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India-China border dispute has not been resolved since 1962

India has expressed strong opposition to the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which is the key to Beijing’s ambitious ‘One-Belt, One-Road’ initiative, even as it slammed Islamabad for not taking concrete steps to stop crossborder terrorism.

“The CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir challenges Indian sovereignty,” said the Union defence ministry in its annual report submitted to Parliament on Wednesday.

In the past too, India has criticised the Chinese-funded CPEC, which links China’s Muslim dominated Xinjiang province to the Gwadar deep-sea port in Pakistan, because it passes through Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK, which New Delhi considers its own territory.

During the G-20 summit at Hangzhou in September last year, PM Narendra Modi had expressed India’s concerns over the CPEC in his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, holding that the two countries needed to be “sensitive” to each other’s strategic interests.

Taking note of China’s significant restructuring of its People’s Liberation Army to boost its offensive military capabilities, the defence ministry also reiterated India’s support for freedom of navigation and over-flight, and unimpeached commerce, based on international laws in the contentious South China Sea.

New Delhi has taken to criticising Beijing’s strongarm tactics in the South China Sea , even as it slowly but steadily builds military ties with countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and others locked in territorial disputes with China in the region.

“India undertakes various activities, including cooperation in the oil and gas sector, with littoral states of South China Sea (Vietnam, for instance)…India believes that states should resolve disputes through peaceful means….,” said the MoD.

Turning to Pakistan, the MoD said: “Although the (Pakistani) military has made efforts to improve the security situation in the country, it has avoided taking action against jihadi and terror outfits that target Pakistan’s neighbours.”

“Support to such groups persists despite ongoing efforts by the international community, including India, to list the head of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammed, Masood Azhar, as an international terrorist,” it added.

“Such outfits continued to be encouraged to infiltrate into India under the cover of massive cross-LoC and cross-border firing in J&K and other areas throughout the year.

Pakistan-based terrorists attacked military bases in India, triggering an appropriate response by the Indian armed forces (the September 29 surgical strikes against terror launch pads in PoK),” it added.

As for the internal security situation in J&K, especially in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani in July last year, the MoD said it is currently tense but under control. “Relentless counter-terrorist operations by the Army, along with other security forces, in the hinterland have thwarted the plans of Pakistan to give a fillip to the proxy war being waged against India,” it said.

Meanwhile, Narendra Modi’s growing stature as one of the tallest leaders India has ever seen, especially after his party’s thumping win in the recently concluded assembly elections, has forced even China to acknowledge the Indian Prime Minister’s power and tightening grip.

A recent article published in Chinese mouthpiece China Daily newspaper admitted that China would have to deal with a bolder India if Modi won the next general elections and dealing with New Delhi on border disputes could become difficult.

The article has come in the backdrop of the BJP’s unprecedented victory in just concluded assembly elections that were believed to be a referendum on the Prime Minister’s economic policies undertaken in his first half.

Modi may take tough stance against China on the border issue
Modi may take tough stance against China on the border issue

“If Modi wins the next election, India’s current firm and tough manner is bound to continue. It will be without question good news for the country’s own development. Nevertheless, it will likely mean more difficulties in making compromises in rows with other countries,” the article said.

The Chinese article went on to note that how Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a message to China by celebrating the Indian festival of Diwali in a Sino-India border with soldiers.

“Take the border disputes between Beijing and New Delhi. No silver lining has yet emerged and Modi demonstrated his firm stance over the issue by celebrating Diwali, India’s biggest holiday, with soldiers at the Sino-Indian border,” the article said.

The Chinese article, however, also hinted that sometimes it would be possible for big decisions such as settlement of border disputes could happen with a hard-line government as such regimes could take decisive step.

“But while seeming inflexible on the surface, hardliners also have powerful strength in coming to an agreement with others once they make up their mind, given their executive ability and high efficiency. That said, we can still be optimistic in resolving our divergences, including border disputes, with New Delhi during Modi’s term as long as both sides are willing,” the article said.

The article pointed out that the Communist leadership in Beijing must give “more consideration” to the Modi government for any major breakthroughs.

“For China, it is also an opportunity to give more consideration over how to make breakthroughs in Beijing-New Delhi relations with a hard-line Indian government,” the Chinese article said.

The article said that the BJP’s emphatic win in India’s most crucial state of Uttar Pradesh has serious implication for Sino-India ties. The observers now have ‘started to pay close attention to how the bilateral relationship will develop after Modi tightens his grip on power.’

The article described how Modi’s hard-line attitude is embodied in his domestic policies and in his diplomatic logic. “In the international arena, he (Modi) changed India’s previous attitude of trying never to offend anyone and started to take a clear stance in controversies among other nations to maximize its own interests,” the article said.

The report highlighted how Prime Minister Modi deepened India’s ties with several countries though his global diplomacy. It said: “He (Modi) enhanced New Delhi’s ties with China and Moscow and applied to be a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Yet, he also upgraded defense collaboration with the US and Japan, articulated his support for the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy and Washington’s stance on the South China Sea issue.”

The article said that with this win ‘it has not only increased Modi’s chance to win in India’s 2019 general elections, some even predict he is already set for a second term.’ “If Modi wins the next election, India’s current firm and tough manner is bound to continue,” it said.

Long Xingchun, Director of Center of India Studies, China West Normal University said that the recent elections embody “the eagerness of the Indian people to pursue development and this has resulted in strong support for Modi.” He added: “[Mr.] Modi is becoming a strong leader with people’s support. This would enable him to make bold decisions to solve major problems with China.”

The Global Times noted that hard-liners by nature find it difficult to make compromises, but, once convinced, they are also capable of taking decisive action.

“But while seeming inflexible on the surface, hard-liners also have powerful strength in coming to an agreement with others once they make up their mind, given their executive ability and high efficiency. That said, we can still be optimistic in resolving our divergences, including border disputes, with New Delhi during Modi’s term as long as both sides are willing.”

The daily pointed out that India, under Prime Minister Modi, was pursuing multi-vectored diplomacy, engaging with all the major players in the international system. “He [Mr. Modi] enhanced New Delhi’s ties with China and Moscow and applied to be a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Yet he also upgraded defence collaboration with the US and Japan, articulated his support for the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy and Washington’s stance on the South China Sea issue.”