Modi-Jaishankar accept China’s annexation of Indian territory as fait accompli?

[The departing Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong, and Jaishankar]

Sun Weidong, China’s ambassador who is returning to Bejing, surely did not expect the Indian External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, to crown his stint in New Delhi with an Indian policy turn that the Xi Jinping regime had long hoped for but could not in its wildest dreams have imagined would be gifted to it on a platter, on an unmemorable occasion, and without China having to pay a price for it. As far as the Chinese government is concerned, what Jaishankar did not say — which in this case is far more significant than what he, in fact, said, removes all the hurdles to normalization of bilateral relations that were stuck in the glitch created by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) surreptitious takeover in recent years of over 1,000 sq kms of Indian territory in eastern Ladakh, mostly in the Depsang Plains. In an otherwise protocol dictated meeting October 25 in which a departing foreign envoy is bid farewell by the host foreign minister, the sort of event in which nothing of import usually ever happens, Jaishankar made Sun’s and Beijing’s day!

So, what did Jaishankar not say that may have bad consequences? According to media reports, the Indian foreign minister emphasized that normalcy would return to bilateral relations on the basis of “peace and tranquility” being re-established in the disputed border regions. There was no hint anywhere of Jaishankar forcefully iterating the specific condition India has so far insisted on — restoration of the status quo ante! And even if he did mention it in passing, not making a hoo-ha about it is just as revealing. It is very likely the absence of this phrase or its emphatic repetition, will be interpreted by Beijing to mean that New Delhi has accepted China’s grabbing of vast tracts of Ladakhi real estate as a fait accompli. One can expect Sun to have sent a note to Zhongnanhai mentioning this Indian concession, something Chinese interlocuters in the future will bring up as a principle-setting precedent to dismiss the notion of restoring to India its territory, and to make the point that the two countries should put the unpleasantness of PLA-initiated hostilites in eastern Ladakh behind them, and get on with the business of the Indian consumer doing what he is good at, namely, buying plenty of Chinese goods and manufactures to keep Chinese industries humming and making an already prosperous China wealthier.

Even as Sino-Indian tensions were asimmer, Chinese exports to India of capital machinery and intermediate goods (such as pharmaceutical ingredients) this year surged to a record high of nearly $90 billion even as Indian exports to China shrank by 36.4% and the balance of payments got further skewed. In the current two-way trade of some $125 billion, India’s take was a little more than $25 billion. It is a one-sided wealth-transfer trend the Modi government has done next to nothing to reverse.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh the other day talked of completing what he called the “Kashmir mission” in the foreseeable future of taking back Pakistan-occupied Gilgit and Baltistan. He justified it in terms of a Parliamentary Resolution. Curiously, Parliament’s 1962 Resolution, still standing, that requires the Indian government to fight and to do whatever else is necessary to recover “every inch of Indian territory” lost to China since before the 1962 War, is conveniently forgotten by the Modi regime.

Annexation of Indian territory began, it may be recalled, with parts of Aksai Chin through which the Chinese built the Xinjiang Highway amalgamated into Chinese-occupied Tibet that the Indian government became aware of only in 1958! Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had rationalised India’s ignorance of such offensive Chinese carryings-on by saying it involved land “on which not even a blade of grass grew”. A similar appeasement-minded outlook appears to be congealing around the need to cut deals with Xi’s China that will, unfortunately, allow the Indian government formally to accept a China that is territorially expanding at India’s expense, but free up strategic policy space and resources to, presumably, belabour Pakistan!

One is not sure what to make of the Modi government’s obsession with reducing an already much reduced Pakistan. No country is more seriously tanking financially, politically and socially than Pakistan. Any dim-witted politician would take to heart Napoleon Bonaparte’s advice to not interfere when an adversary is making mistake after mistake, seemingly intent on taking himself down. With General Qamar Javed Bajwa apparently serious about detaching the Pakistan army from the snakepit that is Pakistani politics, but Imran Khan, disqualified from fighting elections on corruption grounds, just as focussed on bringing matters to a head with his underway “long march” on Islamabad with its potential for exacerbating domestic fissures and faultlines to the point of endangering the Pakistani state, that country is in for a rough ride. It is a situation, Imran expects, will compel the Pakistan army to either takeover the reins of power for another round of martial law rule, or comply with his demand to dislodge the Muslim League (Nawaz) government of Shahbaz Sharif and order elections which, he expects, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party to win. Any which way this mess gets sorted out, Imran is confident he won’t lose.

The only thing guaranteed to get the warring elements within the Pakistani nation to forget their differences are revelations of actions by the Modi-Doval-Jaishankar trio to weaken Pakistan. (In this respect, India’s squeak-by win in the T-20 World Cup opener in Melbourne hasn’t helped!). So, stand down!

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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11 Responses to Modi-Jaishankar accept China’s annexation of Indian territory as fait accompli?

  1. Ayush says:

    You seriously think we can do a thing about Depsang short of fighting a full-scale war we are in no position to win?This so called “grey-zone” ops in April-may 2020 was a bait to lure a punitive Indian military response which PLA will respond with all out strikes.Besides, there are very serious problems at home.

    These people(GTRE) have been developing a puny 4.5KN engine(Manik) since the last 12-15 odd years.And till now they cannot get it to start!If it had not been for Russia’s help in our ballistic-submarine and Brahmos missile program (now extended to 800km)we would literally be fighting with the proverbial Shovel.It is India’s misfortune to have such neighbors and such an incompetent industry and military.What EAM has done is a wise acknowledgment of the country’s shortcomings and massive power differential which will only be leveled up by 2030 or so.
    What we have to do for now is to beg Putin to set up a kalibr production facility in India.

  2. Sankar says:

    What an abject surrender to China by this Hindu Modi Raj – the best strategic analysis of India’s statecraft to appear in print.

  3. Amit says:


    You give too much weight to Indian rhetoric. India will likely have to fight China too, to take Gilgit Baltistan. And an open fight with Pakistan is also risky. So no one in India takes this kind of talk seriously. India talked like this about Aksai China also three years back. No one in India was even prepared to defend Galwan and Depsang plains leave alone take back Aksai Chin. And look what happened there. Similarly, you give too much weight to what was unsaid to China. It means nothing. Unfortunately this is Indian strategic culture. Words don’t mean much.

    As for Pharma imports from China etc. – well the Indian economy is not developed enough to take much action on this. The Indian API raw materials industry is dead and will not come back by banning Chinese imports. It will only make Indian Pharma uncompetitive and lead to a decline in its market share.

    This is a larger issue for other countries as well. A free market cannot compete with state funded capitalism. This is economic warfare by China and requires a coordinated response by the rest of the world. This is beginning to happen. And could lead to a real war with China too.

  4. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    ‘With General Qamar Javed Bajwa apparently serious about detaching the Pakistan army from the snakepit that is Pakistani politics’

    Professor Karnad are you really serious about the following statement of yours?

    Politics is snake pit even in so called developed nations like US, UK. A small country like Netherlands hasn’t seen a single political party get majority in any election. This trend is quite common across the whole of EU.

    Pakistani army has been enjoying the fruits of power for a very long time. No Pakistani politician dares to antagonize the army over there.

    What a contrast with India, where army officers run behind politicians as sycophants to get desired postings and post retirement reinstatements/promotions.

    Rajnath Singh’s statement regarding reclaiming the so called POK is nothing but just a desperate attempt to stay in the limelight since the trinity of Modi-Shah & Doval don’t give him any importance.

  5. Ayush says:

    It is the pla and pla alone which will decide what happens at the border.I am sure they don’t give a penny about what these “civilian” diplomats and the Chinese FM have to say.Similarly,I think it’s best to leave the army to handle the border than have a big mouth like jaishankar/rajnath talk nonsense about military subjects they have no clue about.
    Now my outburst regarding the failure of the recent ITCM test was emotional but in reality it makes no difference.The era of subsonic cruise missiles is over.Even a fifth rate military pipsqueak like Ukraine with its soviet era s-300P can shoot down>50% of Russian missiles, which are best in their category.It’s not hard to imagine how effective they will be against china’s incredibly dense air defense environment .A 1500km range Brahmos along with similar range ballistic missile should suffice.

  6. Amit says:


    Another castigating attack on US policy on Ukraine by the great Prof. Mearsheimer. I’ve always been proud of the Professors of the University of Chicago (also my alma mater) to be fiercely independent in their thinking. I’ve found few in foreign policy as engaging and convincing as Prof. Mearsheimer. ‘History will judge US policy harshly in Ukraine as being remarkably foolish’. This is how he ends it.

    I couldn’t agree more…here is the link for those who are interested in watching a sound assessment of what can happen in Ukraine and because of it elsewhere…

  7. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Professor Karnad, I think you are being too harsh on Jaishankar. He is the only straight talking sensible minister in Modi’s cabinet.

    Everyone who follows Indian politics knows that the Gujarati duo followed by the NSA from Uttarakhand, these three make all the decisions.

    An excerpt from the aforementioned;

    The EAM also made it clear that “unless there is peace and tranquillity in the border areas… unless there is an observance of agreements and no unilateral attempt to change status quo… the situation cannot be, and is not, normal”.

    “Clearly what happened in 2020 was an attempt by one party to depart from the agreement and understanding… and that is at the heart of the issue,” the EAM told HT.

    Jaishankar has clearly conveyed the true state of affairs and busted the lie of self proclaimed ‘Vishvguru’, “Naa koii hamari…..”

  8. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Even a driver in an Indian government department has access to confidential information. What an open country India is 🥳.

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