India and China are two giant civilisations that have lived peacefully for years together, divided by the great barrier known as the Himalayas. A peace that existed for years was broken on June 15 and 16, 2020, when a melee between the Indian and Chinese army in Galwan river valley left 20 Indian soldiers killed in action, and another 35 killed in action in the Chinese camp, according to American Intelligence.
So, what prompted an otherwise peaceful China to become so aggressive? What makes China pick fights in multiple fronts right from Galwan River Valley to South China Sea. Maybe China now sees itself as the rightful heir to hegemonic throne that, as yet, is occupied by a stagnating United States.
There is little doubt that the power of China is unmatched in Asia and that it is the second most powerful country in the world after the US. China deserves to be called a superpower equal to the USA, owing to its tremendous economic growth and immense technological advancement, some of which are at par or even better than of the USA.
But there is a problem with this narrative. The USA is not on a downward spiral as most would like to suggest. Yes, sometimes certain uncontrollable situation such as a pandemic can put a brake on its progress, but as of now, we cannot simply write off the USA. Another problem with this narrative is that India is growing, just like China. There is bound to be certain friction between the Elephant and the Dragon, as the West sees India as the only possible counterweight to China.
Once bankrupt, India has made massive strides after the introduction of economic reforms in 1991. It is now the fifth largest economy by a nominal GDP and third largest by the PPP model of GDP. With its fourth largest standing army and modern armaments, it is not a pushover like it was in 1962. It has made a name for itself in the field of IT, space, pharmaceuticals, etc.
The Indian response after the Galwan valley incident has been on the back of this achievement. India has caught China completely off guard. China was not expecting the amount of Indian resistance that India is putting up now and this resistance is augmented with the support of its informal allies of the West and the East. This speaks volume about India’s soft power.
Previously, India and China were speaking the language of trade and commerce, but with China’s recent actions in the Galwan valley, its diplomatic stance on various serious issues in the UN and recent media posts have not been taken in positive light by the Indian masses.
Picking up fights in multiple fronts, two of which happen to be nuclear powers, is not a wise strategy for China.
India is not yet an enemy of China and vice versa. Both the nations have agreed to solve their border differences through dialogue. The earlier atmosphere of amiability, with its inherent optimism towards growth, has been broken. There has been a shift from the ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’ narrative. This can be seen in the recent interview of Indian Foreign Minister and the press briefings of his Chinese counterpart.
India is not scared but it is certainly suspicious of its neighbour to the north. It is now rapidly bolstering its northern borders by building roads, tunnels, bridges and advance landing grounds at an unprecedented pace.
So, is it the end of the road for the India-China relationship? The answer to this question lies in the fact that both nations know that neither can annihilate the other in a conventional war without taking a big hit themselves and this fact should force them to talk. China, being the big brother, should adopt a more genuine approach of give and take with India rather than being a bully if it wants peace and tranquility in its relationship with his small brother.
So, the ball is in China’s court and the world will be watching closely how things play out between the Elephant and the Dragon.