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Chinese Grey Zone Acts and Mapping in the Light of Upcoming G-20 Summit in India

By Dr Mohit K Gupta

China and India both are the capable nuclear weapons’ States and since their respective unification and emergence have been at loggerheads due to border disagreements and disputes. Keeping trade and commerce aside, it is now, as it palpably seems because of so called media hyped ‘Chinese superiority Complex’ which is not letting the peoples of both the nations create goodwill and mutual trust and confidence. However, not achieving status quo ante bellum to 1962 battle is the root cause of this antipathy against each other. Its continuous existence is what may be called ‘plainly lethal’ to the existence of human civilization which farsighted strategist may clearly underscore.

Chinese Defiance

In the last three years after the Galwan incident the relations between both the States have not returned to steward humanity to absoluteness which third world States aspire for. The relationship between both had untrammeled low tides since Dok-lam crisis of 2017 between Bhutan and China. This is the high time of G-20 Summit wherein, India wants to usher in its success through its recently risen global activism by uniting two emerging rivals the United States (US) and China, but China seems to defy its (G-20) success and risen global diplomatic status and standards for India and is apparently seen opposed to any formal yield resulting from the first G-20 Summit in India.

Border that zooms Chinese Grey Zone Acts

China has not been able to settle its borders with most of the neighboring States with whom it shares its borders including marine mainland and hinterland borders. It is to note here that recent Chinese map also shows resolved and erstwhile disputed Russian island in Chinese map. China realizes and is conscious of the fact that now is the high time for herself to erect a mandarin wall in the form of persistent objector rule of international law. A State when persistently rejects another State’s map and to justify its own, does not however, create a rule of law in its favour unless such rule of law exists as such.

Without delving into complexities of international law on the border issues one can say that it is propitiously wrong in the twenty first century, of so deeply interconnected world to remain unpredictable for long. The recent conduct of China in so lately confirming the absence of Xi in G-20 Summit is hackneyed Chinese policy deployed repeatedly. It is furthered and believed by the Chinese strategic community that China is simultaneously capable to settle all her disputes with anachronistic carrot and stick policy. The so-called policy has never been successful against the States like India. Even the most high-powered State of the times (US) could not cow India down, but this neighboring State’s acumen is far backsliding and harmful to its nascent rise. Chinese territorial claims on its periphery aren’t new, yet under Xi China has employed its growing hard power to consolidate its unrealistic ambitions particularly with respect to Taiwan and South China Sea. China is continuously engaged in ripening that all through its grey zone activities without indulging in rule book battles like 1962 that it engaged with India or with Soviet Union (1969). However, barely a month back both China and India had agreed to intensify efforts towards ‘expeditious disengagement and de-escalation’ along the Line of Actual Control.

Continuous Deployment of Grey Zone Activities

Chinese have particularly, in the President Xi Jinping’s times aimed to dissuade and deter (vacating Houston Consulate) capitulate (Dok-lam border with Bhutan), and mitigate its rival’s competitive advantages (Australia) and concerns and have sought to build pressure not only against India or Taiwan or any other neighboring State but even the US in the latest status of it, and also many other east and southeast Asian States based on its current areas of diplomatic interests. Prof. Swarn Singh, one of the international relations experts from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi is of the opinion that southeast Asian States are not crumbling to Chinese pressure in recent times and in fact their proclivity towards India is increasingly rising to oppose Chinese stance. Number of these States along with India are extant in their opposition to Chinese non-adherence to the South China Sea judgment delivered by Tribunal of the existing oldest international Court in the world.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued statement in response to a question that “We have …..lodged a strong protest through diplomatic channels with the Chinese side on the so-called 2023 ‘standard map’ of China that lays claim to India’s territory.” The MEA rejected these Chinese mapping claims as they “have no basis”. The steps like these by the Chinese government “only complicate the resolution of the boundary question,” between India and China the MEA further added.

In the response to India of its sovereign mapping rights question China further tried to play grey zone act with respect to G-20 summit and responded to MEA’s reaction and to India’s diplomatic protest through Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin who told a media briefing that “on August 23, the Ministry of National Resources of China released the 2023 edition of the standard map”. And further added that “It is a routine practice in China’s exercise of sovereignty in accordance with the law. We hope relevant sides can stay objective and calm, and refrain from over-interpreting the issue.” Mr. Wang is reportedly quoted in numerous dailies across the globe for the grey zone activism displayed on part of China. And, instead of declaring about Chinese willingness or unwillingness to participate in the Summit through its Head of the State (HoS) preferred to keep its Prime Minister Li Qiang for the Summit.

Rising India, a nail in Chinese Tooth

India’s rising stature in the space, particularly after low-cost lunar mission and maiden success in Martian-Solar missions and indigenous development of kinetic kill space technology (2019) and more so after India United States Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the abundant availability of Uranium pellets: have all been a source of consternation in Chinese strategic community. India’s stature as an strategic power has continuously risen in the twenty first century and more so in the last decade. India has also seen growth in its universal support frame and recently India has had membership in the Security Council of the United Nations (As non-permanent Member) where through its own initiatives it made her presence felt as a rising power.

Mapping Cauldron

It is to be noted that China has not for the first time issued new map in which it has included number of areas that fall in the Indian territory or the territories of other States, it has done this mundane exercise at numerous other times since 1974, however this time its pre-set synchronization raises a question of international law. The much more anticipated last (fourth) and final Sherpa meeting of the G20 Summit commenced yesterday (Sept.3) in Haryana’s Mewat and is likely to continue until 7th September. This is said to be a pivotal gathering and is expected to commit the final agenda and the consensus document for the upcoming G20 Summit wherein China has reportedly objected to Indian language in number of provisions particularly, in use of the terms like vasudhev kutumbkam. By doing so preceding a global summit in which China itself is an important Party along with other leading world economies, it wants to accentuate its grey zone activities which no other nation employs to the extent as it does.  The so-called grey zone activities enunciated at this crucial hour is a poor diplomacy on Chinese part and raises a question to nascent Chinese rise in the international order.

Mohit K. Gupta, Asst. Prof. of Law, UPES, Dehradun, India

5 September 2023

Source: countercurrents.org

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