What’s behind India’s hardening posture against China?

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There is a small but stark shift in India’s approach to China in the past few weeks which indicates the Modi government in its third term might harden its posture against the neighbour with which relations have been hostage to heightened border disputes ever since skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces along the border in 2020.

PM Modi is likely to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kazakhstan in the first week of July where he might run into China’s President Xi Jinping. Shortly before a possible meeting between the two leaders, India seems to be hardening its posture against China. The two meetings between Modi and Xi after the Galwan clashes at the G20 Summit at Bali in 2022 and the BRICS Summit in South Africa a year later failed to yield any positive results. Thousands of troops remain deployed on either side of the Sino-india border .

India’s ‘no’ to ‘business as usual’

China is pressing India to restart direct passenger flights after a four-year halt, but New Delhi is resisting as a border dispute continues to weigh on ties between the two countries, Reuters has reported recently. Several times over the past year or so, China’s government and airlines have asked India’s civil aviation authorities to re-establish direct air links, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, with one saying China considers this a “big issue”.

“We hope the Indian side will work with China in the same direction for the early resumption of direct flights,” China’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters in a statement, adding that resuming flights would be in both countries’ interests. But a senior Indian official familiar with India-China bilateral developments said of Beijing’s desire to resume flights: “Unless there is peace and tranquility on the border, the rest of the relationship cannot move forward.”

India is refusing to let the ties normalise with China without a resolution of the border disputes. Direct flights between India and China were halted four months after the pandemic broke out. Except for a smattering of covid repatriation flights, they have not resumed even though India lifted covid restrictions on international air routes a year later and China lifted all covid travel measures in early 2023.

Modi’s Taiwan move

After results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections were announced, Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te congratulated Modi on his third consecutive victory in the general elections and said he looks forward to expanding the “fast-growing” ties between the two nations. He further stressed expanding India-Taiwan collaboration on trade, technology and other sectors to contribute to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

“My sincere congratulations to Prime Minister @narendramodi on his election victory. We look forward to enhancing the fast-growing Taiwan-India partnership, expanding our collaboration on trade, technology & other sectors to contribute to peace & prosperity in the IndoPacific,” President Lai posted on X. Modi replied: “Thank you @ChingteLai for your warm message. I look forward to closer ties as we work towards mutually beneficial economic and technological partnership.”

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