgency operations to eastern Ladakh. 

The line of argument also stands in the case of China’s incursions in Ladakh’s Depsang Valley in 2011 and 2013 when it also signed the Border Cooperation Defense Agreement (BDCA) with India, while building a road strip connecting Sumdo up to Patrol Point 13 in the Depsang Plains to conduct face-offs with the Indian troops. In this case, the incidents occurred only a few weeks before the scheduled visit by the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. In September 2014, three hundred Chinese troops infiltrated Chumar village in Ladakh after it deployed heavy machinery to build roads inside Indian territory and asked India to vacate the area.


The Chumar incursion incident occurred only three days before the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to India. Therefore, the two incidents have involved cases where China conducts skirmishes along the LAC and engages in diplomatic solutions to defend and safeguard its activities simultaneously. The signing of the Border Cooperation Defense Agreement was made ineffective as China conducted incursions in 20132014 and 2017, requiring political interventions. The incursions conducted by China indicate that it has conducted incursions after every major border cooperation agreement in India to camouflage its actions along the LAC.


USAGE OF MILITARY INCURSIONS FOR BORDER TALKS WITH INDIA


In recent years, China has repeatedly used their military forces for incursions during border talks with India. The clashes in the Galwan Valley in 2020 are a case in point where India recorded its fifteenth border clash with China. 

It is argued that China has built structures that include tents, storage and other associated military hardwires near the side leaving twenty Indian troops dead. The incident occurred during a major ‘de-escalation’ process in the high-altitude mountainous area. The clashes in the Galwan Valley occurred after the two countries announced steps towards a peaceful resolution. 


INCURSIONS DRIVEN BY GEOSTRATEGIC CONSIDERATIONS


Geo-strategic considerations drive China’s recent incursions in LAC, particularly in Ladakh. The Indian territory of Ladakh remains important to the Chinese owing to its geopolitical proximity to the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. The areas like Aksai Chin and Wakhan Corridor remain under the joint occupation of China and Pakistan. Therefore,


 China intends to link Aksai Chin with Shaksgam Valley by annexing parts of Ladakh to ensure the exchange of goods from Pakistan’s Gwadar port. 

The importance of the Ladakh region in China is based on its long-standing interests in the success of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor whose importance is well articulated by the late Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Similar sentiments have also been voiced by China’s spokesperson who commented that China has confined its routine monitoring and patrolling activities under its controlled region. 


DERAILING ONGOING AND EXISTING BORDER SETTLEMENTS


After a careful observation of the incursions in the Galwan Valley, it can be well stipulated that China uses its army for border incursion operations to derail the ongoing along with the existing negotiated border settlements. In this case, China has used such clashes to acquire incentives that include the disengagement of the two armies along the LAC to make sure India remains at a territorial disadvantage.


China has used the agreements that include the creation of buffer zones to temporarily restrict the patrolling activities of both armies in the region.

Therefore, China has curtailed India’s presence and control to reduce its patrolling rights. In this case, China has used such diplomatic engagements to shield and bolster its activities in Ladakh to encourage the movement of troops and vehicular traffic. Such activities were followed by violent clashes in the Pangong Tso area in May 2020. 


CURTAILING INDIA'S BORDER PATROLS


China’s aim to curtail India’s border patrols along the LAC succeeded initially as India continued to curtail and avoid building critical infrastructure to prompt an attack as the Chinese continued to build its infrastructure along the border.

Such sentiments have also been reflected by the noteworthy speech of India’s former Defense Minister A.K Antony stating the involvement of China in building the border infrastructure. Therefore, India has planned to finish fifty-four projects and has accomplished forty-five projects from 2021 to 2022 to bridge the existing gaps and improve the current infrastructure to counter China. Despite the recent attempts by India to bolster its infrastructure along the LAC in the past decade, China remains in an advantageous position concerning the infrastructure and military logistics network.  


CONCLUSION


In conclusion, Beijing conceives the LAC as a form of leverage against New Delhi. The Chinese incursions intend to force India to dismantle its posts near the LAC. In this case, it has utilised diplomatic initiatives and engagements with India to shield its actions along the LAC and force India to a border agreement limiting its ongoing patrolling and infrastructural development programs that remain beneficial only to China. Such actions by the Chinese intend to give it additional advantages in the region. 


 

BY ANIRBAN DUTTA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

1 Comment


i read this book by our previous Foreign Secretary, Mr. Gokhale where he higlighted in-depth how China wasges a multi-pronged and sometimes dacades spanning stratgic diplomacy to highlight the concerns as the author has in this piece.

Like
bottom of page