Naked expansionism

Despite the PLA pullback, India has to be wary

Naked expansionism

China’s aggressive posture in claiming territory deep inside eastern Bhutan, close to the Arunachal Pradesh border, is a move towards keeping the entire India-China border active and unpredictable. Though the news of disengagement in Ladakh is welcome, the statement of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan dashes all hopes of a peaceful resolution of the standoff on the border. The telephone conversation between the Special Representatives of India and China has resulted in a pullback of the PLA troops away from the Galwan valley. But this might yet again yield the Chinese a net gain, using the salami slicing tactic of two steps forward and one back, unless India remains ever wary and watchful.

John Sawers, former chief of MI6, the British secret service, has interpreted the Chinese incursion in Ladakh as an instance of intimidation to prevent India from forging an alliance with the US, Japan and Australia for a common approach towards China, and also to bolster Chinese interests in Pakistan. Analysts like Sawers want Chinese leaders to understand that “they will pay a price”, if they impose their hegemonic aspirations on other nations.

China’s actions in Hong Kong, imposition of sanctions against Australia, its sinking of Vietnamese fishing boats in South China Sea, the Ladakh incursion and most recently its claims on the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary have all now prompted observers to arrive at an unambiguous understanding of China’s expansionist worldview, even in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India’s refusal to join the BRI or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership had hastened the slide in Sino-Indian relations. So, a pullback of the Chinese troops from the Galwan valley, Hot Springs and Gogra to create a buffer zone should only be seen as a tactical move by China in its long-drawn-out strategic attempt to browbeat and subdue its neighbours into a client state status, as it has achieved in the case of Nepal and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s metamorphosis into a medieval monarch thirsting for battlefield glory and territorial overreach lies exposed, leaving Chinese enterprises vulnerable to political scrutiny.

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