Every crisis is an opportunity, and the current stand-off in Doklam is no different. Our aim in this piece is to suggest modest, incremental ways in which India can respond to the current impasse that will leave it better positioned going forward. These steps are made possible by the resolve demonstrated by the Indian leadership and military to date, which appears to have caught Beijing off guard. China’s persistent effort to nibble away at the border has now given way to explicit threats. Delhi’s refusal to be intimidated offers a promising opening for strategic steps that will promote stability over the longer term.
We begin with our general framework, which we laid out in three pieces published in this newspaper in 2012. We asserted that, one, India has a China problem, which flows from the accumulated asymmetry in power that will improve only slowly as India’s growth rate overtakes a declining Chinese growth rate; two, in the meantime, Chinese elites are not sympathetic to India, and their ambition will continue to increase as Chinese power increases; three, there is a large list of potential Chinese actions over this period that India will find problematic, and so a strategic Indian response is warranted instead of tactical responses to each new development; and finally, four, redressing the balance in military power and preparedness is both possible and highly desirable.