'China indulging in muscular diplomacy with India'

Over the last few years, tensions have been brewing between India and China over their long-held border disputes, said Dean Cheng and Lisa Curtis of The Heritage Foundation.
"The source of the tensions is multi-faceted but driven in large part by China's concern with an emergent India and Beijing's desire to consolidate its position on Tibet," they said.
While military conflict between the two Asian giants is unlikely any time soon, recent Chinese moves illustrate a broader trend of muscular diplomacy from Beijing over its various territorial claims, Cheng and Curtis said.

"In order to guard against a variety of threats, including a potentially hostile China, India will continue to pursue a robust military modernisation programme and closer diplomatic ties with other Asian nations," they said.

"The US should keep close tabs on the simmering Sino-India border friction and continue with plans to enhance US–India defense cooperation, through coordinated maritime security programmes, joint military exercises, and defense trade deals that assist India in accessing advanced military technology," the article said.
Cheng and Curtis referred to the recent Chinese steps with regard to Kashmir, including issuing of stapled visa, denying visa to a top army official and sending its troops to Gilgit-Baltistan.

New Delhi would view with consternation the possibility of Chinese troops being stationed on both the eastern and western borders of Indian Kashmir, they said.
"China already maintains a robust defense relationship with Pakistan, and the China–Pakistan partnership serves both Chinese and Pakistani interests by presenting India with a potential" they wrote.

Noting that China may be returning to a position of reflexively supporting Pakistan on Kashmir, they noted since the 1999 Kargil border conflict between India and Pakistan, Beijing’s position on Kashmir seemed to be evolving toward a more neutral position.
During that conflict, Beijing helped convince Pakistan to withdraw forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control following its incursion into the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Beijing made clear its position that the two sides should resolve the Kashmir conflict through bilateral negotiations, not military force.

"Any Chinese backtracking from this neutral position on Kashmir would likely be met with subtle moves by India that increasingly question Chinese sovereignty over Tibet," they said.

China's growing assertiveness is supported by a range of increasingly sophisticated military capabilities, they noted.

A concrete example of this growing set of capabilities was displayed in August, when China held its first major parachute exercise in the Tibetan plateau.
"This involved a paratroop drop of 600 troops, clearly establishing a rapid force insertion capability on the part of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

As a Chinese officer observed, this exercise showed that, in the event of a crisis, Chinese paratroopers could rapidly deploy at any time," the two scholars wrote.
Curtis and Cheng urged the Obama Administration to cooperate with India in matching increased Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region.

"Given the substantial Indian naval capabilities, US naval forces should increase their interaction with their Indian counterparts, both to improve Indian naval capabilities and to signal Beijing that its moves will be matched jointly by New Delhi and Washington," they said.

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