The LAC Quagmire
One aspect that seizes to change in the ever-transforming international realm is the states’ unwillingness to compromise on matters of territorial sovereignty. A befitting demonstration of that is on full display at the Line of Actual Control where the Chinese and Indian troops are finding themselves engaged in unsettling scuffles and skirmishes. With the blame-game equally underplay by both actors, the precarious and volatile milieu along the border is raising concerns regarding conflict acceleration and the potential consequences. While numerous analysts dismiss the option of a limited conventional war between the traditional rivals as irrational, the truth remains that rationality for states is often times embedded in showcasing national power, furthering state interests, reiterating national postures and conjecturing them with sabotaging the opponent’s will and strength.
The offensive along the LAC, that has most recently claimed the lives of twenty Indian soldiers with multiple casualties on the Chinese end, comes as a rare sighting since the tensions diffused post 1980’s. An air of ambiguity and curiosity wraps the incrementing trajectory of the current conflict. However, multiple factors may be traced as being the impetuses to renewed tensions in the region. India’s Kashmir adventurism; her unilateral decision to lock the fate of an internationally disputed territory at the expense of the interests of Pakistan and China has led to exacerbated distrust. India’s assertive claims on Ladakh, Sikkim and Aksai Chin coupled with the destabalsing military and infrastructural advancements along the border have sowed the seeds of heightened dissent, leading to the recent tensions. In addition, India’s profound siding with the anti-China camp and her efforts to undermine Chinese aims in the South China Sea have all directed China to confront the neighbour in a manner devoid of previously practiced passiveness or restraint. China’s confrontational positioning vis-à-vis Indian maneuvering is seen indicative of the country’s ‘wolf warrior’ policy which is also assumed to be behind China’s augmented efforts to gain control over Hong Kong and Tibet.
If analysed, the developments along the LAC suggest a prominent failure of Indian deterrence as well as her military capabilities. The incursions by Chinese forces, gaining control over Indian territory in Ladakh and the resulting hesitation from India to react in a similar manner displays, in totality, the relative weakness the state is plagued with. Be it the domains of military, economy, cyber-security or technology, the fact remains that India cannot afford to perturb China without invoking grave consequences for herself. In a backdrop tinted by coronavirus and resulting domestic pressures, the presence of nationalistic governments on both sides and similar intentions regarding territorial expansion as well as hard power display are set to add more fuel to the searing fire. For India, the options are limited, with pragmatism advising de-escalation of tensions or worse, appeasement. Intensifying the conflict will bring instability to an already unstable region while proving nearly suicidal for India. China’s aggressiveness amidst her course to becoming a hegemon and Indian attempts to balance Chinese power in South Asia and Asia Pacific are restructuring the dynamics between the two countries. If the prevalence of a militaristic approach to regional dimensions continues with shear neglect towards conflict management, the ongoing engagements may blow out of proportion, endangering the security and stability of the entire world, let alone the region.
The writer is a student of BS-International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org