“Never yield to China.” Since the India-China border standoff, the focus in the Indian media has been on how the Government (should) handle China related issues and what policies it adopts towards China. How relations between the two countries will develop in the New Year has naturally become the “highlight” of year-end accounts. In a report on the 29th, titled “Strategic outlook for 2021”, the Hindustan Times said, “For India, the advent of 2021 means a phase of new uncertainties, necessitating deft diplomacy accompanied by a firm resolve not to compromise on issues of sovereignty and national interest.” The article unreservedly declares that “China poses the greatest military, diplomatic and economic challenge to India and is encroaching upon India’s strategic space”.
India’s The Print news network disclosed on the 30th that India will conduct a series of military weaponry tests in 2021, including ballistic missile defense systems, air-independent propulsion systems for submarine and drone operations, and test-fires of various types of missiles such as the new Brahmos. According to the report, the India-China border confrontation revealed India’s shortcomings in the attack and defense of unmanned aircraft, so the air-independent propulsion system will be an important direction for India’s military research and development next year. In addition, India will also be equipped with synthetic aperture radar, electronic information systems, situational awareness systems for UAVs.
Indian defense sources told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao on the 30th that India has set a record for missile tests in the past six months, covering almost all models with different ranges of short, medium and long range, no doubt with the aim of putting pressure on China during the border standoff negotiations. But he also stressed that India is still adhering to the position of resolving differences through dialogue and avoiding escalation of differences into disputes, and this position is not expected to change in the near future, “However, the eight rounds of army commanders level talks held so far show that the two sides have not yet agreed on key issues such as the modalities of disengagement and establishment of a buffer zone”.
Indian Defense Minister Singh also said in an exclusive interview with Indian media on the 30th* that the India-China border standoff talks have not yet made progress. India’s Asia News International news agency said that India and China have so far held several rounds of dialogue at the military and diplomatic levels aimed at defusing the border conflict, “but without any substantive results. If the status quo persists, Singh said, the Indian army will not reduce the deployment of troops and equipment, but if the situation is de-escalated, the Indian army will reduce its deployment accordingly. He stressed that a new round of army commanders level talks could take place any time and that “the two countries are in close communication on this” and that “our expectation is that some positive results can be achieved through negotiations”.
The Hindustan Times recently reported that the new round of commander-level dialogue between India and China has been postponed due to the fact that the commander of the western theater of China is easy to take office. An anonymous senior official of the Indian government said that the 20th meeting of the India-China Border Affairs Consultation and Coordination Working Mechanism ended in a positive manner, which is crucial for the new round of military commander-level talks. It is expected that the two sides will use this round of talks to reach a written agreement on disengagement and de-escalation. Another Indian military official said that negotiations are still ongoing and that the Indian army will stay on the front line until an agreement is reached. The Indian side researched and assessed that China’s change of commandership does not mean that it will change the previous tough strategy against India. The newspaper also quoted an informed high-ranking official of the Indian army and reported that India has already refused to accept the Chinese military’s proposal to “designate the first to eighth fingers of Ladakh as a military buffer zone (or no man’s land)” for not being mindful of India’s interest. The senior official said that before the border standoff this year, half of the areas from the first to the eighth fingers were under actual control of India, and India conducted “effective patrols” of the area. Therefore, the Chinese proposal actually seeks to have “the Indian army retreat”. “If India accepts China’s proposal, it is equivalent to giving up its right to patrol the territory and accepting China’s (depiction of) the Line of Actual Control in disguise”.
Although many Indian media reported on the issue of the Sino-Indian border standoff, most of them used a more “tough” posture, but the Indian Air Force Chief Bhadauria seemed to be calling out both a soft and hard line when talking about the Sino-Indian border standoff at an event on the 29th. According to the “Times of India” report, Bhadauria said that, from a global perspective, if a serious armed conflict breaks out between China and India, it will “not be to China’s advantage”. He believes that the confrontation that broke out in the “Ladakh region” could have been caused by a variety of reasons, such as “a military-led accident,” with lack of mutual trust between the two countries leading to an escalation of the confrontation. He also said that China has deployed radars and surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles in the “Ladakh region”, and India has just made deployments accordingly. The Indian Air Force maintains a high level of alert on the frontline areas. He also emphasized that India must concentrate on improving its overall military strength and establish a rapid and effective response mechanism.
The Huan Qiu Shi Bao reporter observed that the Indian media, when taking stock of 2020 and looking ahead to 2021, generally took a tough posture on the Sino-Indian border confrontation, and “no compromise” was the key word demonstrating this mindset most evidently. But analysts believe that a blind show of strength can not help to solve the current problem. On the contrary, only a pragmatic and rational approach can be/provide a way out of the current standoff.
* (N.B. The full interview can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_ObIzziAjM)