The present Sino-India border crisis has said that China has little respect for India’s long-standing efforts to freeze status quo along its frontiers, a top US observer on South Asia has claimed.

China’s ‘salami-slicing tactics

Ashley Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs along with a senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that by its brazen actions, Beijing has forced New Delhi to participate the rest of Asia in finding out how to approach the latest turn in China’s “salami-slicing tactics”.

“The current Sino-Indian border crisis has said that China has little respect for India’s long-standing efforts to freeze the status quo down the two countries’ disputed frontiers or even for New Delhi’s cautious efforts in order to avoid the look of balancing against Beijing,” he stated.

If the negotiations presently underway yield meager returns, Tellis wrote in his latest research paper, rather, treating India’s internal actions regarding Jammu and Kashmir as a provocation, it has chosen to expand its control over new parts of the Himalayan borderlands through brazen actions that confront India with the difficult choice of either lumping its losses or escalating through force.

“By so doing, it has forced India to participate most of Asia in figuring out how to cope with the latest turn in China’s salami-slicing tactics, which now distinctively mark its trajectory to be a rising power,” he said. Unlike the discrete and geographically localised confrontations of the past, the most up-to-date encounters are occurring at multiple locations down the Series of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh in the eastern section of Jammu and Kashmir, which suggests a high standard of Chinese premeditation and approval for the military’s activities through the very top, Tellis claimed.

China, having exploited the initiative to seize pieces of India’s claimed territory, can now hold on to its new acquisitions forever unless India chooses to eject Chinese troops by force or decides to impose tit-for-tat costs on China by symmetrically occupying other pockets in disputed territory where it possesses a tactical advantage,” he said,. That’s “The unfortunate truth.

This rejoinder admittedly carries risks because China could parry such Indian actions using its significant reserves already deployed at key locations along the front, in which case the stage would be set for perhaps a wider confrontation, he noted.

Tellis said the pattern of Chinese patrolling ever since the late 1990s implies that Beijing seeks to eventually control the whole the Aksai Chin plateau, upon which regions of Ladakh can be found.

China has laid claim to this region since the 1950s, but as the Sino-Indian rivalry has increased after the Cold War, Beijing has attempted to gradually bring bits and pieces of the disputed frontier under its de facto authority, he said.

The term de facto authority itself is inadequate in this context because, in the absence of maps that clearly delineate which areas each side actively controls, China’s creeping appropriation of territory cannot be either contested or contained except by physical Indian obstruction, Tellis noted.

“On this count, Chinese actions have already been singularly mischievous: although both countries have long committed to exchanging maps describing their presence in the disputed territories as the 1st step toward a boundary settlement, Beijing has thus far consistently declined to follow along with through on its obligations,” Tellis wrote in their paper.

In large measures, this is because accepting any Indian map that marks an extant Indian presence would make it difficult for China to claim that territory in future negotiations. What China actually wants is the entirety from the disputed borderlands simply on the potency of its claim that it once possessed them, he claimed.