Why in the news?
Global order is changing in the backdrop of the Covid Pandemic. The two heavyweights of Global order, USA and China are jabbing at each other without anyone of them being able to deliver any decisive knockout. Long term engagement between two superpowers provides an opportunity to middle powers like India to redefine their place in the world.
Why India should redefine its response
- India is an immediate neighbour of China, a revisionist power who is engaging with India through coercive diplomacy. The People’s Liberation Army of China got engaged in unprovoked transgression in May 2020, which sought to alter the existing status quo in eastern Ladakh.
- India’s own goal of becoming a prominent player in Global world order.
Evaluation of India’s response to Chinese provocation
- India-China’s standoff at eastern Ladakh can be analysed through pioneer American political scientist Alexander L. George’s four variants of coercive diplomacy namely – a gradual turning of screw, a try-and-see, a tacit ultimatum or a full-fledged ultimatum.
- Chinese approach in Ladakh was in a progressive manner. It was similar to graduated turning of screws and then waiting to see India’s response.
- India correctly did not subscribe to quid-pro-quo and instead decided to adopt the try-and- see approach. It engaged in mild forms of coercion like building up forces on ground, displaying Indian Air Forces to achieve parity on ground. This strengthened India’s defensive posture.
- After strengthening its defensive posture, India’s focused on coercion through diplomatic and economic posture. At political level, the political establishment did not push the panic button in May, 2020 and synergised politico-diplomatic-military response. This helped India to avoid limited escalation or tactical wars.
- In the eastern Ladakh, the People’s Liberation Army used speed and stealth to unroll its tactical plans. However, mobilisation of strength by Indian Air Force and control over high altitude caught Chinese unprepared.
- India is a status quo power and hence when faced with adversaries who are either irrational or revisionist, it is bound to rocked on backfoot during the initial crisis that involves application or show of force.
- During the present India-China crisis, India did exceptionally well at the military and diplomatic level. At present however, it is difficult to predict the trajectory once ice snows melt in the Himalayas.
- However, given the asymmetry that exists between two powers, it will be fair to argue that India has done well in countering Chinese coercion in Ladakh with its own brand of counter coercion.