India’s Strategic Dilemma Posed by Chinese Belligerence

Indian planners and strategists have for some time hoped the country would be left in peace to grow as an economy, consolidate the gains from this growth, and acquire enhanced military capacity as a result. Yet, there was always the predictable danger that its adversaries would strike before this desired scenario emerged. And that is the challenge China is posing to India in Ladakh today though its actual timing also arises from other immediate contingencies. It is true that China has always had an incentive to initiate action to minimise the risk the extant Ladakh status quo poses to its land communications to Xinjiang and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) ambitions beyond it. China’s 10,000-kilometre-long NH 219 is one of the highest motorable roads in the world and ranks as some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet. Domar township is one of the bleakest and most remote outposts of the People’s Liberation Army at the edge of occupied Aksai Chin plateau that India claims is part of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India’s accelerating infrastructure programme at the border region and the changing status quo in J&K, accompanied by somewhat pugnacious Indian pronouncements on its historic claims, all played a role in precipitating Chinese action at the present moment as well. But the likelihood of China’s acting aggressively to assert territorial claims was always predictable because its attempted aggrandizement seeks to address an underlying issue of strategic significance to China.

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