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India must beware of China’s reassurances

Always expressing optimism about the India-China relationship no matter what the circumstances is something of a standard operating procedure for Chinese interlocutors 

February 15, 2022 / 05:51 PM IST
Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

As China enters the new year — the year of the tiger according Chinese zodiac — what are some of the prominent themes that mark Beijing’s approach to India since the beginning of the crisis in eastern Ladakh in 2020? Official statements apart, it might be useful to look closely at some Track-1.5 and Track-2 interactions that have taken place in the interregnum.

Five Signposts

One, China has been unwilling to admit to any mistake or lapse on its part for the provocations in eastern Ladakh in 2020. Two, the Chinese have offered the Indians reassurance in the form of old tropes about similar civilisational heritage, common developmental challenges, and so on. Three, they have tried to distract by repeating that the boundary dispute should not be allowed to impede progress in other parts of the bilateral ties.

Four, Beijing has also attempted to recast the current crisis as an opportunity to negotiate a new framework calling for “a comprehensive, objective examination of the relationship.” Thus, it has come up with new concepts, ignoring principles that were agreed to after decades’ worth of bilateral talks. These principles it now finds inconvenient, no doubt, perceiving that they prevent China from taking advantage of the gap that has opened up in capabilities with India since the last major treaty was signed in 2005.