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China’s India Dilemma: Ally Against US or Asian Foe

China wants to woo India as an ally both in its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and against US-led hegemony in Asia but it also fears New Delhi is a competitor

Indian soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh
Indian Border Security Force soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh near the Chinese frontier, shortly after a deadly clash in 2020. File photo: AFP


The standoff between India and China over their mountainous border is the result of conflicting policies in Beijing, a new paper argues.

China wants to woo India as an ally both in its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and against US-led hegemony in Asia.

But it also fears that New Delhi is a competitor and will frustrate its attempts in “securing a China-centred regional order with Beijing as the sole leader or rule-maker in the region”.

That’s the conclusion reached by Antara Ghosal Singh, a fellow in the strategic studies programme at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

Singh argues there has been little progress in relations since the India-China border standoff that began in May 2020 in the mountainous terrain of Ladakh in the Himalayas.

It culminated in a deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, which was the worst fighting in over four decades and resulted in casualties on both sides.

“Almost two years into the standoff, there is still little clarity on its fundamental cause,” Singh writes.


India-China Border: Intensifying Conflict

“The border standoff in Ladakh is likely the outcome of an intensifying conflict between two Chinese strategies towards India,” she writes in her paper, published by the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington.

“On the one hand, Beijing wants to effectively check a rising New Delhi by asserting its strength and psychological advantage in bilateral ties,” Singh says.

“But on the other hand, China is anxious about the impact of the current crisis on the realisation of its various regional and global objectives in the Indian Ocean region that necessitates cordial ties with India.”

Singh said New Delhi should come to terms with the fact that it has leverage with China due to its increasing strategic value to Beijing, whether in the realm of China’s foreign policy or its development strategies.

That, she added, can be used to shape Beijing’s behaviour and extract benefits from it.

Singh said Chinese foreign policy academics such as Ling Shengli of China Foreign Affairs University and Sun Xingjie of the Institute of International Relations have said that China should not further push India into the US camp.

They warned that if New Delhi and Washington were to establish closer economic ties, it could result in China losing its position in many industrial supply chains.

“The combination of Japanese capital, American technology, and Indian labour” could spell “big trouble for China”.


  • George Russell




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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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