India has come a long way since 1962. Experts greeted the announcement of India-China de-escalation with a gamut of emotions, ranging from cautious optimism to sheer scepticism.
Trying to put the agreement in perspective, Dr Prabir De, Professor at the New Delhi-based Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries, said: “The Chinese surrender at the crucial meeting between the NSA and the Chinese Foreign Minister is rooted in its new found insecurity stemming from India’s decision to reduce dependence on Chinese imports. India has a growing trade deficit touching 40 billion USD with China. The bilateral trade between India and China is around 80 billion USD but the informal trade between the two countries is huge. India’s imports from China currently stand at 60 billion USD. Our Prime Minister, therefore, embarked on a strategy to hit China where it would hurt the most. Banning of the 59 Chinese apps, putting strict conditions on Chinese Foreign Direct Investment and raising the duties on Chinese imports, made them fall in line.”
A leading economist, Dr De said that the military confrontation needs to be seen in the context of the fact that the Chinese domestic economy is not doing well and the leaders are grappling with major socio economic challenges. Unable to cope with political criticism back home, the Chinese President Xi Jinping is trying to divert attention through this conflict. Its super ambitious and unrealistic Belt and Road Initiative does not have many takers.
Dr De is of the opinion that a sizeable number of Chinese companies are doing business in India and providing jobs, exports and technology. “It is in India’s economic interests to create a favourable business environment for them. Decoupling of the two Asian economies is not the way out. Military stability is a pre-requisite for economic and security interests but not at the cost of compromising our territorial sovereignty.”
Major General Vinod Saigal said that the Chinese leadership has grasped the reality that the Ladakh standoff was unsustainable in the long term as India had gone in for full mobilisation. Additionally, the visit of PM Modi to the front in Ladakh boosted the morale of the troops and brought home to the Chinese soldiers the stark reality that their Commander in Chief was nowhere to be seen. He seemed to be hiding behind a veil. Not only that, PM Modi threw a second bombshell by taking the battle into the economic domain. The sudden banning of 59 Chinese apps, which had practically taken over the country, shook the Chinese industry as well as the people of China. “Modi did not stop there. He pledged to continue the process till dependence on China was considerably reduced.”
Major General Saigal, who has been invited to China twice as State guest, said, “The overwhelming support that India got from major countries also may have unnerved China.”
Then, there are noted strategic experts like Colonel Anil Bhatt who believe what they see on the ground. “We have to ensure that the disengagement process is done in a meaningful manner to revert to the positions on ground as in April 2020. This disengagement involves movement of substantial amount of tanks artillery guns, missiles and other equipment. This means moving men and machine lock, stock and barrel, at least 20-30 kilometre behind. They need to be watched like hawks. ‘’