For over a month, India and China have been locked in a tense border conflict in eastern Ladakh. The standoff turned violent early this week, leading to the killing of 20 Indian soldiers. Grim as the situation is, it is not quite clear what exactly is happening on the ground, and what it means for relations between the two countries.
To demystify the conflict and explain its strategic and political implications, Mehraj D Lone spoke with Happymon Jacob, one of India’s foremost strategic affairs experts. Jacob teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies, and writes extensively on India’s strategic and foreign policies, the Kashmir dispute, and disarmament. He is the author of The Line of Control: Travelling with the Indian and Pakistani Armies and Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India–Pakistan Escalation Dynamics.
In this conversation, held before the faceoff turned violent, Jacob argues that the ongoing conflict is not a usual border transgression. It needs to be seen in the larger geopolitical context of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, potential presence of Chinese soldiers in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, India’s recent declarations about retaking Aksai Chin.
As to how India should respond, he says its policymakers must realise that “China doesn’t believe in a peaceful rise anymore”. From a military perspective, he adds, “it’s not all that easy for India to dislodge Chinese soldiers from Ladakh” but it has the upper hand along other parts of the Line of Actual Control.
He also talks about dealing with China economically, diplomatically, and in the maritime space, while looking for avenues of cooperation.
Jacob also talks about the BJP government’s foreign policy, the abrogation of Article 370 and the introduction of a new domicile policy in Jammu and Kashmir.
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