The agreement between India and China to pull back, cautiously, in the Pangong Lake area is the first bit of good news after the Galwan Valley skirmish. It has taken several rounds of talks over months to arrive at this point. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done to Indo-China relations. It will take a long time for them to return to any kind of normality.
Given the booming economic relationship between the two countries, it was considered a mystery why China picked the fight in the first place. Not only are the two nations’ economies greatly compatible, international relations also demanded that they be in sync on a host of matters impacting the developing world. The fallout of the border clash has been disastrous for China as it has firmly put India in the US camp. The result on the economy has also been a determined push to end reliance on China and find alternate sources. In areas of strategic importance, the emphasis is now on self-reliance.
Even at the present, there is no guarantee that China is rethinking its India policy. It may just have reshaped its strategy to achieve the same goals as earlier. This is why nobody is celebrating its changed stance. It is possible that China discovered the unpleasant truth that India’s military is tougher than expected, even when caught by surprise. Now that it is better prepared, the aggressive approach could have unpleasant consequences.
All this is an important lesson that the world’s established democracies must stand together on some basic issues. There needs to be a consistent policy line in this regard that can absorb whatever ups and downs changes in government might bring about. The Quad needs to be strengthened and all that goes with it in other spheres. Much like Trump insisted, Europe needs to take greater responsibility and not exist in an illusionary world. It, too, is under various kinds of threats and would require the assistance of fellow democracies.
If the border question is amicably settled, India and China will have to co-exist on a different plane. It might require some outstanding issues to be settled, such as the meltdown taking place in the countries to the west of India. If China ceases encouraging Pakistan in its misbehaviour, it would result in greater stability and much needed peace for improvement in bilateral ties. This, however, remains more in the realm of hope than reality.