MIT Professor M Taylor Fravel | By special arrangement
MIT Professor M Taylor Fravel | By special arrangement
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New Delhi: The decision to make Ladakh a union territory in August last year followed by the Narendra Modi government’s claim to gain control over Aksai Chin had a “strong impact” on how Beijing viewed India’s resolve in the dispute and may have culminated in the Ladakh stand-off, says China expert M. Taylor Fravel.

Speaking to ThePrint in a video interview, Fravel, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of Security Studies Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said, although the claim made by Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament on Aksai China in August last year was not new, subsequent moves taken by India by way of publishing a new political map upset Beijing.

“Creation of Ladakh as a federally administered union territory last August had a pretty strong impact on how China viewed Indian resolve in the dispute because the new state of Ladakh included all of Aksai Chin. That wasn’t a new claim on the part of India. But then by publishing new maps and making strong statements in the Parliament about recovering this territory, it certainly got China’s attention,” Fravel said in the interview held over Skype.


Also read: China Study Group, the elite Indian govt body that guides policy on ties with Beijing


China didn’t plan on a violent face-off

According to Fravel, China never planned to engage itself in any violent face-off, it nevertheless “created conditions” by moving in a large number of forces in the disputed areas of Ladakh that “greatly increased the probability of a clash”.

“I don’t think the (15 June) clash (in Galwan Valley) is something that China sought because if one looks at Chinese diplomacy today, they are much clearly trying to put the genie back to the bottle, restore China-India relations to a place they were before the clash … China hasn’t released its own casualty numbers and so forth,” he said.

But Fravel thinks that what happened this time was unprecedented in terms of “scope, scale and posture” of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

“In at least three locations, and now probably more — including the Depsang plain — China has moved up in what it views to be the LAC (Line of Actual Control). This is unprecedented that China moves in these disputed areas simultaneously with a large number of forces,” he added.

He stressed, “When you have a disputed border, you have a disputed LAC … you have forces in close proximity to each other … it’s really very dangerous. Despite what happened on 15 June, neither Chinese soldiers nor Indian soldiers actually discharged their weapons. The conditions of a face-off remain volatile and unstable.”

According to Fravel, such kind of India-China border stand-offs will “increase” in the coming months and years as Beijing has made it clear that it is will take a “costly action” to assert its view on the LAC, that will result in increasing vigilance by India.

“So it will easily have a spiralling effect, gradually increasing tensions on the border or to a much higher level of tensions that we’ve seen in the past. I suspect India will want to prevent any of the recurrences of Chinese incursions in the future. India too will reconsider how to deploy forces in the border. China will, of course, respond to those. So I think, incidents on the border will certainly increase in the months and years to come,” he added.


Also read: India’s credibility will be hit if our posture on China doesn’t match new realities at LAC


Time for a new border agreement

India and China have had five comprehensive agreements since 1993 that are all aimed at maintaining “peace and tranquillity” along the LAC.

Fravel believes when the agreements were signed the LAC was a “much more ambiguous line in the Himalayas than it is today”. This is because, he said, today both sides have built infrastructure right up till the LAC.

“These agreements didn’t really anticipate in which way the border would change in the following 25-30 years. So I think the time is right for the two countries to try to consider hammering out a new agreement that would take into account that they can patrol much more easily all the way up to the LAC,” he said.

He added that the earlier agreements are perhaps now “less relevant” as circumstances have changed, and a new agreement or a new consensus will be needed to be able to adapt to the current situation at the border.

The pacts are the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas; the 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC; the 2005 Protocol on Modalities for the Implementation of the Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC; the 2012 Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs; and 2013 Border Defence Cooperation Agreement.


Also read: Not just India, Tibet — China has 17 territorial disputes with its neighbours, on land & sea


Next 6 months will reveal China’s foreign policy

According to Fravel, China’s “willingness to assert itself” has increased under the eight-year rule of President Xi Jinping.

“Nature of China’s claims do not appear to have changed. What is viewed as sovereignty remain pretty constant for a long period of time. But what has changed in last eight years under Xi Jinping, or even in the last six months, is really a much bigger willingness from China to assert itself even if that creates greater friction with neighbours such as India,” the MIT professor said, adding that this is same reason why there are disturbances being seen in Hong Kong or South China Sea.

Under President Xi, China’s foreign policy is at an inflection point and hence the coming six months will be crucial to watch how Beijing manoeuvres itself in a world where it has now become a victim of widespread criticism due to its initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Xi Jinping is a very strong Chinese leader … So in the next six months, we need to watch the space if China is able to recalibrate and stabilise its relationship with key countries going ahead. Next six months will tell us a lot about the future of the Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping,” he said.


Also read: China is winning the trillion-dollar 5G war as it integrates internet with real economy


 

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36 Comments Share Your Views

36 COMMENTS

  1. Mamata is busy flooding Bengal/India with Bangladeshi’s for destabilising the nation while sons of soil of Bengal have to run abroad to earn a living!! This living is earned often through pro Jihadi/leftist/communist diatribe against Indian interests!!

  2. Always amused to see that Indian newspapers copy-paste foreign articles which are often against India & Indian interests!! Then they take biased writings of leftist/communist ass holes like this foreign author and call it news!!

  3. Yes it may be true that Creating Ladakh as UT may be one of the reason, but it does not mean that India’s action was wrong. It was a bold and much desired step. The Problem is that we have a neighbor of nuisance value and another (off course) powerful neighbor with clearly evil intention (how else can we define the Chinese behavior of blocking India’s elation to Security council and blocking of international attempt to penalize individuals and organisations which are known for terrorism against India despite the fact that it was India which advocated for their membership at security council, Even today take note that India has never blocked Chinese commercial interests in India in past 6 years) but they stabbed in the back again.
    Because of the above two neighbors we will always face such problems for every good action from us. The Appeasement must stop. We should continue the good work of Border Infra development, we should not halt because of idiotic wish of someone who builds infra on their side and does not not want us to do the same. NOW it is not required.

  4. No its completely wrong , india never wanted to fight with china but china first made CPEC in PoK and india warned them then after shah took a step to show that india can also change their starategy and later when china watched in indian news media that modi will attack POk and annex it in india again. China wanted to save the invested money so they took a step to keep busy in confrontation

    • its time india takes china headon. you cannot keep moving in our territory one step at a time. also India needs to give atleast 1000 nuclear tipped missiles to all the enemies of china on demand.

      • India will get another beating. So it is better to keep quiet. It is not like RSS shakha fellows fighting minorities with police help. Get real. I am sure you know that. That is why Modi , Shah and Bhagwat are very keeping quiet.

  5. Modi political gimmick on Kashmir of Aug 5 was an ill thought move with India gaining nothing but losing more & more ,,,,,,,,Perhaps Indian Supreme court can revert this catastrophic action !!!

  6. comment that making Ladhak as UT and Amit Shaw’s words that Aksaichin “is Ours “aggravated the attention of China is okay but what is the stance of the print on these 2 national issues accepted and approved by the Parliament of the Nation.

    • The stance should be it was foolish and provocative to pass these resolutions in parliament if you do not have a plan to cope with the consequences.

  7. What Amit Shah said in Parliament is correct Aksai china its original name is gosthana , will be taken back as it is our land grabbed by china and making Ladak an UT is Indian Governments decision China cannot object that. Chinese started coming and taking our areas for a long time. They cannot be attack India because Ladak is made UT is a irresponsible reasoning. It is for not next six months for ever we need to keep a watch on our borders with Tibet (which is under China now). As Chinese is not to be trusted. XI jingping I don’t think is a strong leader he may be showing he is strong to hide his weaknesses

  8. Shameless China tries to grab land of its neighbours and the world in whole, to this end it uses any means, latest being the covid19 pandemic. To protect our sovereignty and territory we are willing to sacrifice our lives, total destruction of China is the only way forward for the world. We will take what is rightfully ours ,if this means ww3 so be it.

  9. With due respect where deserved and apologies where required; India does not require a MIT professor or a rocket scientist to give reasons for what China does now and then on the LAC.
    There is a nebulous land border between India and China. It stretches over 3500 kilometres of difficult and mostly uninhabited terrain.. The very nature of such a border renders it most vulnerable to both Nations . By the lie of the land, China enjoys a more friendly and accessible terrain leading up to the LAC along most of its length. India, a democratic Nation which is by nature a non aggressive and peace loving state have had no designs to exploit this LAC to any disadvantage. India has largely ignored, a big mistake, this border even after a bitter experience of aggression from China in 1962. On the contrary China with an advantage of more friendly terrain on their side has over time strengthened its positions and eased its accessibility all along its side of the LAC.
    Since decades, from this position of strength, China has transgressed the LAC many times engaging India in time consuming fruitless discussions just so that India does not enjoy a free hand in developing its defenses along the LAC. Such skirmishes as witnessed in Galwan recently are part of Nation building. All India needs to do is ignore the sermons and concentrate on strengthening its positions along the LAC
    China just does not react just because India has made Ladakh a UT or some minister has said “we will take back Aksai Chin”. DO you think this makes any difference to Chinese designs in any way? China just wants to maintain the vulnerability of India along this border to inhibit its rise as any substantial power that can challenge China in Asia and in particular South Asia.

    • ‘India, a democratic Nation which is by nature a non aggressive and peace loving state’.

      This is typical. self serving Hindu humbug. It reminds of the saying ‘Muh main Ram, bagal main churi’.

      Why do you think all neighbours hate India and prefer to go with China ? Even Hindu Nepal.

      ‘China just wants to maintain the vulnerability of India along this border to inhibit its rise as any substantial power that can challenge China in Asia and in particular South Asia.’

      If so, China has done it successfully. And India cannot match China as India is an uneducated society mired in casteism, communalism and primitivism. You do not want to fix these problems, you want to be power as if it is an entitlement

      As for Indian democracy, it is odd these days. You have an elected party that reports to an unelected Hindu body, instead of the constitution. Democracy has decayed and so has India.

  10. Is Print trying to tell us thru this gemtleman that China’s asserting itself is fine and natural, while our doing the same amounts to provoking China ?

  11. Do not agree with the conclusion of this interview.
    American, seems to have a superficial understanding and finer points of Chinese hegemony and 100 year plans are missing from his mind.

  12. Why the headline that an MIT professor has spoken? Is it considered gospel?
    Poor journalistic practice!

  13. If Chinese do not restore status quo ante on LAC as demanded by India, India will have to form former alliances with countries like USA, Japan, Australia and even Russia as two blocks will emerge in world politics. India should do this quickly before China USA relations come back to normal levels after Presidential Elections. We can model our alliances on Treaty of Friendship we had with USSR in 1971. Apart from further upgrading border infrastructure, we need to get all the required equipment to deal with the Chinese on land, air and sea.

    BTW, there is hardly anything revealing in the interview with the esteemed Professor.

  14. Removal of article 370 was very bold step taken by government of India.
    Why ? China is building corridor through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which may have far reaching impact on india from defence,internal security and economic point of view.
    Read in detail.

    China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013.[4] Originally valued at $46 billion, the value of CPEC projects is worth $62 billion as of 2017.[5][6][7] CPEC is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.[8][9][6][7] On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia,[10] while some major power projects were commissioned by late 2017.

  15. It is interesting that the post starts with “… they are much clearly trying to put the genie back to the bottle…” then ends with contradicting that by saying “…, or even in the last six months, is really a much bigger willingness from China to assert itself …”

  16. I am reminded of the arrogance of Amit Shah on 5 August, 2019 on the Lok Sabha. When cautioned on the aftermath of Art 370, he responded, “kuch nahin hoga.” Really? This is the problem when a pretty regional politician get power at the centre. The BJP has become the MJP (Modi Janat Party). Leaving us at the mercy of 2 men. After them, who?
    36% of the vote and they believe they are our masters. Time for the other 64% to assert itself. Hindu Rashtra + Ayodhya don’t translate to economic might. Under Modi, India is at almost is lowest ebb economically.

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