It’s no coincidence that the China-Pakistan military exercise in Tibet comes amid celebrations marking 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries which share their borders with India. The drill has taken place near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — the scene of a prolonged standoff between Indian and Chinese troops — weeks ahead of the first anniversary of the bloody clash in Ladakh’s Galwan valley. Both the venue and the timing of the exercise have struck a discordant note for India, bringing under scrutiny the intentions of the two allies. The bilateral show of strength reeks of aggressive posturing apparently aimed at unnerving India. The development is also a grim reminder that the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh has only flattered to deceive, even as Pakistan’s overtures to bring peace along the LoC can’t be taken at face value.
The writing is on the wall: military and economic ties between China and Pakistan are getting stronger by the day and India needs to remain wary of both its neighbours, which have a long history of duplicity. The leaders of the two nations congratulated each other recently on the progress of the $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major infrastructure project that connects Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Balochistan. Though New Delhi has lodged a protest with Beijing over the CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), China has asserted that it is an economic initiative that won’t affect its ‘principled stand’ on the Kashmir issue. The argument has failed to convince India of China’s credibility.
The Chinese consolidation of air defence assets along the LAC makes it obvious that peace and tranquillity in the area will continue to be elusive as the neighbour is in no mood for de-escalation. With the Chinese Communist Party gearing up for its centenary celebrations next month, several grand displays of military might are to be expected. That’s reason enough for Indian troops to be well prepared for any mischief or misadventure from across the border or on the high seas.