Vimarsh on China Challenge in the Wake of the Ukraine Crisis
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On 21 June 2022, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organised a Vimarsh on the “China Challenge in the Wake of the Ukraine Crisis”. Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF, gave out introductory remarks and welcomed the speaker Amb Ashok K Kantha, IFS (Retd), Director, Institute of Chinese Studies, Former Ambassador to China, who focussed on China Challenge from an Indian Perspective and India- China bilateral relations.

Amb. Kantha began the talk by observing that India- China relations have been going through a very rough patch after the Indian Prime Minister's informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Chennai in October 2019. He also stated that hope and possibility of improving India and China bilateral relations has evaporated in recent years. The earlier setbacks to bilateral ties occurred with Chinese intrusions in Depsang in 2013, Demchok and Chumar in 2014 and Doklam in 2017. The trigger point for a major downturn in India-China relations was Chinese unilateral efforts to change the status quo at multiple points in the Western Sector along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and deadly clashes in June 2020. These developments have reshaped Indian perspectives on China. In the survey conducted by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in 2021, 77 per cent of Indian respondents considered China the least trusted country.

Amb. Kantha dwelt upon the existing political and military channels on the border issue. He observed that there is limited progress at friction points along LAC and no breakthrough through de-escalation of troops, which has resulted in LAC becoming live and dangerous. The infrastructure gap is growing between India and China. There are also structural challenges to bilateral relations with the breaking down of the basic paradigm, which has been in place since 1988 and there are no quick alternatives; Chinese aggressive behaviour and lack of response to Indian concerns and interests like boundary issues and trade imbalance has adversely impacte the bilateral relationship.

Amb. Kantha emphasised that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a turning point and affected the European theatre. The changes in European theatre are very fundamental. However, the changes in the Indo-Pacific region are less pronounced. China faces an awkward position after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Amb. Kantha assessed that China is not yet ready to annex Taiwan forcibly and will be pushed back a little due to lessons learnt by China after the Ukraine Conflict.

The suggestions highlighted by Amb. Kantha for India for ties with China in the wake of the Ukraine Crisis were:

  1. India should maintain its present position, and there cannot be business as usual with China unless peace and tranquillity are restored in border areas.
  2. India should resume regular patrolling along the LAC.
  3. In case of peace and tranquillity on LAC, India should manage ties with China with a mix of dialogue and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), which can include launching a strategic dialogue with China.
  4. The policy of constructive engagement with China should be tempered with realism and a clear understanding that China is the primary strategic challenge for India.
  5. India should invest in building deterrence capabilities to dissuade China from taking any misadventure against India.
  6. India must undertake domestic balancing involving building up of economic and technological capabilities and strengthening social cohesion.
  7. India must pursue the policy of external balancing, which includes working with countries like the U.S., EU, Japan and Vietnam, who share similar concerns with China.
  8. India should engage with China in multilateral groupings like BRICS and SCO, which serves Indian interests.
  9. India must invest in research focussed on China's history, culture, society and technological aspects, apart from security-related issues.

Amb. Kantha concluded his talk with the above suggestions on India-China relations. Dr Gupta then took over and shared his concluding remarks. After having thanked the speaker for his informative and insightful talk, he opened the floor for further discussion and interactive session.

Event Date 
June 21, 2022

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