10 June 2024

India’s China Challenge

Abhinav Pandya

On April 10, 2024, amid the high-pitch and polarising campaign for the upcoming national elections, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi gave a crucial interview with Newsweek. Generally, BJP election campaigns put a high premium on hyper-nationalistic rhetoric on security issues. However, this time, Modi took an unexpected stance and softened his previously tough posture on India-China ties. In his Newsweek interview, he said, “Through positive and constructive bilateral engagement at diplomatic and military levels, the two countries will be able to restore and sustain peace and tranquillity at the borders.” While emphasizing that the relationship with China is “important” and “significant,” he stated, “It is my belief that we need to urgently address the prolonged situation on our borders so that the abnormality in our bilateral interactions can be put behind us. Stable and peaceful relations between India and China are important for not just our two countries but the entire region and world.” Reacting positively to Modi’s statements, China also assured that “sound and stable” relations are in both nations’ interests.

In the diplomatic quarters, Modi’s statements have signaled a breakthrough toward achieving a thaw in the stiff and estranged bilateral ties between India and China. However, the question arises whether it is possible to achieve a lasting peace in the Himalayan borders, given the fact that twenty-one rounds of core commander-level meetings and twenty-nine meetings of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs have failed to achieve any breakthrough.

After the Galwan crisis in June 2020, which resulted in causalities on both sides, the bilateral ties worsened. Following the Galwan standoff, both sides amassed 50,000 troops in a mirror deployment pattern in the Ladakh sector. After four rounds of disengagement in Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Gogra (PP-17 A), and Hot Springs (PP-15), and continuing tensions in Depsang and Demchok, the deployments remain in a standoff on both sides of the border. Today, bilateral relations are at a nadir not seen since the 1962 war.

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