China’s unyielding border stance never shaken by India’s strategic drift toward US
Published: Oct 12, 2023 09:57 PM
Illsutration: Xia Qing/GT

Illsutration: Xia Qing/GT

In a quiet manner, China and India held their 20th round of corps commander level meetings.

China's Ministry of National Defense (MOD) announced on Thursday that the meeting was held at the Moldo-Chushul border meeting point on the Indian side on October 9 and 10. The two sides had a positive, in-depth and constructive discussion on resolving the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector in a mutually acceptable manner at the earliest possible date, the MOD noted, adding the two sides agreed to maintain the momentum of communication and dialogue through military and diplomatic channels… and to maintain the peace and tranquility on the ground in the border areas.

The press releases of the latest two rounds of talks look mostly similar, with slight differences. For example, the news release of the 20th round added "a mutually acceptable manner" when referring to future resolution. 

Obviously, this indicates the current stumbling block - the present-day terms negotiated by the two sides are not mutually acceptable, Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times. Based on Liu's observation, the biggest obstacle in making a breakthrough in corps commander level meetings lies in India's objective, which is not simply reaching disengagement of troops from friction points, but to use the talks to compel China to withdraw and allow India to carry out patrols and occupy Chinese territories in certain areas.

India has been thinking highly of itself lately, including in relevant talks. India perceives its current position in the triangular relationship of India, China and the US to be analogous to China's position during the Cold War era among the triangular relations of China, the US and the Soviet Union. A "non-treaty alliance partnership" has emerged between India and the US. Given India's favorable geopolitical circumstances, it believes China needs to ease relations with India so as to deal with the strategic pressure exerted by the US, Liu said. 

The US, on the other hand, has indeed been cozying up to India, siding with New Delhi in the border dispute, granting it higher status and more flexibility on major global issues, to serve its Indo-Pacific Strategy to contain China. It wishes to see tensions escalate, even flare up, between China and India. However, the reality is proving that India's effort to play the US card against China on border issues is futile. "China will not make major concessions to India on border disputes, particularly on territorial issues, due to concerns over India's strategic drift toward the US," Long Xingchun, a professor at the School of International Relations at Sichuan International Studies University, told Global Times.

As long as the talks continue, there will be no collapse in bilateral ties, no new military confrontation or conflict. The meeting itself is a diplomatic posture, Long said.

A future resolution of China-India border issues will depend on China and India, not any other third party. China and India are independent sovereign countries, neither will allow a scenario which could turn themselves into cannon fodder of the US when the latter pursues its hegemonic self-interests. "India wants to borrow the power of the US, but it is reluctant to be taken advantage by the US," Long added.

Both China and India are developing countries with aspirations for development. China has the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, while India has the dream to realize modernization. In 2022, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India aims to become a developed country within 25 years. To achieve this goal, India needs a stable peripheral and international environment, rather than pooling significant energy and resources to border disputes. From this perspective, there is huge common interest between China and India. Resolving controversies, including managing border disputes, is crucial for both countries to achieve their respective objectives.

The vast majority of the ongoing turmoil and chaos in the world is instigated and interfered with by the US, driven by its hegemonic and self-interest motives. Fortunately, despite the friction between China and India, both countries have maintained a relatively stable dialogue mechanism. Progress has been limited, but they are firm in resisting another outbreak of conflict. In the end, it must be China and India themselves who will bridge their gap, while avoiding to be tripped by outsiders. 

Experts note that in the China-India border dispute, India is the side that always wants more, and with US endorsement, refuses to make any compromise. Disputes won't be fixed in that way, and that method of dealing with problems might backfire.