Ever since formally establishing relations with the People Republics of China in 1950 the Indo-China relations have been a rocky one. The relations have always been volatile, lacking in confidence and unresolved terrestrial issues have always proved to be a sticking point between the two nations.
The biggest sticking point in the relations have been the border issues that have existed for many years in the Sino-India. While several territorial land pockets (14 divisions) along the 3488-km long border (Line of Actual Control) have come under dispute, two issues remain unresolved- Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. In 1962, the two countries fought a brief war in Arunachal Pradesh, where the Indian Army had to suffer a crushing defeat.
An immediate fallout of these unresolved territorial claims by both the countries have been border intrusions/incursions have been a major stumbling block to improving relations between India and China. Both countries have been strengthening their military presence along the Line of Actual Control(LAC). While China has deployed close to 300,000 troops, India has deployed close to 120,000 troops in the Eastern sector.
The latest skirmish has been in Doklam. In June 2017, a military standoff occurred between India and China as China attempted to extend a road on the Doklam plateau southwards near the Doka La pass and Indian troops moved in to prevent the Chinese. India claimed to have acted on the behalf of Bhutan, with which it has a ‘special relationship’.
A bit about Doklam:
Bhutan had formally objected to China’s road construction in the disputed area. Doklam is an area with a plateau and a valley, lying between Tibet’s Chumbi Valley to the north, Bhutan’s Ha Valley to the east and India’s Sikkim state to the west. It has been depicted in Bhutanese maps since 1961, but it is also claimed by China. To date, the dispute has not been resolved despite several rounds of negotiations between China and Bhutan. The area is of strategic importance to all the three countries.
India’s diplomatic victory in disengagement:
In what is being touted as a major diplomatic success for India, the Ministry of External Affairs last week announced “expeditious disengagement of border personnel” at Doklam, signalling that the months-long standoff at the disputed India-China-Bhutan trijunction has come to an end. India also made sure that Chinese salami slicing policy did not succeed at Doklam.
But, this was not the only reason that China had to back down. China almost got isolated since no country would back its claim on Doklam. On the other hand, the US, the UK and Japan openly threw their weight behind India, which are already frustrated with China’s imperialistic policies.
But the fact that is worth our attention is that how the United States has openly supported India in the Doklam issue. China already is uncomfortable with the growing cooperation between India and the US.
India and the US held the Malabar naval exercise while Indian and Chinese troops were stationed 150 metres from each other in Doklam. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, the Modi administration strengthened its stance against China. This came as music to the ears of many western countries since they thought that India can be used to suppress China at a very low cost to them.
Why should we expect more pro India policies from Washington?
Ever since Donald Trump came into power the world has been watching his every move withheld breaths. Be it his views regarding immigration or his rants against globalisation has left the world in a fix. His outspokenness against certain countries has sent ripples in the global political arena.
But, one thing that hasn’t changed is his stance towards India. He has always been friendly with India. This was quite evident during his campaign when he proclaimed that India and America would be the best of friends under his administration. He also went an extra mile when he attended a mega Hindu event which was organised by Shalabh Kumar the head of the Republic Hindu Council in October 2016 for campaigning. Such a gesture had never been shown by nominees. This also led to the conclusion that if elected to power Indo-American relations could scale new heights.
Donald Trump had openly criticised Pakistan during his campaign for providing safe haven to terrorists. Under the new administration concrete steps are already being taken to deal with the menace of terrorism. Washington has never been more sympathetic to India’s ordeal with state sponsored terrorism than now. The Trump administration is also in favour of India playing a major role in stabilising Afghanistan which has not gone down very well with Pakistan. The American aids that Pakistan was receiving until now have been attached with strings. The trump administration also notified the US Congress that it will be putting 225 million dollars of the 1.1. billion dollars in an escrow account until Islamabad acts against terror groups. In his recent visit to Afghanistan Trump again ruffled Pakistan’s feathers when he again accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and that the US might not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
Now let us come to China. Trump has already been very vocal against the trade imbalance that exists with China. Situation is tense in strategic area of South China Sea where China has constructed artificial islands as it insists on ‘indisputable sovereignty’ in the area and its resources while other claimants like Japan, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia have the law on their side. America’s concern with the South China Sea is a result of China’s effort to secure control over the maritime territory and the resources it contains.
The above situations have already given America more than enough reasons to be even friendlier with India. The United States has already backed India’s entry to the NSG, and most recently it threw its full weight behind India on the Doklam issue sending a clear signal to China. Common adversaries and the relatable threats that both the countries face from them have already pulled America and India closer than ever and we can expect a lot of pro Indian policies from Washington in the coming days.