The article is presenting what the Chinese are writings in their Media
Original article title in Chinese: 刘宗义: 印度自以为把准了中国的脉，所以敢于咄咄逼人
Professor Liu Zongyi: India thinks it has got the better of China, so it can dare China
The original article in Chinese was published on the website of the Oserver.com on September 21, 2020 and has already been visited by over 235000 readers.
— Translation by Hemant Adlakha
Summary: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and India, but this has also been an eventful year in the Sino-Indian bilateral relations: On June 15, in the Galwan Valley area on the Sino-Indian border, the Indian army deliberately crossed the line with the purpose of provocation, causing a bloody conflict. On August 29, the Indian forces illegally crossed the line again and entered the Shenpao mountain region on the southern bank of Pangong Tso Lake in the western sector of the Sino-Indian border; on September 7, the Indian army once again fired in the air threatening the patrol personnel of the Chinese border guard. Next day, on September 8, the Indian Army even issued a statement falsely accusing the PLA of firing first. What is India’s strategy behind its repeated provocations? Has China underestimated India’s strategic ambitions? To answer these and many more related questions, the Observer.com recently interviewed Professor Liu Zongyi, who has just been to the Sino-Indian border to conduct a survey of the prevailing situation in the tension-ridden region.
Professor Liu Zongyi is secretary-general of the Research Centre for China–South Asia Cooperation at Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS), a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Beijing’s People’s University of China and a distinguished fellow of the China (Kunming) South & Southeast Asia Institute.
(Interview was conducted by the Observer.com correspondent, Mr. WU Liqun)
Observer.com: Recently, the Indian army has been repeatedly provoking our troops at the border. You have just returned from the Sino-Indian border areas. Please tell us about your investigation and findings during the visit?
Professor Liu Zongyi: Owing to the quite tense situation at the border, we did not get to visit the frontline border areas. So, we could only gather some basic facts and information under the circumstances. In Yadong (亚东Yàdōng) and Jilong (吉隆Jílóng), we were allowed to go only up to the customs point. We were not allowed to go beyond Pulan (普兰Pǔlán), just a few kilometers away from Chang La (强拉Qiáng lā) pass. We could not go anywhere near Pangong Tso lake area.
In Yadong, Chinese customs post is located in a low area, and the facing hill on the opposite side is surrounded on three sides by the Indian military bunkers – one bunker at a distance of every 10 or 20 meters. Everything appeared as if in a passive state. In the past, the Indian army always resorted to the policy of nibbling our land at the border, continuously encroaching on our territory and occupying the commanding heights. As a result, at several strategic points, many commanding height positions all along the Sino-Indian border are under the Indian control (emphasis added – TR. ).
This summer, when China took tough countermeasures in the Pangong Lake and in the Galwan Valley regions, India accused “us” of aggression. In the West too, the public opinion sided with India, which is rather unfair.
India has been acting in this manner for decades, and the West has always turned a blind eye. And now when China decided to act a bit tough, all are blaming us.
In the past, in order to maintain the overall relations between our two nations, we (China) always worked hard to create a peaceful and stable environment, so as to push for a peaceful, negotiated solution. On the contrary, both India and the West have mistakenly believed it to be as if China has no choice but must swallow pride and submit itself to humiliation. They take it for granted that on issues of territorial dispute China will ingenuously not resist and can be easily trammelled upon. Such an approach allows India to carry on pushing, which beyond a point makes one feel extremely angry. In my opinion, no doubt such a situation is not the result of overnight happening but it is caused by long years of pent up anger.
Actually, there used to be a hot water spring on the Chinese territory, in a place called Dianjiao (典角Diǎn jiǎo). The residents from nearby places, including from the border used to visit the hot water spring, even animals were taken there to cure skin disease. Now, the hot water spring spot has fallen under the Indian control. How could this happen? This happened because India has been unceasingly nibbling our land, and we did not respond in time. And over time, we have lost our territory to India.
The life of people living in the border area has become extremely difficult. Young people, unlike their parents who are now in their 50s and 60s, do not feel motivated to actively guard and fight against the nibbling enemy. Besides, it is not at all conducive for our frontline cadres at the grassroots level to patrol the border frequently – because the life is not easy in the border areas.
Observer.com: The Indian Defence Minister Mr. RajnathSingh has recently stated, in response to China’s rapid infrastructure development, India has doubled its budget for the construction of important roads and bridges in the China-India border areas. The Indian side has been doing a lot of infrastructure building up on the border and continuously expanding its military strength for some time. How do you interpret Singh’s statement?
Professor Liu Zongyi: India has taken infrastructure construction in the border area as an important task to accomplish. Over the years, why has India been causing standoffs with China on the border? One important reason is that India’s infrastructure capabilities have been greatly improving. This is allowing India to have access to more places, especially places where they could not reach in the past. Especially since 2014, India’s infrastructure in the border region has developed rapidly. Often they secretly built roads during the night and at times they developed roads at a speed of one to two kilometres per day.
During the border standoff this year, because India’s road infrastructure has been lacking in the Ladakh region, and especially once the snow-season begins in the region it is almost impossible to transport construction material for nearly all of the remaining six months, which India sees as a big handicap. Under such circumstances, this handicap will become too obvious if the current standoff drags on until the winter sets in. Therefore, India at the moment is extremely anxious and worried, and wants to accelerate the infrastructure construction in the region in order to compete with and challenge China. This is India’s already too well-known and well-established strategy. Therefore, there are no surprises in what the Indian defence minister has stated.
Observer.com: In response to the ongoing border conflict, many Chinese analysts and experts have analysed and interpreted India’s intention. Why do you think the Indian strategic community feels that India is in a position of advantage during this conflict?
Professor Liu Zongyi: In my opinion, India is feeling it has grasped the Chinese “game plan” during the ongoing standoff. Also, India believes it has outplayed China. They reckon China, after being outsmarted, will not dare retaliate or fight back and exercise restraint. Especially as China is entangled in the strategic competition with the US, it is a godsend opportunity for India to take on China.
In 2017 in Doklam, India benefitted. This has given India hopes that the outcome of the standoff/confrontation in Pangong TsoLake and in Galwan Valley will be to their advantage too. They had anticipated the Chinese to not dare return fire and settle for a peaceful solution.
India has been seriously following up the developments in China since 1962. After Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, the Modi government has been quite resolute in its resolve to settle the border dispute as per their own wishes. The method it adopted has been to continuously implement the “forward policy” or “offensive defensive” policy on the border, and then put pressure on China, with the hope that China will cave in.
Just like in early May this year, when the confrontation first started, India said that everything was under control and that the two sides could resolve the situation peacefully. But on June 15, India had to suffer losses, and it was unwilling to resolve the conflict peacefully. It began to put more and more pressure on China. In end-August, India again took advantage of the situation and declared it was for a peaceful solution.
Observer.com: In your judgement, what is that India is trying to achieve? What is India’s strategic goal? China has come out victoriously from the COVID19, while India is deeply mired in the pandemic because of its inability to contain the epidemic. Even 20,000 Indian army personnel are infected with coronavirus. Do you think the pandemic will force India to “rethink” its strategy?
Professor Liu Zongyi: It is highly unlikely. Because countering China has become India’s well-established strategy. And when it comes to containing the epidemic, India has already given up its fight.
We must be clear in our mind that India’s pronounced strategy to counter China is inseparably connected to the sentiments of Hindu nationalism. Modi’s coming to power in 2014 made majority of Indians feel good. It gave them this sense of India ushering into the third phase of national prosperity since the Independence. The previous two phases were the Nehru Era and Indira Era, respectively. Modi instilled the feeling in them that under Modi, India can rise again and become a power on par with China and the Unites States. Modi strongly believes he can resolve border dispute with China; and then turn his guns on cleaning up the Pakistan “mess” and realize the total Indian dominance in South Asia; and then shift India’s strategic focus to the Indian Ocean. As India sees it, the Indian Ocean is going to become global strategic hub in the 21st century.
Didn’t we notice how during Modi’s China visit in 2015, the border dispute – especially the LAC, became the major focus of the media reports in India. The Indian side raised everyone’s expectations that China will “break the norm” and resolve border dispute with India. By so-called “breaking the norms” it was meant that China would give concession. Thereafter, border confrontations followed through 2017 and 2019. India has been putting China under pressure to force China to resolve border dispute, or at least determine the LAC, according to the wishes of India. India’s strategy is once the LAC is determined and the boundary with China is delineated, India can then concentrate dealing with Pakistan, concentrate its main focus and resources on the Indian Ocean, intercept China from the Indian Ocean and control China’s lifeline.
Of course, India clearly is aware its current economic level will not allow India to achieve this strategic goal. Because the economic policies adopted by the Modi government are driven by this single motive to achieve quick success and surpass China, India is constantly exaggerating its GDP figures to show off India’s so-called economic achievements to the world. But the fact is, India’s domestic economy is faced with huge challenges.
After Modi’s second term began in 2019, India has made a few strategic adjustments. For example in Kashmir, the policy of religious nationalism is implemented. In fact, the Indian army is deeply influenced by ultra-nationalist RSS and many senior military officers are very close to RSS.
Observer.com: In such a scenario of lack of information, what effective countermeasures do we have?
Professor Liu Zongyi: There are many practical ways to deal with this situation. However, the key lies in the fact that we have to determine our stance. Presently, India and the United States have signed several military agreements and formed a de facto military alliance. Under the current situation, we must re-assess our understanding of the US-India alliance and reset our India strategy.
It is of great import to remember India has violated and disregarded several understandings in China-India relations. For example, the two countries had the tacit understanding that territorial and border dispute between our two countries cannot affect bilateral economic cooperation, but India has naturally broken this consensus. Then, India’s withdrawal from the RCEP in 2019 obviously makes it very clear that India had already made up its mind long ago. India’s current strategy is to avoid war with China, but continue to break consensus with China in various arenas, namely diplomacy, economic cooperation, people-to-people exchanges etc and adopt ubiquitous means to continue to put China under pressure. Among the provocations against China by the anti-China international forces, India is often seen at the forefront.
When the coronavirus epidemic broke out in China, India first “watched the fire from the shore, gloating,” and refused to export much needed cotton yarn to China. Then in the month of April, India also banned China from investing in and acquiring Indian companies during the pandemic on the ground of so-called “opportunistic acquisitions.” Besides, India continuously lobbied multinational companies operating in China to transfer the industrial chain and value chain to India and “de-sinicize” in the global industrial and value chain respectively. It can be said that India has been playing a leading role in the global “trend” in containing China.
With the outbreak of pandemic in India, the Indian decision-making elite have realized that the rise of India may be interrupted. They believe the COVID19 pandemic not only started in China but it is “Made in China” too. Therefore, the Indian elite started indulging in insulting China and viciously attacked China’s social system and the Chinese anti-pandemic model.
We may still continue to pursue the line of thinking that the main pressure we are facing is from the United States and not India. But the fact is, India and the United States today have become a single entity. In some respects, it is India which is leading the US and is becoming leading anti-China force.