In the past few months, the Chinese name figures prominently in every single newspaper in the world. While most view China with a jaundiced eye , owing to the COVID-19 world pandemic, India has other pertinent reasons, to find itself at loggerheads with the People's Republic. The two neighbouring nations have found themselves embroiled in a major security row since mid-June over the Actual Line of Control. This being the second time in the decade, that the two neighbours have chosen to test the other's capabilities and seemed to have pushed a tad too far. For India - that faces the military and economic might of the Red Dragon - it has been a roller coaster ride, with mostly downs. A significant up was the Five Point Agreement signed between the two nations. But these matters spill over the states’ boundaries - with the role played by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Russian Federation in shaping the geopolitical nature of one of the most valuable and volatile regions of the world.
Amidst the rising concerns around the fate of the region and the future of the border conflict between the two nuclear Asian giants, Indian Foreign Minister, S. Jaishankar, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, managed to have a face-to-face meeting. The most important of all interactions during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting was the bilateral meet between the two representatives. This happened to be the first time that these two individuals met, following their phone call in mid-June that helped diffuse tensions in the border region. Foreign Minister Jaishankar, while using the opportunity to deal with the Chinese also met with the hosts of the SCO. The meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, was instrumental in highlighting Russia's stance on the border conflict, which was one of ‘Non-interference’. However, Moscow has hinted that it is willing to work towards creating a positive atmosphere, in a bid to encourage de-escalation and disengagement in Eastern Ladakh through talks.
As a result of the three-hour-long bilateral meeting between the representatives, both sides developed and chalked out a five-point charter aimed at resolving the issue at the earliest. The agreement is centered around five major points and emphasizes the 3Ds, which are DISTANCE, DE-ESCALATION, and DISENGAGEMENT. Jaishankar availed this opportunity to convey India’s concerns over the deployment of PLA troops. Acknowledging them, China gave the assurance of ensuring a reduction in military activity and all forms of provocative behavior. The two sides fervently hoped for the meeting to provide ‘Political Guidance’ to the process of normalization in the region.
While the agreement plays an instrumental role in shaping the socio-political structure of the India- China region, Russian involvement has been key to the entire process. New Delhi's worsening relationship with China has led many to question the deteriorating relationship between India and the Russian Federation. It is China’s aggressive rise and its emergence in the form of a regional hegemony that has altered the balance of power. This systemic change has resulted in India altering its long term policy, with a shrinking presence in the South-Asian subcontinent. India’s alignment with the United States and other like-minded countries to curtail Chinese influence, along with its deviation from ex Prime Minister Nehru’s Russo-friendly ideology have only broadened the divide. India has had a long history of bilateral relations with Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Republic and it would love to secure Russian support. However, this has only become a distant possibility, since Russian and the Western Powers have recorded a new low in the post-Cold War Era. In effect, it has pushed the former further towards China.
India on its part has sought to include Russia in its vision of the Indo-Pacific that does not see the region as a 'strategy' or as a 'club of limited members’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 2019 visit to Vladivostok contextualized the cooperation in the Russian Far East as ‘a confluence of the Eurasian Union on one side and the open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific on the other’ to bridge the strategic visions of the two countries. In the past few months, China has not been able to achieve its aims politically, militarily and economically due to India’s firm and resolute strategy and this will greatly tarnish Xi’s ‘Iron Man’ image. India must continue its proactive posture not only in Ladakh but across the complete length of LAC.
India faces a dire need to maintain civil bilateral relations, not only with the People’s Republic but with other countries of strategic importance like the Russian Federation. The government ought to be more prudent in its military and diplomatic decisions with a view to resolve future disputes peacefully. Meanwhile, the country must insist on establishing the status quo. After all, its position on ground will decide the trajectory of talks at the negotiation table.