No breakthrough


China's systematic build-up of infrastructure along the LAC has elicited a strong response from India, which has been raising structures of its own to fortify its defences and facilitate faster movement of troops. At the same time, New Delhi's eagerness to settle differences through dialogue underlines its commitment to peace and stability in the region. However, China's aggressive posturing and its cartographic interventions - described by India as a 'ridiculous exercise' to support untenable territorial claims - are proving to be major stumbling blocks. The 14th round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China, held weeks after Beijing implemented a new border law and renamed 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh on its map, ended without any breakthrough on disengagement from Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh.
In May 2020, China launched several near-simultaneous incursions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, into territory hitherto controlled by India. Both sides reinforced their positions with tens of thousands of troops, engaged in a deadly skirmish, and reportedly came close to war. An agreement to disengage troops was announced in February 2021, but implementation has been halting. Regardless of how disengagement progresses, the crisis poses significant challenges for India's long-term strategic competition with China. The two countries have been locked in a tense border standoff for the past about 20 months. The 13th round, held in October last year, had ended in a stalemate as the Indian Army's 'constructive suggestions' regarding the friction points were dubbed 'unreasonable and unrealistic' by the Chinese. Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane has made it clear that the threat in eastern Ladakh had 'by no means reduced' and the Army would continue to deal with the Chinese military in a firm manner. He also asserted that if a war was thrust upon India, the country would come out victorious.
Even as India expects China to see reason sooner than later, there are indications that Islamabad may prioritise geo-economic interests over geo-strategic rivalry. Pakistan, which is in the throes of a deep financial crisis, is set to unveil its new National Security Policy, which will revolve around economic security. An official has been quoted as saying that Pakistan is not seeking hostility with India 'for the next 100 years', holding out hope for the resumption of dialogue and revival of trade ties - even if the Kashmir issue remains unresolved. These are good tidings, but the proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating. China's actions, before and since the crisis began, have offered ample impetus for the Indian deployments.

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