India-China border tensions are a part of "mind games" ahead of the meeting between the two foreign ministers, says former diplomat

India-China border tensions are a part of "mind games" ahead of the meeting between the two foreign ministers, says former diplomat
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar (L) and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in Moscow on September 9BCCL/Wikimedia/BI India
  • Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar is scheduled to meet Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Meet today.
  • The bilateral meeting comes on the backdrop of Pangong Tso Lake along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) becoming the latest hotspot in the border dispute between India and China.
  • Former diplomat and distinguished Gateway House fellow Rajiv Bhatia believes that the latest antics in Eastern Ladakh are just ‘mind games’ ahead of the meeting between the foreign ministers.
As tensions along the India-China border continue to simmer, Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, are set to meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet today evening.

They will likely discuss little else aside from the border issue. This after a series of fresh skirmishes were reported between the two sides, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Pangong Tso Lake.

“These are all mind games, with Jaishankar going to Moscow — these are all regular pressure tactics,” former diplomat and a distinguished fellow with Gateway House, Rajiv Bhatia told Business Insider.

According to him, the question is no longer about why the border dispute is occurring in the first place, but how to end it and get on with life.

Call for ‘very, very deep conversations’ by Jaishankar
At his book launch earlier this week, Jaishankar said the situation between India and China “calls for very, very deep conversation between the two sides at a political level”.

According to Bhatia, the ‘political levels’ which Jaishankar is referring to imply three levels — the Foreign Minister, the National Security Advisor (NSA), and the Prime Minister. “Unless they create a fourth one, which could be anyone’s guess,” he quipped.

Right now, the engagement is taking place at the Foreign Minister-level. However, if the India-China border dispute worsens, even the NSA could be pressed into the job. “And his counterpart on the Chinese side may have a slightly higher rank,” added Bhatia.

India doesn't want to give China any wiggle room
Four months ago, when the initial clash between the two sides occurred in Galwan Valley, many believed that India may resort to postponing any multilateral or bilateral engagements with China. India has instead decided to stand its ground and give China no space to make any claims on an international stage without India present.

“India will keep plurilateral engagements on, even if that plurilateral includes China,” explained Bhatia.

He also believes that Indian troops are likely to see resoluteness on the border from the Chinese side. Not only is China engaged with India along the LAC, but it is also reportedly infiltrating Taiwanese airspace, and sailing through disputed water in the South China Sea.

“You are dealing with a country which is obviously a master at handling multiple fronts and multiple levels of engagement. We have to recognise all that and be conscious of its significance,” he said.

With de-escalating and disengagement looking unlikely, troops on both sides of the border have been preparing to settle in for the harsh winters in the Himalayas. The Indian Army began its Advance Winter Stocking (AWS) exercise back in July, as it accounts for the fact that it will have more mouths to feed this year.

Indian Army denies China's claims of 'gunshot threats' along the LAC

India bets on talks to resolve China border row even as it prepares for a two-front threat on the ground

India says border situation is a ‘direct result’ of Chinese actions as it repositions troops in Ladakh