Is The India-China Conflict Intractable?

India's relationships with China are irreversibly damaged, according to a senior Indian official who eventually told a visiting other countries counterpart. Although overstated, the statement accurately reflects the current mood in New Delhi.

The various nations' commerce may be breaking milestones, and they continue to cooperate at international fora such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, particularly those related to security. However, the escalating tensions along their 3,488-kilometer border, as well as the overall tense tone of their relationship, is hard to overlook.

Regarding the 2020 activities, the Chinese claim that boundary disputes are an ongoing problem that should be ignored while bilateral ties improve in other areas. The Indian party is adamant that the framework that had allowed normality for the previous 30 years has altered. In 2020, the problem was not a sporadic invasion, but a determined effort to impose a variant of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on India, supported by a major People's Liberation Army (PLA) presence.

China's actions are a component of a current trend in which India has been alienated, Australia has gone from friend to adversary, Hong Kong has been dragged to heel, and big swaths of China's private sector have been shredded for the sake of universal economic development.

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China, on the other hand, must have known that the Indian side would not tolerate the negotiated settlement in Ladakh. The administration hasn't told them the entire storey, but it has answered forcefully to China's approach with a large infrastructure-building programme, military-equipment upgrades, and a reorientation of the army far from Pakistan and onto China. This arrives at an ideal time, as the PLA has been restructuring and strengthening its operations in Tibet since 2017.

Ever since the 1950s, India and China have been considered challengers and neighbours. When they chose to liberal up their markets in the 1980s, their economies were nearly comparable in size, with India way ahead in several areas.

Then followed China's meteoric economic rise, which propelled it ahead of India in every aspect of national strength. Chinese started to compare themselves to the United States (US) and consider India to be a second-tier nation. The South Asia-Indian Ocean Region (SA-IOR) became second to just the western Pacific in significance to China as its economic and military power grew. It is the highway on which critical resources, particularly petroleum, are transported, in addition to present and potential markets.

India has long maintained that geography bestows predominance on it in the SA-IOR. However, its failure to produce a thriving South Asian commercial zone has left it without the tools to shape continental or maritime political debate. Meanwhile, China has achieved considerable advances into India's backyard - Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bangladesh — and has massively advanced throughout the Indian Ocean.

China, as a potential international power, must initially establish dominance in its immediate surroundings. The issue for Beijing is geographical, as it is bordered by major countries such as Russia, Japan, and India, while the United States has a significant maritime presence. China's current heavy-handed behaviour has earned them few allies. It has even prompted the development of a new defence pact in the western Pacific, known as AUKUS, which is placed on top of the Quad, which comprises India and Japan.