This July witnessed an intense level of escalated tensions, what came to be known as Doklam standoff, between China and India, which erupted after India, posturing quite belligerently, sent its troops to interrupt the construction of a road by the Chinese military. As the dispute lingered on, it increasingly drew both countries and their masses into an intensely-contested war of words leading to prospects of military warfare. However, diplomacy prevailed in the end and both countries agreed to ‘expeditiously disengage’ from the face-off in Doklam.
Shortly after settling the dispute, the leaders of China and India agreed, in their meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on Sept. 05, to maintain a ‘forward-looking’ approach in their bilateral relations and to continue to ensure peace and tranquility on the borders.
Among many other things, this dispute arguably offers a critical strategic insight into the way China wants to conduct its foreign affairs. Despite being relatively a greater military and economic power than India, possessing complete legitimacy to defend its sovereign rights and pitted on a morally-superior position, China refrained from showing a nuclear response, threatening with military strikes or intimidating with economic sanctions. Though China did maintain a prudent military posture, it put great energy and faith into diplomatic channels to de-escalate tensions and end the dispute and also to make sure that such episodes of hostility do not occur again.
By all accounts, China adopted a more rational and magnanimous path. Not just it restored peace and stability in the region, but also increased confidence in China’s global leadership.
The end of the Cold War culminated into the rise of the United States as the sole hegemon of the world. Since then, all leaders of the US have committed to maintain American primacy in the world. As the Russian power had receded into fragmentation and China was in its initial stages of economic reformation and development, there was no power in the world potent enough to contest the unilateral momentum of the US.
But, at the turn of the century, things started to change. The ‘sleeping giant’ was no more sleeping. China began to gain considerable economic and military clout in the world.
The knocking caused by the shift in global distribution of power, consequential mainly upon the rise of China, made many politicians, policymakers and strategists to ponder over what might be the possible pattern of future interactions between China and the United States.
Some reasonable worries spring to mind. Rising multipolarity and the order it presses the world into, potentially cast dark shadows over the stability of world’s political and strategic environment. States’ manoeuvring for greater power and position may increase, and converging and diverging notions of interests and reliance on ‘self-help’ approach toward anarchical international system may become basis for major powers to forge or severe partnerships, build greater military arsenals and construct their strategies and diplomacies on employing kinetic forces and coercive means.
Agreed that there is a deepening sense that as the global distribution of power is undergoing tremendous transformation, so are the centres of power and privilege. The ‘global process of increasing economic, cultural and political integration’ and growing role envisaged by transnational actors especially IGOs like the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF); the World Bank; the World Trade Organization (WTO); multinational corporations; and global civil society, it is emphasized that cooperation and increasing interdependence will guide the dominant pattern of interactions among states.
However, beyond doubt is the reality that the international system at best is anarchic; that all great powers, from US to Russia and China, inherently possess some offensive military capabilities; that states cannot be certain of each other’s intentions; and that the primary motive of their actions is to survive.
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