India facing ‘increasingly aggressive’ China & US should help respond, says think tank

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India is facing an “increasingly aggressive” China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and the US should help New Delhi deter and respond to future threats, according to a recently released report by two former US officials.

The report, titled ‘India-China Border Tensions and US Strategy in the Indo-Pacific’, was published by the American think tank, the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS).

It was authored by Lisa Curtis, former senior director for South Asia in the National Security Council during the previous Trump administration, and Derek Grossman, who previously served as the daily intelligence briefer to the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and held other posts in the Pentagon and CIA.

Though Chinese and Indian troops have since pulled back most forces since the 2020 Galwan clash, China continues to push India into a defensive posture along the LAC, notes the report.

“China effectively has bolstered its power projection along its disputed border with India, while India is now on the defensive to reassert its territorial claims…,” it states.

This report comes as China renamed 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh, which it referred to as “Zangnan, the southern part of Tibet” – a move that was strongly rejected by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

This was the third time since 2017 that China has sought to “rename” places in the Indian state.

Prior to the release of the CNAS report, Kurt M. Campbell, Deputy Assistant to the US President and Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, said last month that some of the steps taken by Beijing along the LAC have been “provocative” and that the US is “destined” to work more closely with India.

8 recommendations for US support to India

In their report, Curtis and Grossman make eight recommendations on how the US can help India deter and respond to future threats from Beijing along the LAC. They, however, acknowledge that India does not seek “direct” US involvement but is “likely confident” that it can count on Washington for some forms of support if requested.

Indian and Chinese troops clashed on the border in Ladakh on 15 June, 2020, in the Galwan River Valley, where 20 Indian troops and at least four Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were killed. It was the first major border clash since the 1962 India-China war.

The first recommendation mentioned in the report, without naming Taiwan, calls on US officials to “elevate” Indian territorial disputes with China on par with Beijing’s assertiveness against other US allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

This should be reflected in all US national security–related documents and speeches, it adds.

Other suggestions include offering India sophisticated military technology and helping it strengthen its maritime and naval capacity.

The US and India have signed four major military foundational agreements, but New Delhi has yet to warm up to the idea of joint combat.

Another recommendation is for the US to hold “joint intelligence reviews” with India for regular assessments of Chinese activity along the LAC. This would strengthen cooperation should a future flare-up take place between India and China, the report adds.

Another key recommendation is for the US to send a “message” to Pakistan to stay neutral in the event of a potential flare-up between India and China. The report further suggests to Washington – “Be prepared to extend full support to India in the event of another border crisis or conflict.”

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