The Quad summit hosted by US President Joe Biden on March 12 caps an extraordinary year that saw a fundamental shift in India’s response to China’s border aggressions, precipitating a showdown that has been in the making, but one which many had felt might be averted by balancing border discord with economic interests.
India’s tightrope walk ended soon after Chinese troops occupied positions along the Line of Actual Control in east Ladakh in May last year, clearly violating India’s claim lines. The strength of the mobilisation and ingress in the Pangong lake area signalled an intent to bend the LAC permanently to suit China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping’s political and strategic objectives.
The idea was to decisively show India its place in a scheme of things where China is unchallenged hegemon. Xi’s motivations might be several. Decades ago, Mao Zedong’s decision to launch a border war with India was seen to have been triggered, at least in part, by a rising irritation with what he saw as Jawaharlal Nehru’s “pretensions” on the world stage as a leader of non-aligned countries. India’s decision to back demands for an international inquiry into origins of Covid in China might well have angered the communist leadership and read as an upstart act needing chastisement.
But India’s apparent insouciance apart, the need to secure interests along the Karakoram highway and its CPEC projects