Will China-India foreign ministers’ meeting be a turning point?

The meeting between the defence ministers of India and China laid an important foundation for the meeting between Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said the Global Times, the Chinese newspaper, ahead of the crucial meeting in Moscow on September 10.

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh recently met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Moscow. This was the highest-level military meeting between the two countries since tensions flared along the border in recent months. The two armies are currently confronting each other on the south bank of Pangong Tso Lake and Reqin mountain pass. The situation on the ground is quite tense.

The fact that the two defense ministers are sitting face-to-face is in itself a positive signal and provides the necessary atmosphere for the two countries to manage their border disputes and cool down the situation on the ground.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will also plan to meet on September 10. The meeting between Wei and Singh laid an important foundation for the meeting between the two foreign ministers. The complex border issue between China and India cannot be resolved in one meeting, but the role of the two defense ministers will be crucial in cooling border frictions.

China and India are both big powers that have the capacity to mobilize national forces to support a military conflict in the border areas, but at this moment both sides need to calm down and clarify two major issues.

First, China and India have not yet demarcated their borders and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) shouldn’t be subject to constant change and different interpretations. The LAC of November 7, 1959 should be the base for both sides.

If both sides want to create a new LAC on their own, and the will of the two major powers were to collide, the result would be disastrous. If both countries use their national power to support this collision indefinitely, it will lead to war, and the scale of the war may not be controlled near the LAC, resulting in a tragic loss of both countries’ power, including the lives of their soldiers.

And given the size of both countries’ national power and the current international climate, it is almost impossible to change the status quo on their borders to a large degree. In the end, the two countries will have to return to the general state of the existing LAC. So what are the two sides fighting for?

Territory is important, but only if China or India “beats” the other (these are two nuclear states), otherwise the status quo will be maintained. It is surely better for both countries and their people to maintain the status quo by peaceful means than to return to it after a brutal fight.

Second, both China and India are emerging economies committed to economic and social development and have their own arduous tasks at home. Whether the two countries are partners or enemies has a completely different impact on their respective development ambitions. Although the boundary issue is difficult, it should not be the theme of China-India relations. It should be the common wisdom of the two major countries.

The China-India boundary issue, which had been dormant for decades, has become “an active volcano” again in recent years, and it should not be. Before delimiting the border, it should be a common goal for both countries to manage the border issue by letting the disputes become “dormant” between the two sides again.

The problem now is that India has drawn an aggressive line on the border issue, misinterpreting China’s desire to maintain peace and stability on the border as a weakness that can be exploited by threatening to wage a border war “at any cost.” Some in New Delhi also believe that the US’ suppression of China and support for India has increased India’s strategic strength and provided it with additional capital for risky adventure along the China-India border. This miscalculation has led it to a series arrogant and reckless moves on the China-India border issue.

We must remind the Indian side that China’s national strength, including its military strength, is much stronger than India’s. Although China and India are both great powers, when it comes to the ultimate competition of combat capability, the Indian side will lose. If a border war starts, India will have no chance of winning.

We hope that the defense ministers’ meeting will be a turning point for the two countries to come back to the consensus of the leaders’ meeting. Each side will make its due effort to reduce tensions on the border.

Indian public opinion is too deeply and widely involved in border issues. The Indian troop has been obviously kidnapped by domestic nationalism.

Therefore, in addition to the joint control of the border dispute between China and India, India should also manage public opinion and nationalism, and make the best choice for its country and its people.

(The views expressed in this article are solely those of the Global Times.)

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