Sino-Indian Update 20 June, 2020

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India has refuted China’s claim of sovereignty over the Galwan Valley. On Friday, China said the area is located on their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The unprecedented formal claim drew an almost immediate response from the Indian government, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stating that attempts by China to ‘advance exaggerated and untenable claims’ are unacceptable.  “The position with regard to the Galwan Valley area has been historically clear…They are not in accordance with China’s own position in the past,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava. India has also rejected China’s claim that India is attempting to unilaterally change the status quo.

 

With Sino-Indian ties at a new low, China is using economic diplomacy to entice Bangladesh, India’s neighbor and ally. Beijing has announced tariff exemptions for 97% of exports from Bangladesh. The move was evidently made as part of a larger effort by China to woo India’s neighbors away from potentially supporting New Delhi in the present border dispute. The effort is bringing about a moderate level of success that has caused the Indian government discomfort. Nepal has involved itself in the regional crisis for the first time by urging its ‘friendly neighbors’ to seek a peaceful resolution to their standoff. The statement was made today, less than forty-eight hours after the Nepalese parliament passed a controversial bill updating its political administrative map to include parts of Indian territory. The timing of the Nepalese vote is suspicious, to say the least. It likely came after heavy Chinese prodding behind the scenes and has the potential to complicate the border dispute for India.

 

Air activity over Ladakh is picking up, however there have been no cross-border incursions by Chinese aircraft. Indian Air Force (IAF) and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighters are maintaining combat air patrols over the area, and keeping warplanes on alert at airbases in the region. Both sides have reinforced their air assets. Additional warplanes have been seen at Ngari Airbase in Tibet, and at Leh and Srinagar on the Indian side of the LAC.

Wednesday 13 December, 2017 Update: China Strengthens its Grip on Sri Lanka

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The Sri Lankan government formally handed over control of the strategic port of Hambantota to China last week. The two nations signed a 99 year lease that gives the Chinese almost-complete control of the port as partial payment on the $8.8 Billion debt Sri Lanka owes to the PRC. China’s presence in Sri Lanka has grown over the last five years and the relationship between the two has flourished as a result. Chinese firms have invested billions of dollars to modernize Sri Lankan port facilities as part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ drive to expand Chinese market reach.

Concern is expanding across South Asia over China’s investment in Sri Lanka and the level of Chinese involvement in the region overall. Instinctively, New Delhi is alarmed, and suspicious of further Chinese encroachment upon its sphere of influence. The Indians are wary of the growing Chinese challenge to its regional hegemony. Consequently situation in Sri Lanka is hitting close to home both literally and figuratively. The island nation is situated just off India’s southeastern coast and it has been firmly inside of India’s orbit for years. India has invested large sums of treasure, and material to stabilize the island. To address the Chinese presence and influence, India has partnered with Japan to develop Sir Lanka’s eastern coastline, and improve the existing infrastructure there. Beyond India, pushback over Chinese investments and influence has occurred in Nepal, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

India-China relations are still on the mend following the Doklam standoff earlier this year. Both nations appear sincere in their desires to see ties continue improving. However, the potential for an economic proxy war in Sri Lanka is quite real. This situation, along with other rising economic and security challenges in the region threaten to disrupt those relations indefinitely. China is aggressively using its economic power to extend its geopolitical influence far beyond its own borders.

With that influence now butting up against Indian shores, the ball is in New Delhi’s court. India’s response could very well define India-China relations for some time to come.