Indo-Chinese conflict and the Eurasian Heartland
In Russia Eurasianism is en vogue and not only by its former avangardist Alexander Dugin. Be it Russian President Putin, former Sovjet Primeminister Primakov and his advisor Dr. Kulikov (Russia-India-China model/RIC), Yuri Koffner, be it Karaganov, be it Dr. Kortunov (RIAC) , the Russian Orientalists, etc. Especially Dr. Kortunov in the RIAC artcile „ Heartland Reunnion: Geopolitical Chimera or Historical Chance? revitalized the idea of Mackinder´s paradigm that who controls the Eurasian Heartland, controls The World-Island. He sees this formula as very modern and in his opinion a Sino-Indian cooperation beyond the RIC, BRICS and SCO framework would mean the control of the Eurasian Heartland at present and in the future. In his article he thinks how this cooperation could work and that China and India as a tandem could attract authoritarian states (China) and liberal democratic states( India) together at the same time. In the article „Pakistan´s Role in the Great Eurasian Partnership“ from June 2020 Dr. Kortunov writes about Putin´s concept of Great Eurasian Partnership (GEP) which thinks about a cooperation between the BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union, the deepening of the SCO and the incorporation of other Eurasian states like Pakistan.
However if one looks at the present Sino-Indian border conflict and the new assertivness and nationalism on both sides, it is hard to imagine at the moment that there could be such a harmonious Eurasian Heartland cooperation in the next future, even if Russia tries to mediate and supports India`s membership in the permanent UNSC, while China is blocking all this efforts and by this annoying India and raising doubts in India if such a multipolar or Eurasian world wouldn´t be too sinocentric and is so favourable. Therefore we want to have a look at the present Sino-Idnian borderconflict.
The Indo-Chinese border conflict at Ladhak has different explanations:
China thinks that India´s new nationalism and its rapprochement with the USA, the hope that it can replace China as global factory, would now mirror in the military sphere. The Global Times writes:
„An economy-crippling lockdown doesn’t seem to have deterred India from daring to dream big as its ambition to replace China’s role in the global industrial chain expands.
India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh is forming an economic task force to attract companies eyeing a manufacturing shift from China, according to media reports. However, despite such efforts, it is still delusional to expect economic pressure facing China amid the COVID-19 pandemic will allow India to become the world’s next factory. Radical voices saying that India is on track to replace China reflect nothing but nationalistic hubris.
And such conceit has gone beyond economic issues to reach the military level, which has led some to mistakenly believe they can now confront China with border issues. Such thinking is undoubtedly dangerous and misguided. Thus far, Chinese border defense troops have bolstered border control measures and made necessary moves in response to New Delhi’s recent attempt to unilaterally change the border control situation in the Galwan Valley region.
Western media outlets have been enthusiastic in touting India’s competitiveness by comparing its market potential to China’s, which has given some Indians a false impression of the actual situation. It would be unrealistic to think that there is any chance India could take China’s place at the current time. Tensions between China and the US are not an opportunity for India to attract relocating industrial chains, because the South Asian country is not prepared to receive such a manufacturing shift given its poor infrastructure, lack of skilled labor and stringent foreign investment restrictions.“
China makes India responsible for a new assertiveness, infrastructure building in this region in order to fix new borders, the Trump-Modi meeting, the new Indian Hindu nationalism which by the Jammu/ Kashmir abrogation law also influences the Line of Control, etc. India on the other side claims that there is a new Chinese assertiveness, that it is the first time that China claims that the Galwan valley is part of China and also points to other aggressive actions of China like in the South China Sea which was the model for Chinese encroachment step by step. Chinese and Indian hawks on both sides are proposing military action and voice alarmist warnings. As frontrunners ist the Tibetan exile community in India, which sees Mao Zedong´s five finger strategy at work:
„Ladakh is the First Finger, China is Coming After All Five: Tibet Chief’s Warning to India
Lobsang Sangay said Beijing’s recent actions on the Line of Actual Control with India can be seen as following the ‘Five Fingers of Tibet strategy’ as was laid down by Mao Zedong.
China’s claim of sovereignty over the entire Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, a claim that it had not made directly for decades, has prompted the leader of the Tibetan-government-in-exile to issue a dire warning to India: “learn from what happened to Tibet”.
Speaking exclusively to CNN-News18, Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibet Administration, explained that Beijing’s recent actions on the Line of Actual Control with India can be seen as following the ‘Five Fingers of Tibet strategy’ as was laid down by People’s Republic of China’s founding father Mao Zedong.
“When Tibet was occupied, Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders said, ‘Tibet is the palm which we must occupy, then we will go after the five fingers’. The first finger is Ladakh. The other four are Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.
The statement came after India’s ministry of external affairs had at 1am on Thursday said that China is making “exaggerated and untenable claims.”
India had in a statement on June 16, and in a read-out of the phone conversation between foreign minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Chinese Wang Yi on June 17, categorically mentioned that the Chinese side had “sought to erect a structure in the Galwan Valley on our side of the LAC”.
(…) hence I am here condemning the violence and warning India and neighbouring countries that what happened to Tibet can happen to you,” he added.“
Beyond encroaching the Galwan valley and other disputed areas, China is now planning huge water reservoirs in Tibet using the so-called Heaven Channel for the diversion of water resources to Beijing and Shanghai in order to satisfy China’s water shortage. At the same time, however, this would mean that water volumes belonging to India and Southeast Asia would be lacking, which can have ecological and profound economic consequences. There is increasing hope among parts of the Tibetans that Tibetan independence may be promoted through a water conflict between India and China and the border conflicts. The Tibetan Rangzen Alliance expressed this most clearly:
“The possibility of anarchy and chaos breaking out is very real. Should it get there, there would surely be a chance to achieve Tibet’s independence. Of course, we have to use those moments with determination and force. The Chinese, however weak and disoriented, will certainly not surrender Tibet peacefully or voluntarily. At the same time, it must be emphasized that ranking is not achieved by simply waiting for China to destroy itself. The Tibetans can promote the process by destabilizing Tibet from the inside and organizing international economic actions against China. (…) Even if China should not ultimately break up, but is only weakened by today’s difficulties, the Tibetans still exist the possibility of creating or promoting a situation in which China ’s resources are underutilized and the Beijing leadership is forced to consider whether it is wise to sacrifice China‘ s own stability and integrity peripheral colonies. (…)
The struggle for Rangzen is a revolutionary struggle. It must be the business of those who have courage, dedication and willingness to make sacrifices. It should not be a tool from the box of Tibetan politicians‘ electoral tricks, it should not be a machine that provides scholarships and benefits, promotes careers or business, helps immigrants to the USA, and those who like to frolic among the greats of show business and among the rich and famous want to be given the opportunity to do so. (…)
(Chinese geostrategist)Wang also does not overlook India’s role in the matter and surprisingly admits that the Tibetans are much closer to India mentally, culturally and even physically than China. He describes how Chinese Qing and Guomindang officials often traveled to Lhasa via India because it was much more convenient. Wang sees a great danger in this proximity of the two nations, because he knows that India’s military capabilities have improved tremendously since 1962 and that Indian defense spending rose almost twice as fast as Chinese in the 1980s and is even higher today than it is today , although China has also increased its spending significantly. He appeals to foreign military experts who „believe that India today has the best mountain troops in the world, the toughest, the best equipped and capable of successfully warding off any Chinese attack.“
While the Dalai Lama is still committed to a peaceful solution to the Tibetan question, to a „meaningful autonomy“ in dialogue with Beijing, as well as hopes for the 400 million Chinese Buddhists whom he estimates and the pressure from the international public and other countries, now also through the water conflicts around Tibet, parts of the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Rangzen Alliance are likely to explore other options here. The extent to which it is realistic to assume that India could occupy Tibet militarily and that a war with China would be waged remains to be seen. Nonetheless, parts of the Tibetan community seem to be placing their hopes in such an option, especially after the death of the Dalai Lama. Ultimately, however, it is decided in India and the United States to what extent you want to play the Tibetan card.,
However other countries and former allies of India remain silent and also attribute the new crisis to Modi:
„Modi finds neighbours silent as India-China tensions simmer“
China hawks in India already propose much more new Indian assertive actions and criticize Modi for not posturing resolute enough and let China step by step make ist gradual encroachment of Indian territory. Therefore even the threat of an Indian-Chinese border war was an idea as Indian geostrategist Bharat Karnad proposes:
„India’s squeamish attitude towards China is a liability, the army should implement more violent rules of engagement and prepare for limited war.“
A contribution by Indian strategist Samir Tata also proposed an US- Indo alliance not only in the Indopacific but also in the Himalaya with US boots on the ground and the scenario that Indian and US forces attacked Tibet and cut off China in Tibet and Xinjiang from its New Silkroad, gas and oil pipelines and water resources. In the US Army War College Vol.48, No.1 2018 Samir Tata published a programmatic article „US Landpower and an Indo-American Alliance“ ( page 95 ff.). Samir Tata is a foreign policy analyst. He previously served as an intelligence analyst with the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency, a staff assistant to Senator Dianne Feinstein and a researcher with Middle East Institute, Atlantic Council and National Defense University. Samir Tata questions former Secretary of Defense Gate´s programmatic assumption, that in future US wars boots on the ground were not essential and that Navy and Airforce were the main contributors for such a war. Accordingly, the US Army should get prepared to fight Himalaya and land wars against China together with India. The question is if the author means his article serious or if it it is just a desperate move of the US Army to find a new place and role within the US military branches which are enlarged by a Cybercommand and maybe a new Spaceforce. However the article addresses the problem that China is getting more independent from sea routes by its New Silkroad initiative, that Offshore Control and Airseabattle might not work anymore and that the USA has to find a solution to cut off China from its silkroads in the event of a war. But precision guided missiles on pipelines and trucks might substitute boots on the ground in the Himalaya.
The Chinese military strategist Chen Guodong comments Samir Tata`s article as follows:
„What is the strategic motivation of Indian scholar Samir Tata? I can’t see it in this report. If Britain does not deliberately delineate a controversial borderline in the South Asian subcontinent, there will be no contradiction between China and India, and there will be no contradiction between India and Pakistan. In fact, there have been three wars between India and Pakistan, and a large-scale border war between India and China.
India’s national strength and national interests do not support India’s political ambitions. India should work to reduce conflicts with its neighbors. This report suggests that India is involved in an unknown conflict, which is not in India’s interest.
From a military perspective, the cost of long-range strikes is high, which is a disadvantage of India. The border between China and India is very close to major cities and industrial centers in India. China can use the tactical ballistic missiles and the J-20 stealth attack aircraft to hit the core area of India. India lacks conventional attacks on China’s core regions.
China’s energy import routes are diversified. China’s huge investment in wind power, solar power, nuclear power and electric vehicles will greatly reduce its dependence on imported oil. Even on the Indian Ocean route, the range and hit accuracy of China’s second-generation anti-ship ballistic missile Dongfeng-26 can effectively protect Chinese merchant ships sailing in the Indian Ocean.
The strategic motivation of Indian scholar Samir Tata is chaotic.“
Of course, these are China hawks on the US and Indian side, but China also wants to show that it is prepared for that sort of scenarios and wants to deter it:
„Intensive, multidimensional drills show PLA capability in border region
By Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/18 17:02:10
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been conducting intensive military exercises of multiple dimensions, including high altitude tank and anti-tank drills in Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, large-scale, long-distance maneuver of an army brigade to Northwest China, and nighttime group parachute infiltration, following the fatal clash between China and India in the border region.
These PLA drills not only showed that its forces stationed in border regions have high combat capability, but that troops from across China will also come to their aid, and the PLA can crush any aggression with land-air integrated joint operations, Chinese military experts said on Thursday.(…)
Song said that while the Western Theater Command is responsible for the defense of the border between China and India, forces from other theater commands can also support it.
While the fatal clash between China and India in the Galwan Valley region is unlikely to escalate into a large-scale military conflict, as such an escalation is against the interests of both sides, the PLA showed they are prepared, analysts said.
There are also voices in India that want to deescalate the conflict, as they see that this makes an Asian Century of harmony, inclusiveness and trade instead of conflict and wars like described in Parag Khanna´s Panasian book „The Future is Asian“ an illusion. Modi said that India is prepared for further Chinese encroachment and didn´t want to accept it, He rejects the attacks by the Congress Party that the soldiers were not armed, but declares that they were armed and that India wasn´t losing any territory and won´t make any concessions. However, he also proposes military dialogue which might be followed by a political dialogue between him and Xi and in the framework oft he SCO and BRICs, maybe even with Russia as mediator. Another high-ranking military also tries to deescalate by his opinion that the Indo-Chinese border conflict was not a new Kargil crisis..
„Intrusion can’t be compared to Kargil, unless it escalates’: General VP Malik
Former chief of army staff General Ved Prakash Malik says Xi want to retake territories China believes it had controlled earlier. „
However, while in China the population doesn´t care too much about these Himalaya territories China wants to occupy by its encroachment, in India it is a big issue: There are now „Boycott Chinese products“, stop Chinese 5G, decouple from China, be the new global factory instead of China and other anti- Chinese movements in the Indian population. General Asthana already said that these border conflicts are due tot he fact that China never accepted the old British treaties and if there is no agreement of delineation, demarcation and demilitarisation, these conflicts will continue to exist. But with China´s new assertiveness also due to its expansion by the Chinese- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC )and the New Silkroad it remains to be seen if there will be any compromise. China and Pakistan till now fought seperate wars against India. But maybe in future, if the problem is not resolved there could be a joint two front attack of China and Pakistan against India for its CPEC, even supported by the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean.At the moment Modi and Russia try to reduce such tensions and hopefully we don´t see such a scenario materializing. However at the moment an Eurasian heartland cooperation as proposed by Dr. Kortunov seems very unlikely.