What is the sum total of the Indian government’s achievements in dealing with China in the last year?

One, on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) itself, in the rush to create the semblance of ‘achievement’, the Indian government proved too eager to make concessions and to show as if the bilateral relationship was getting back on track. As a result, the Chinese got the Indian Army to vacate the Kailash ranges occupied at the end of August 2020 in return for disengagement from just two points — Pangong Tso and Gogra — in the opening months of the year. The entire process has subsequently stalled with Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang remaining points of friction. This was entirely predictable and indeed, the government had fair warning.

What is worse, there has been an attempt to portray Depsang as a ‘legacy’ issue predating the latest tensions, which is another way of saying that not only does the government not have much of a roadmap for the final resolution of the boundary dispute, it is willing to allow the Chinese to dictate the nature and pace of changes on the ground at the LAC — that it does not see the disturbance in the status quo as an opportunity to try new things but as a crisis to be contained.

That is not the mark of a government that comprehends or prioritises national security issues, leave alone India’s international image in the neighbourhood or globally. For surely, a country that does not acknowledge that it has lost territory, let alone retake such territory, cannot command much respect in other capitals.

Two, while New Delhi has shown greater gumption since Galwan in partnering with the US as well as in initiatives of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the first face-to-face summit of the Quad heads of government in Washington in September —the stench of inertia about India has not quite dissipated. The Indian government is frequently at pains to describe the Quad as not being aimed at ‘any third country’ and to state that it was not a military alliance. The Indian Navy has even been careful to classify the Quad as an MEA initiative different from the Malabar naval exercises.

What is the sum total of the Indian government’s achievements in dealing with China in the last year?

One, on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) itself, in the rush to create the semblance of ‘achievement’, the Indian government proved too eager to make concessions and to show as if the bilateral relationship was getting back on track. As a result, the Chinese got the Indian Army to vacate the Kailash ranges occupied at the end of August 2020 in return for disengagement from just two points — Pangong Tso and Gogra — in the opening months of the year. The entire process has subsequently stalled with Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang remaining points of friction. This was entirely predictable and indeed, the government had fair warning.

What is worse, there has been an attempt to portray Depsang as a ‘legacy’ issue predating the latest tensions, which is another way of saying that not only does the government not have much of a roadmap for the final resolution of the boundary dispute, it is willing to allow the Chinese to dictate the nature and pace of changes on the ground at the LAC — that it does not see the disturbance in the status quo as an opportunity to try new things but as a crisis to be contained.

That is not the mark of a government that comprehends or prioritises national security issues, leave alone India’s international image in the neighbourhood or globally. For surely, a country that does not acknowledge that it has lost territory, let alone retake such territory, cannot command much respect in other capitals.

Two, while New Delhi has shown greater gumption since Galwan in partnering with the US as well as in initiatives of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the first face-to-face summit of the Quad heads of government in Washington in September —the stench of inertia about India has not quite dissipated. The Indian government is frequently at pains to describe the Quad as not being aimed at ‘any third country’ and to state that it was not a military alliance. The Indian Navy has even been careful to classify the Quad as an MEA initiative different from the Malabar naval exercises.