File photo of China President Xi Jinping | Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
File photo of China President Xi Jinping | Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
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The India-China border standoff seems likely to endure, notwithstanding New Delhi’s efforts to defuse the crisis. China seems to have consolidated its position along the 4,056 kilometre-long Line of Actual Control and refuses to vacate Indian territory. During talks, Beijing insists the People’s Liberation Army is on Chinese territory and that Indian aggression is to blame for the current fracas.

While the Narendra Modi government continues to place faith in diplomacy as the way out of the current imbroglio, it would do to well to bear in mind Beijing’s tried and tested playbook: first, instigate a border conflict; then, display aggression and rattle sabres; finally, summon traditional and social media platforms to accuse the other country of belligerence.

After being caught unawares initially, India’s response has focused on gaining through negotiations what was lost on the ground. New Delhi continues to build its long-delayed military infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), ensure the military has key spare parts and supplies, and use limited economic coercion.


Also read: Xi Jinping wants to be another Mao. He thinks conflict with India-US will boost his image


Not the first clash

This is not the first time in the recent past that India and China have had a border standoff. Four times since 2012 and twice in the last three years, India was surprised by China taking over Indian territory or threatening Indian border infrastructure along the hotly contested border. The latest row centres primarily on Ladakh (Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Hot Springs), though, other locations such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are on high alert too. Clashes have been reported in Sikkim as well.

At least twice during the past five months, there have been violent clashes between troops of both countries. The first on 15/16 June when 20 Indian soldiers died, and many others were injured. China’s PLA never revealed how many on its force died or were injured. On August 29/30, there was another clash, this time between the PLA and an elite Indian special forces unit, the SFF (Special Frontier Force), raised from Tibetan refugees who reside in India.

The endgame is to convince the other country’s leaders that the only option is to talk to China and avoid conflict. This leads to a semblance of ‘win-win’ cooperation and enhances Chinese prestige, all without forcing China to surrender one inch of its territory or give up on any core interest.

On the one hand, the Wuhan and Mamallapuram summit diplomacy did not change the Communist Party of China’s policy towards India. And on the other hand, New Delhi lost crucial time.


Also read: Indian Army used ‘tactical signalling’ at LAC to stop Chinese troops from advancing closer


What will change China’s calculus

China has no intention of giving up territory that it has seized along the four thousand kilometre-long border. It has repeatedly changed maps, not just of the India-China border, but also of its claims in the East and South China Seas.

Dialogue and discussions will not change Beijing’s intentions, nor will the notion that India is too large a market to deprive Chinese corporations. While personal ties between leaders may matter in countries like the US, Australia, Europe, and Japan, they do not factor in how China conducts its foreign policy.

The Chinese state understands power, and Beijing’s calculus about New Delhi will only change when instead of viewing India as a chaotic inward-looking democracy that rarely focuses on economic growth or military powers, it starts viewing India as a strong democracy with military and economic power to reckon with in the Indian Ocean Region.


Also read: India is being responsible but don’t doubt our ability to defend, Rajnath tells China


The long game

China has, over the decades, built a strong economy, modernised its military, built strategic infrastructure on land and in sea, and fortified territory on its side of the border with India. New Delhi is still playing catch-up on many fronts, primarily economic and military. While India has built strong partnerships with South Asian countries and the United States, it has yet to fully harness those relations in a strategic sense.

More than any other single factor, China’s ascendancy presents problems that cannot be remedied with merely tactical fixes: banning apps, surgical strikes, purchasing new weapons or augmenting troop deployments. China demonstrates a full spectrum of threats to India: troops on the border, access to international finance, and regional instability.

The simple reality that a massively powerful state with a penchant for aggression exists on India’s borders should serve to jumpstart economic reforms and allocation of resources towards the military.

The Indian military budget has declined over the last decade, and in 2020, India’s defence spending stood at around $74 billion and China’s at $179 billion. China now has the world’s largest navy and double the number of modern fighter aircraft as India. Moreover, India just experienced its worst economic downturn, but China has managed to do better than any other economy.


Also read: Land comes in the way of Modi govt’s Neighbourhood First and Act East, study shows


A clear message to China 

The rise of China situates one of the world’s most powerful countries as a rival on India’s doorstep. China’s rise is hardly a single conflict; instead, it is a clash between two civilisations, which intersects on political, social, security and economic levels. Rather than personal diplomacy or quick fixes, what is required is a fundamental overhaul of India’s strategic outlook.

In the immediate term, India needs the ability to make multi-dimensional moves, just like China. To ensure progress at diplomatic and military negotiations, New Delhi needs to up the ante against Beijing, not just on land but also in the sea where the Indian Navy has natural advantages and many partners. Like was done with Bangladesh, India needs high-level engagement to mend relations with other neighbours to reduce Beijing’s manoeuvrability to encircle New Delhi. And finally, while diplomacy may not work with China, it is a useful way to send a message to Beijing: India has partners around the world who are there to help in times of need.

The author is Research Fellow and Director, India Initiative at the Washington-DC based Hudson Institute. Her books include ‘Escaping India: Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’ (Routledge, 2011), ‘From Chanakya to Modi: The Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy’ (Harper Collins, 2017) and ‘Making India Great: The Promise of a Reluctant Global Power’ (Harper Collins, 2020). Views are personal.

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79 COMMENTS

  1. You people always speak against India. I believe our government has dealt the situation very well. The problem is in your thought process. Please change your thought process and behave like a true Indian. Please don’t be the part of Chinese propaganda. Don’t be the mouthpiece of china and communists or even that of congress. They all are trying to demoralize our forces. Please think twice before writing irrelevant things. You are trying to spread anti government /anti India sentiments on the name of freedom of press. Handful of people like you can not change our patriotism. You will not succeed in spreading anti India sentiments. The history will never forgive you. Behave like responsible Indians.

    • That’s right. these asshole news platforms like thePrint, theMint, theQuint, theWire etc. are always busy in spreading intellectual terrorism in the country.

  2. Seems a negative article from an anti Modi, trecherous, negative-minded, commu-neech author to show propaganda strong China as strong and positive and JOINING CHINESE PROPAGANDA MACHINE, it hides India’s positives inspite of being able to, at least, partly, overcoming a trecherous chinese attitude and changing doctrine from DEFESIVE to AGGRESSIVELY ASSERTIVE and being able to place themselves at the TOP in Chinese Aksai Chin areas etc.

  3. Sensible points and suggestions by the author. Bottom line, India should stand its ground and adopt tougher responses to China and other troublesome neighbors. No more of Nehru Gandhi options of passivity and cowing down.

  4. China functions top and top level only. Nothing is decentralised to lower levels. Therefore Xi Jingpeng is the Producer & Director of the military stand-off on the LAC so Indian PM Modi and future PMs must realise this forever and forever. Apply a course correction now in the Indian economy, politics and mainly character by ruthlessly weed out the corrupt for overall growth of the Country. If not then we will surely be doomed someday.

    • Wait! A mint! My nationality is American but am Indian American but I always says India is first and your saying one day India will doomed. !! I appreciate your honesty but I guess your not Indian!!

  5. What’s wrong to the ppl in the comments section? She expressed her opinion. It’s upto you to accept or reject. You can’t abuse just because her opinion is different than yours. Secondly, I feel each words she said is absolutely hard and true facts. It’s better we judge our strength and weakness and work on it.work towards developing our economy.

    • Ha!! Ha!! There is a difference between opinion and propaganda!! And WHY should Indians not put some skepticism before listening to someone working for a foreign government and foreign interests??

  6. 1)Author says India didn’t much invest in Military. If India had done that the same author would ve criticized for spending excessively on Military.
    2) Thanks for letting us know we are not China. We are not. We don’t ve concentration camps. We are democracy and we value human rights. In our country ppl don’t just disappear. We don’t treat ppl as machines. We treat them as ppl.
    3) We don’t copy/ reverse engineer someone else’s original work. We do our own R& D
    4) Vietnam stood against US & China. Both countries were big militarily and economically. It doesn’t matter how mighty you are you may still loose. Thanks for telling us that China is an economic and Military super power.

  7. Why the hell are you spreading nonsense and depicting india as weak. You people are traitors in the name of journalists. I hope government will soon ban your news agency.

  8. DONT FEED YOUR WRONG IDEAS TO INDIA . INDIA IS STRONGER EVERY DAY . BOTH ARE NUC STATES . DONT TRY TO MAKE INDIA FOOL.

  9. Aparna Pandey is a stooge of the US based leftist democratic stooge called Hudson Institute!! She is a shame on America, India & her native civilization!! These are the same leftist fascists who want to teach Islam in American schools and want #CCP communist China to enslave America & it’s native white American civilization!!

    • SHAME TO THE TRECHEROUS LEFTIST COMMU-NEECH TRAITORS, THEIR RIGHT PLACE IS TO REMAIN SUBMERGED IN INDIAN OCEAN ND LIVE WITH SHARKS, CROCODILES AND SNAKES.

  10. India has to Free Tibet & Xinjiang and take back part of Kashmir with China/Pak!! This Chinese aggression will only multiply and India can no more play the defensive game for enemies outside & a host of traitors including @print inside!!

  11. There’s no shame in surrendering and just carrying on with life without the worry of military conflict with China.

    Over the last 30 years, China was clearly the better country. India should compromise in a way that is favorable to China.

    Crisis defused.

    • @Notafighter: Well said!! Leftist/liberal, communist stooges & fascists want India to be weak!! BUT.. you are mistaken @The Print, ONLY TRUTH & INDIA WILL WIN, NOT YOUR LIES & PROPAGANDA!!

  12. Thanks Aparna Pande. Wonder what we Indians would have done without such enlightenment as contained in your article. Or without The Print getting it across to mere mortals like us. The good thing is that Shekhar Gupta has recovered from Dengue and you are safe in Washington DC. After realizing that India’s destruction is imminent, I shall have no option but to take recourse to ant-depressants. You can, of course, pop open the sparkling drink. God bless You.

  13. ‘Print’ has became an agent of china and pakistan , you geeft people showing india weaker in article headline. You cowards, please Show some patriotism , it’s your motherland cheap pigs.

    • Ashish, you would have realized s most patriotic Indians that the challenge India faces is not through lame China but traitors inside in the form of communists, Vatican’s leftists & Jihadis!! @Print and several other Indian outfits& people have already sold themselves!! These Break Hindu & Break India forces have to be exposed and neutralized or else they are well on their way to making India their Jannat and a hell for all sons of soil!!

      India reverting back to it’s native civilization and wisdom while isolating these traitors will be a first step towards war against enemies outside!!

  14. Why my comment was deleted by The Print? Was it not suiting tgeir writers? Can’t we as readers have freedom of different opinion?

    • @The Curious One: @ The Print leftists are in fact fascist Nazis just like Pakistanis!! They only like their point of view and sleep with it!!
      WHY does it surprise you and Indians anymore??

  15. This article is ridiculously lopsided. China is losing the game it started. They’ve poked the sleeping giant, the consequences will be total isolation from the political world. When nobody is your friend, everyone is your enemy.

  16. Before you talk rubbish you need to understand world s geopolitical situation right now ,it’s actually loss and loss situation for China , you just have to speak against India ,why can’t you write rationally

  17. Soon India will stop recognising Tibet as part of china. We need a world in which Tibet is free and people of Tibet do not have to go through cultural genocide. Its a shame that in todays modern world democratic countrues allowed that. its a shame on world democracy.

  18. CHINA WIN_WIN PLAN WAS ONLY WORK FOR WITHOUT ANY COUNTRY’S LIKE PAKISTAN,IRAN, TURKEY, NORTH KOREA ETC… WITHOUT ANY MEANS CASHLESS, HUMENLESS, HONERPUL LESS, WORKLESS. NO BODY WILL BEAT INDIA IN THAT WORLD BECAUSE WE ARE INDIANS.

  19. Modi has been an utter failure in handling of Chinese aggression………On one side Prime Minister of India says there is no intrusion of Chinese forces and on other hand Indian Defense Minister pleads to his Chinese counterpart to vacate Indian lands……….with such state of confusion how in earth can Indian military be clear what Modi govt really wants??

  20. Nice thought essay. I think India is on right path. With recent test of hypersonic weapons, push for local manufacturing, less dependence on foreign weapons, space intelligence, India will be a force to recon with but China could wreak havoc on India with biological weapons, especially that bring slow death. Covid is a good example and India just surpassed Brazil. On the economic front, China was stupid to spend trillions on infrastructure in the last 20 years. India was smarter and got more bang for their buck ( $5 for each $1 spent) vs. ( China $5 for each $4). India needs to continue to invest wisely, go agressive with engagement with China’s other neighbors to keep the same check as China. India must keep its social fabric intact as well. India needs to build some serious toys to sell to the World and I don’t mean “gulli danda”but serious high tech stuff on demand Video games, gadgets and so on.

    • The Christian west is a rotten, myopic and greedy civilization! It impoverished India & the world through colonization, wrecked the world through environmental damage and gave #CCP communist monsters money to rape themselves & the rest of the world!!

      Only Indian Sanatani civilization of truth based on science, nature & higher human consciousness can save India & the rest of the world!! India & Sanatani must thus rise and fast!!

  21. Leftist ideology always has 2 point agenda. 1. Critical of whatever Indian govt does. 2. Never loses opportunity to praise China. After all you have to support your pay masters.

  22. China seems to have already lost much more than we anticipate, the business loss in not temporary but infact a new trend set by Gov has started to baffle most countries . The desperation shown by PLA on 28th Aug is just the example of the necessary face saving required by Xi.

  23. The game this time has changed. China is in trouble because India is going to recapture lost territory. China is going to loose because many countries are reconsidering their supply chain. These countries want to diversify their supply chain which is an euphemism for removing china from their supply chain. It may not hurt China immediately but in long term it will be a bigger setback than few hundred square miles won or lost for China after all manufacturing and trade was the fuel that brought China here.

  24. The article is full of abstract, airy recommendations like “multi-dimensional moves”, “up the ante”. Perhaps there isn’t anything concrete to recommend because the government is anyway playing this as well as it can given resource issues and legacy issues.

    Lets take a few of the author’s points: “government continues to place faith in diplomacy” – duh, there are troops, artillery, recon aircraft, air defence systems, surveillance drones, cruise missiles, etc at the border. Supply lines are being beefed at breakneck pace, equipment and ammunition is being stockpiled in a hurry. These are hardly “diplomatic”. And it is not an isolated maneuver. India is coordinating these moves with pretty much every major power – US, UK, Australia, Many EU countries. Even Russia has decided to keep it’s hands off – they are delaying S-400 supply to China, while India’s orders are being fast-tracked. Who would have thought?

    The author says, “banning apps, surgical strikes, purchasing new weapons or augmenting troop deployments” are merely tactical, not strategic. Well, these ARE strategic — Helping our tech sector helps in the long run. As for surgical strikes, ask Pakistan.

    That China’s economic statistics are phony, is something everyone knows, but no one talks about. Everyone thought Soviet Union was the world’s largest economy until one day it went into pieces. Authoritarian dictatorships have that habit. There are enough indications that this border flareup is a result of infighting within the Chinese communist party. So I say lets give them a little push.

  25. The problem with Author’s outside India is that they lack the understanding required to write an insightful strategic piece. The article does not say anything new that has not already been said or analyzed. I do not understand this constant claims that China has seized Indian territory. Where? How do these folks know that the Chinese have indeed seized territory? This lady either has to rely on someone else’s opinion or try to learn how to read them satellite images and draw this imaginary line somewhere and stake here claim.

    On the strategic front, the suggestiong to make sure you reduce China’s manuverability by mending fences with your neighbors has been repeated by every moronic author out there. If there is one major wrong that the BJP has done with it’s rubbish election rhetoric, they have alienated one our most important strategic neighborhood partner Bangladesh. Instead of India aiming to be the land where everyone can perhaps come and work live and contribute, we are looking to be exclusive. The Right wing in India is extreme. They really are morons, not that the gate keepers of pseudo secularism are any better. It is just that their politics does not alienate the neighbors. However, they do not put in the effort to limit China. In fact they do quite the opposite, they dance with the dragon as if it will not spit fire at them.

    The Indian policy and vision does not see it as an economic and military power. It is not sufficient to be an economic power in a hostile neighborhood. You need to be a Military GIANT… This every man knows, barring the Indian Secular intelligentsia that has been bought by China. The political spectrum that has an IQ of a rock.

    • The Right wing in India is extreme?? Oh really?? Are you not talking of terrorists and Pakistani mind set that burnt Bangalore or Delhi??
      Is there Indian right wing in Sweden & Norway too where the cities were burnt by the same terrorist animals; backed by the same Paki ideology from HELL??!!

  26. Making tall statues and going back 5k years will not help fight against china .. it’ll only help one party to stay longer in power and do more damage to India’s development

    • Churches, Mosques are being built faster than any statues or hospitals!! Will you also shed some light on that epidemic??!!

  27. All these so called “strategic thinkers”; and Aparna Pande of The Hudson Institute is no exception, are prone to writing reams of lofty-sounding phrases that are empty and offer nothing practical. Ms. Pande’s solution, if one can call it that is no exception: “Rather than personal diplomacy or quick fixes, what is required is a fundamental overhaul of India’s strategic outlook.” What gives her the idea that Modi is still using “personal diplomacy” or “quick fixes”, even at this stage? Like every other national leader, he gave diplomacy a chance. When he invited Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif during his first oath-taking, all these “strategists” went overbaord. They dug it out and used it against him, when relations with Pakistan subsequently nose-dived. This proves that these pedants are only good at talking at high-powered symposiums, churning out reports that mean nothing, as this article does. Did the Hudson Institute with all its well-paid “strategic thinkers” ever alert the US Administration and Presidents of the grave danger that the US Policy of allowing to be led like a bull by its nose, by interests of US MNCs, posed to the US? No, they may have written some papers and made some noises, but none of these strategic thinkers had the guts to say it openly and vociferously, because the people funding such “Research Institutes” would stop their funding. Let’s not get too carried away by this. Modi is on the right track. Yes there will be some mishaps, some price to pay, but China will not get away so easy. This is a determined leadership with people solidly behind him. China and strategic researchers like Ms Pande will learn this over time.

  28. The author has no idea of ground realities, Indian military has not stood down and has matched the Chinese with mirror deployment and has recently seized initiative and seized tactically important heights,and the Largest navy and the airforce about which the author is talking about, every professional knows they are short legged they don’t have bases to base the aircrafts near the Indian border,and even if they do,they suffer from altitude related limitations of payload and range,and their Navy the less said the better,can the author name one single Naval operation the PLAN has conducted successfully,mere window dressing don’t work in real world, the CPC was so alarmed that it did not even reveal the number of casualties it suffered in the Galwan clash,and in warfare the side that loses usually lies or hides more,So please enough of this defeatist rant India and its armed forces are fully capable of meeting the Chinese threat

  29. India’s measured response is consistent with its China policy. China is a 4 times bigger economy and not Pakistan. The rules of engagement are therefore different. The economy is India’s only viable option against China. Some steps are taken but a lot more is needed.

  30. I fail to see how your suggestions mean a ‘fundamental overhaul of India’s strategic outlook’. Specifically, you mention the following steps:
    1) In the immediate term, India needs the ability to make multi-dimensional moves, just like China. – its already being done
    2) To ensure progress at diplomatic and military negotiations, New Delhi needs to up the ante against Beijing, not just on land but also in the sea – being done
    3) India needs high-level engagement to mend relations with other neighbours to reduce Beijing’s manoeuvrability to encircle New Delhi – can do better
    4) And finally, while diplomacy may not work with China, it is a useful way to send a message to Beijing: India has partners around the world who are there to help in times of need. – being done. maybe we can do better on step 3, yet your title says ‘China win-win’, so are you really saying that nothing should be done since its anyway a win win for them?

  31. India and China should work out a realistic route to cooperate to sort out Border issues. It was I believe suggested but not followed through. An adverbial relationship must not develop as seen by USA, Japan and Australia. It’s time for Modi to think in long term self interest to take the route of Hindi Cheney Bhai Bhai

    • Good boy now go take your money from winnie the poo for spreading CPC propaganda, You are so obvious that its pathetic

  32. The fundamental flaw with our policy is the talks to avoid conflict.

    This policy inertia has resulted in compromises being made on territorial sovereignty, in the last 70 years and it still plagues our policy makers.

    The cost of doing such misadventures should be felt across the borders.

    1. Market access is welcome move
    2. Freedom of navigation should be unabashed policy
    3. CPEC should be put to bed for good.

    One has to ask what have you achieved with so called diplomacy over the 70 years.

    The current policy with Pakistan should be followed as it seems to have worked.

  33. Sometimes I think world would be a better place if The Print editor and journos be given the right to govern…
    Earlier days it was NEWS that we used to get these days we get personal views of people who have no knowledge of governing a country or a state.

    A suggestion to The Print- Just to show your leftist leaning you don’t have to give a pessimistic heading.

  34. The author writer of this article is clearly proving himself to be a garbage bin. He is been showing the shit like mind of him and must to go some psychiatrist

  35. The best analysis of the China India relations I have read so far in a long time…Thank you mam for such a comprehensive and an articulate article and for edifying us.

    • Rishabh Sharma: Are you from Xinjiang, from Pakistan’s brother country China?? There is comprehensive strategy of building useful public toilets which earlier happened to be mosques!!

  36. It is a single sided opinion. Moscow meeting indicates that China feels the burn. TikTok sale is another jolt, would not have happened until if india didnt ban it. The importance of banning APPS, social media dominance cannot be understood or quantified by journalists. It is our domain and we see how power center can be toppled through social media. If not, then why bother to drag FB CEO and C-level in parliament and courts? Yes, India was caught off guard but then don’t under estimate Indian strategists. I can confirm based on international experience that Chinese image is all time low as of now.

  37. India really needs a strong govt and a Strong leader to protects India’s interests other than corporate interests..

  38. Unfortunately strategic thinking is beyond the capability of the present Indian leadership which is more into photo ops and events management. With it’s pathetic emphasis on talks and diplomacy India’s policy making cuts a sorry figure.

    • Seriously you think that Congress governments strategic thinking of doing nothing on eastern borders, so as to not spoke China was a better one? China built the infrastructure on our borders during Congress government and it did not even register a complain. Do you want the return of that visionary strategic thinking?

    • Ok Mr. Armchair expert, can you give 3 concrete recommendations on what the government should do TODAY? Keep in mind the practical constraints.

      And which institute of foreign policy did you graduate from that teaches that talks and diplomacy are not part of strategy? The Kamikaze institute of foreign policy? Or is it the Harakiri school of foreign relations?

    • Could you please explain what previous govts did to stop china from annexing indian territory. And we all saw strategic thinking of current govt at South bank of pangong lake.

    • I have not yet seen a comprehensive definition of “strategy”. China is certainly brilliant in “strategy”, managing to alienate 192 of the UN’s 193 members. Even its puppy dog, our Western neighbour, maintains a deafening silence on China’s expansionist moves. The Islamic nations applaud China’s incarceration of 2 million Uighurs. Amazing strategy! Papua New Guinea refuses to pay back a USD 70 mn loan for a Huawei-built data centre as the technology and financing are suspect (the centre does not work). Unbelievable strategy! Crushing Hongkong’s liberal system is superb strategy! Cheating, deception, falsehood is incredible strategy! I am happy to belong to a nation that lacks such mind blowing “strategy”!

    • Why is your newspaper so anti india? Whenever I have read your newspaper, there is zero percent
      Patriotism. Indian army is the second largest in the world , and with combat experience it gives us a edge over China. Some of these facts are not published by your paper, since you guys love facts so much, time to look into it.
      Your newspaper is read by so many Indians including our soldiers. It affects their morale!
      Some kind of optimistic articles once in a while is good to read.

      • Majority of Indian media as also international media/tech cos. are run by leftists/communists & Jiihadis!! They are against native civilizations & nations that feed them!! These fascist rats are being exposed but not fast enough!!

    • Really? Is it a just cropped up phenomenon? Did you just land from Mars. Infact the present government is first in decades to.atleast acknowledge the existence of a problem called China. Chinas aggression towards india is not an overnight thing. Read about salami style land occupation since 1962

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