At a Crossroads? China-India Nuclear Relations After the Border Clash
We start the program tracking one of the most potentially SA- serious spot points globally the ongoing hostilities between the nuclear-armed countries, India and China earlier this week they discharged weapons that each other for the first time in forty five years as a four month standoff between their armed forces escalated into warning shots in the western Himalayas. The skirmishes worryingly reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the beginning of a war between the two in one, thousand, nine, hundred, sixty, two. Yesterday. The foreign ministers of the two countries met in Russia in a bid to defuse the military standoff Jonah Slater New Delhi Bureau chief for The Washington Post and Isabel Hilton China dialogue join me on the line now. Thanks both for for joining us is about what was behind this most recent exchange of shots. That rather depends who you believe I mean one. Of the meeting that has taken place in Moscow, which has been some extent. Calming is that neither side will acknowledge any wrongdoing and indeed continue to blame the other. There is a very in general terms there isn't defined line of actual, control? The seem to be signs that the past three or four months across quite a a a length of it. So not just in one sector, China has been a pushing the actual you know situation on the ground by crossing the line of Control China, accuse his India doing the same thing in this most recent incidents and says that it had to fire shots in the ad to deter what was Indian aggression India has said over the repeated incidents over the past few months that China has advanced and then has not on a promises to retreat. So we now have quite an extended standoff which began in the in the West and sector. But has now extended to the eastern sector to what in your Natural Pradesh which to southern. Tibet. So it's a sustained standoff still during the what more do we know about the outcome of the meeting between the two men yesterday Well we know that they met for two and a half hours a lengthy meeting their first in person meetings since the crisis began Jason Curve India's foreign minister is a is a former ambassador to China. He has deep experience there. But in terms of outcomes, what we basically have is an agreement to continue talking it's not nothing but it's definitely not a breakthrough I mean Isabel do you think there's any real appetite for compromise and given China's current aggressive stance globally will one be trying to dial it down I think that I don't see very much appetite for compromise on either side we all you have is highly nationals governments which both. Set great store on territorial integrity and and then of course, you come to the sensitive point where the territories real defined and then you have a you know constant potential for confrontation. But if you add to that I mean what one thing that is very different from in in this border confrontation with other areas of conflict China like the South China Sea for example, where were you have because it's accessible and and territory marine territory that's used by lots of different kinds of people in people from from different countries, you can enact a conflict at a lower level if you like using fishing boats or or customs boats, and you don't actually have to use your main forces. But this is highly inaccessible territory. The only people who are out there really are our armed forces and they have increased. Both sides have increased the presence of their forces really dramatically in the last few months, and in the last few years, they have increased access to the border by building infrastructure building roads and railway building roads rather So you have the potential to mobilize both heavy weaponry and larger numbers of troops When you have a moment like this, do strategically, I would say that China is trying to discourage India from. Joining in a mall full blooded way any anti-chinese coalition organized by the United States so the has been quite a warm relationship between Modiin trump as we know, and and the question is how far India will take this because that could be a Catholic. And during this meeting, come about because the to happened to be in Moscow anyway or is Russia playing the piece Burqa. Well. Both of them would have been at this meeting, but it does seem that Russia is playing a little bit of a role of convener here as a country that. Ostensibly would like to see tensions reduce. It has constructive relationships with both countries there have been reports in the Indian media suggesting that I'm sorry that Russia was doing some quiet diplomacy behind the scenes earlier in this crisis but I think the these these two men obviously would have been there anyway just comes at a very. Sensitive, sensitive, and important time. It's about what's in it for? Would I guess it's less less difficulty in the neighborhood they do as we've heard have rush the Russians do have constructive relations Russia likes to be seen as a broker these days I mean the whole trajectory of Putin's kind of outward posture has been to assert Russia's important so to be able to mediate between a traditional friend India and. country. Rival with whom relations little complicate it China would greatly enhanced prestige. One of the difficulties is that what we know from the reorganization, for example, the Chinese military which is put sheeting. Very firmly, inconspicuously in command, we need to assume I think that decision is made about deployment of troops and our posture go very much to the top So you know without a signal from the tall, the foreign ministers of my decide couldn't actually resolve this. Yeah. How do you think this fits in with the the general foreign policy aims of India. I don't think expected crisis with China I. think that was not part of its. Foreign Policy Goals as Isabelle was speaking about no, India is. Wary of China's rise, it has been drawing closer to the United States and also to this grouping called the Quad, which includes the United States Japan and Australia this one of the interesting aspects about this crisis with China along the line of actual control is that India says at least that it's at a loss to understand why China is doing this it repeated that again today that. Shot, the tiny side has not provided a credible explanation for this deployment. Jay Shankar, the foreign minister a few days ago said repeated that India's is a little bit flummoxed here, and so if China is sending a message that it doesn't want India to draw closer to the United States, India's not really getting the message quite clearly So I think that's one of the strange parts about this entire episode, which is we don't India claims at least not really understand what China's motivations are for this. Quite significant deployment along the line of actual control which began in April and then Burst into actual skirmishes, skirmishes in May, and then the deadliest violence between the two countries and more than fifty years in June. I mean Isabel attorneys right WH- one can't really see what's in it for China I. Mean as you say, this is an area where there's really not very much. It's inaccessible the only people there are the soldiers. What's the point? I think the point is is partly to shore up she gene pins reputation at home is a vigorous defender of China's global position and Chinese sovereignty, and you might well argue that that sovereignty over a few miles of inaccessible mountain compass matter but they matter symbolically domestically in China. It also might be I mean, we've seen a passion of a very assertive behavior. Put it no more strongly from China pretty much since the coronavirus outbreak and a lot of you know if you look across the piece it what's been going on there had been provocations in around Taiwan with you with Chinese. Military flights crossing into Taiwanese airspace very recently and and we have you know I, think for the first time that I can recall in. Since the sixties we have on this board, we have confrontations in both the important western sector and the equally important eastern sector. Now, that's that's kind of unusual that does signal a much more firm intent to send a message even if it's not a message that India understand. So it may be a message that's being directed to the Chinese public that you know we can do this because we are bigger and stronger than India and we will continue to defend. China's position in the world.