Chinas check on Indias chess board: New Delhi will have to fall back on its own resources – The Times of India Blog

Chess

Little over a week ago 13 yaks and 4 of their calves strayed out of China and into Arunachal Pradesh with little care for international boundaries. In the spirit of good neighbourliness the Indian army returned the wayward animals back to their Chinese stead. But when this is touted by some as a compassionate gesture signalling a thaw in relations, you know that ties between India and China have hit rock bottom.

Indeed, a few days ago shots were fired at the LAC for the first time in 45 years by PLA. Images of Chinese soldiers deployed in eastern Ladakh menacingly brandishing traditional daos and qiangs to ward off Indias doughty warriors are being looped to jingoistic commentary on Chinese television stations. The obvious objective is to whip up patriotic fervour in anticipation of a deepening conflict. Even the Communist partys mouthpiece, the Global Times, has injudiciously taunted India for crossing the line and inviting upon itself a fate worse than 1962.

That the theatre of conflict has only enlarged in eastern Ladakh after the June 15 clash in the Galwan valley is a sobering reflection on the limited leverage India has over China. This in spite of New Delhi pulling virtually all diplomatic strings in its bow to get multilateral platforms from the UNSC to the SCO to pressure China into de-escalating and disengaging. The fact that Indias petitions have not moved any of these platforms to intervene decisively to push China into restoring status quo ante prompts a basic question: Does India need to reappraise its faith in multilateralism?

India, as one of the founding signatories to the UN charter, has been a steadfast multilateralist. Its engagement with the UN and other fora has been primarily focussed on development and security issues. But the successes India has had in building coalitions in multilateral bodies on issues related to its development agenda have eluded it on core security related issues.

There are many instances of this. The UNSC has betrayed India over the question of Jammu & Kashmir. Indias efforts to win support for the adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism have been repeatedly torpedoed. Prominent multinational nuclear arms control platforms have bracketed India alongside notorious proliferators. And attempts by India to negotiate a permanent seat for itself in an expanded and daresay reformed UNSC have proven frustratingly elusive.

In each of these instances India has been thwarted by the veto exercised by one or the other great powers constituting these global bodies. If during the Cold War it was Washington then today its Beijing proving to be the fly in the ointment. An expansionist China has succeeded in bending the mainframe of the rules-based international order to serve its own interests to the exclusion of those of other nations, irrespective of their heft.

The Trump administration has traded multilateralism for unilateralism, coded as America First. British PM Boris Johnson is unwilling to surrender Englands economic future for even a limited Brexit deal with the EU. Its a bitter reality that India is truly alone in its fight to contain Chinese expansionism in South Asia. Indias foreign policy establishment urgently needs to look beyond the tried and failed formula of rallying alliances of democracies or petitioning inter-governmental platforms in the hope that they will commit themselves to take up cudgels against China. Chinas assertiveness with India on what it considers are its territorial claims is exactly timed to coincide with the worlds growing insularity. With the erstwhile guardians leaving the global commons unattended, China has come out to play games based on its own set of rules.

The Modi government can only hope to level the playing field if it invests urgently in enhancing Indias power. The first step therefore must be in the direction of evolving a consensus at home over the costs and benefits of atmanirbharta. History tells us that India succeeds in securing its national objectives when it closes ranks at home. New Delhi fulfilled its negotiated goals on an equitable climate change policy due to domestic consensus. Remarkably that consensus has held up for over a decade even through the tricky iterations of the Copenhagen and Paris accords. Keeping this precedence in mind the NDA must walk Modis talk: Focus on the local to go global.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Chinas check on Indias chess board: New Delhi will have to fall back on its own resources - The Times of India Blog

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