The end of August brought a reminder that the border standoff between India and China is far from being resolved. On the military front, both countries have significantly increased deployment along the Line of Actual Control (most recently, on August 29, when India moved fast to scotch another adventurist foray by China) and their soldiers are eye-ball to eye-ball — a far cry from the disenga-gement and de-escalation that military commanders continue to discuss. On the diplomatic front, India has pulled out of a Shanghai Cooperation Organi-sation exercise rather than have its soldiers stand side-by-side with Chinese troops while a foreign-ministerial meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue has been fast-tracked. The economic relationship is also slowly disintegrating.
India has rightly said that the changes in the territorial status quo must be reversed. China has said the two sides should accept the present ground reality, move on and think of the future. Beijing’s position is absurd. With wars of conquest largely history, Beijing’s preferred model is to impose political humiliation through symbolically powerful victories designed to make the other side look weak.
While there is a debate as to what motivates Beijing, there can be little doubt as to what would happen if New Delhi gave in — the perception of subordination of India to its northern neighbour in the eyes of citizens as well as other countries. Which is why the present situation is unacceptable and which is why the border will remain on a hair-trigger.