SOURCE: TNN BLOG
Just before the next round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders to resolve the standoff in eastern Ladakh, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien has said that time has come to accept that dialogue will not persuade Beijing to change its ways. O’Brien has a strong point. Beijing’s belligerence and extravagant territorial claims have only been growing in recent years.
That said, counterbalancing an aggressive China through platforms like Quad and keeping channels of communication open with Beijing should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Doing so raises the probability of misjudgement and conflict, which is in nobody’s interest. In this regard, China has in recent weeks hinted at reviving the 1959 LAC with India. As per this proposal, China will pretty much retain Aksai Chin in the Ladakh region while giving up its claims on Arunachal Pradesh.
Retaining what each side has and making it the basis for settling the international border is the best solution to the India-China confrontation. After all, New Delhi has no hope of wresting Aksai Chin from Beijing just as Chinese claims on Arunachal are a pipe dream. But the deal needs to be sold to domestic constituencies. Just as it’s said that only a Republican president such as Richard Nixon could have made a rapprochement with Mao’s China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone has the capacity to sell an LAC deal in India, as no one will question his nationalist credentials. With Modi and Xi slated to come face-to-face at the virtual Brics summit next month, New Delhi should explore if Beijing is serious about the 1959 LAC proposal. If it is, then Modi could actualise a historic deal. Else, with the situation deadlocked on the LAC we are heading towards its LoC-isation, which will inflict a heavy military and economic burden on India.