In March 2018, China lifted the ten-year limit, and allowed Xi to remain President for life. The autocratic nature of Xi is often compared to that of Mao. Getting the constitution changed in order to remain in power for a life term speaks volumes about Xi’s power and control. This was widely anticipated along with Xi’s assertive nature that could possibly result in clashes with China’s neighbours. There were speculations about the affect on the domestic or internal politics, as many Chinese elites raise questions around the autocratic-communist regime.

Hu Jintao the former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) preceding Xi, has also been extremely strategic and assertive in terms of Indo-China relations. The China’s efforts to build ports, plant debt traps around the Indian border, install naval arsenal throughout the Indian Ocean Region commonly known as the String of Pearls strategy was facilated and started when China was under Hu’s reign.

On May 5 2020, a Violent clash between Indian and Chinese patrols on the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake took place, many soldiers injured on both side. In the skirmish between about 250 men, the Chinese attacked Indian patrols with nail-studded clubs

On June 12 and 13, senior Army officials from both the sides discussed de-escalation to ease border tensions. CoAS India, M.M Naravane says disengagement by both sides is taking place in a ‘phased manner’ along the LAC, and the situation is under control.

On June 15, Army delegations from India and China held talks again. Brigadier-ranked officers met at the Galwan Valley whereas Colonel-ranked officers met at the Hot springs in Ladakh. Later, in the evening, a skirmish took place. The violent military clash at the Ladakh LAC between India and China has come as a cause of concern for geopolitics worldwide. Few days after the violent faceoff martyring Army men on both the sides, the US intelligence came up with speculations about the Chinese commander’s deliberate escalation at the LAC.  According to the US intelligence assessment, a general ranked officer of the PLA authorised his forces to attack Indian troops in the Galwan valley. The senior Chinese officer’s orders resulted in a brutal skirmish and a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two Asian powehouses.

Defying the US intel reports, Chinese ministries blamed India for the June 15 LAC faceoff. Following this, new satellite images surfaced on the internet on June 24, raise concerns of an increase in the number of Chinese deployments along the Galwan Valley. A Twitter handle @detresfa_, has been releasing images of the LAC since May 2020. The latest images show a massive build-up of the PLA troops.

The June 15 face-off between the two nuclear powers has been the first since 1975. India lost 20 men including a commanding officer. The PLA is said to have a casualty figure of 43.

Nepal encroachment

Nepal and India’s relations turned sour after Nepal unilaterally released its new political map claiming the Indian road of Lipulekh as a part of Nepal. The said road has been under the Indian territory for over 60 years. Nepal went forward with this decision without any dialogue or consencus with India.

Days after the Sino-Indian Galwan clash, A Nepal government report accessed by ANI said that China is using increased road construction in Tibet to encroach on Nepali land and may set up border outposts in these areas in the future.The report, prepared by Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry, shows a list of 11 places, of which China has encroached on 10 places comprising about 33 hectares of Nepali land, by diverting the flow of rivers which act as a natural boundary.

“The flow of rivers is gradually receding the Nepalese territories and if it continues to remain so for some more time, it would cede the maximum portion of Nepal’s land towards TAR,” the document obtained by ANI states.

Chinese vessels trespassing Indian EEZs

Chinese vessels are known to trespass Indian territorial waters and devoid the Indian fisher folk of piscine resources. In June 2019, during Cyclone Vayu, Indian fishermen, alleged that the government has facilitated foreign vessels to trespass and fish in Indian waters. According to UNCLOS, foreign vessels are not permitted to enter the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in essence the expanse of 200 nautical miles, as it is reserved for the state’s coast. Chinese fishing trawlers are highly equipped and it is feared that they might rob all the fish and leave the Indian fishermen insolvent. A Chinese trawler when held in the Indian waters revealed shocking details. The inspection revealed that the Chinese had a huge stock of fish endemic to Indian waters.

“The boats are equipped with 500,000-watt LED lights and illegal fishing gears. They’ve squid jigging equipment, purse seine and pelagic fishing nets and devices to catch dolphin — an endangered marine mammal. The crew hail from Indonesia and China and most of them do not possess valid travel documents including passports. It is said diplomatic talks are on to release the 200 odd crew members,” said the federation’s vice- president Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal, who is also general secretary of All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association.

Even after the boycott on Chinese products post Galwan valley clash, China is minting money massively by fishing in the Southern Indian Ocean using deep sea trawlers. China is enjoying the monopoly as the Indian fisher folk is not advised to fish during high seas or contiguous zone of upto 24 nautical miles from the coast. Indian trawlers operate only till about 20 nautical miles from the coast. A total of 500 Chinese boats have been identified fishing in Indian waters; they are equipped with high-intensity underwater lights, deep sea trawling nets, and vast storage tanks. Chinese attract fish from the ocean bottom and are depleting resources from India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

This is not the only instance where China poses as a maritime peril for India. In March 2020, a fleet of 12 Underwater Unmanned Vessels (UUV) drones were identified in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Reports suggest that these UUV drones were deployed since December 2019. On questioning, the Chinese defended their stance by saying that the drones were posited for studying the ocean floor. It is a great threat to India as these drones could have recorded sensitive information about Indian waters. This information might be of strategic use for China; the drones might also be used for anti-submarine warfare against India.

By Kunjan Ahluwalia