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The Hindu Today News & Editorials – 23 February 2021

1. Dealing with the bigger neighbor, China.

Unlike its ties with Russia, bellicosity seems the signature element of Beijing’s approach to India


GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations. And Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.


  1. The usual broadside about India “belittling” China’s sovereignty in Tibet followed  “Our two countries have a basic misreading of each other’s priorities.”

  2. How could India support the McMahon Line when Tibet had “never possessed the right” to conclude sovereign agreements with the outside world

  3. China, continued, to practice “restraint in the Eastern Sector (the sector covered by the McMahon Line) of the boundary with India. And, as if foreshadowing the events in Galwan in the summer of 2020.


The McMahon demarcation:

  1. The McMahon Line is a demarcation line between Tibet and the North-east region of India proposed by British colonial administrator Sir Henry McMahon at the 1914 Simla Convention signed between British and Tibetan representatives.

  2. It is currently the generally recognized boundary between China and India, although its legal status is disputed by the Chinese government.


An unraveling:

  1. The underlying problems with the India-China relationship even as their leaders practiced bucolic, informal summitry.

  2. The two countries held up their relations as an example of how despite an unresolved boundary question, they had not allowed these differences to prevent the development of relations in other areas, including trade and economic ties as well as people-to-people interaction in various spheres.

  3. The Peace and tranquillity in the border areas had also been maintained for over four decades. But the unravelling had begun.

  4. Two nationalisms were contending and the untrammelled rise of China was generating new global power equations and alignments.

  5. The gulf between India and China was growing. In 2020, Galwan signalled the collapse of the edifice of bilateral relations built on these weak foundations over three decades.


Peace agreements over time:

1. Since 1993, India and China had arrived at a number of agreements to maintain peace and tranquillity and promote confidence building measures (CBMs) in the border areas.

  1. These were starting with 1993: the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas;

3. The Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas (1996);

4. The  Protocol between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas (2005); Agreement

  1. The Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on lndia-China Border Affairs (2012);

6.Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Border Defence Cooperation (2013).


Some of the key features of these agreements were:

  1. The two sides shall carry out border defence cooperation on the basis of their respective laws and relevant bilateral agreements.

  2. The boundary question would be resolved peacefully; neither side would use or threaten to use force against the other “by any means”; that the two sides would respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

3. The  India –China would jointly check and determine the segments of the LAC where they had different views as to its alignment and further, speed up clarification and confirmation of the LAC since a common understanding of the Line was necessary.

4. That military forces including field army, border defence forces, paramilitary forces and major categories of armaments in mutually agreed geographical zones along the LAC would be kept to a minimum level compatible with friendly and good neighbourly relations and the “requirements of mutual and equal security”.

  1. Military exercises would be undertaken only at specified levels with prior notification being given for such exercises near the LAC.

  2. The prior notice would be given regarding flights of combat aircraft within 10 kilometres from the LAC.

  3. If border personnel of the two sides came face-to-face due to differences in alignment of the LAC they would exercise self-restraint and avoid an escalation of the situation; channels of communication and border personnel meetings in case of contingencies were stipulated.


23 February 2021: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

The China-Russia thread:

  1. The inspiration for the first two of these Agreements, signed in 1993 and 1996, came from the example set by first the Soviet Union and then Russia in concluding such understandings on CBMs with China.

  2. The normalization of Russia-China relations was the resolution of the border dispute between the two and the development of CBMs in the border regions.

  3. The Military confrontation a defining features in their relations from the 1960’s, a strategic partnership of equality and trust oriented towards the 21st century was developed between Russia and China.

  4. The Soviet Union conceded a long-standing Chinese demand to allow the adoption of the median line of the navigational channel of the Amur-Ussuri River as the boundary between the two countries.

  5. The Soviet moves to reduce China’s sense of insecurity followed. These were the removal of SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles including from along the border with China and agreement to negotiate military CBMs. Moscow also made unilateral troop reductions.

  6. In April 1990, an Agreement on the Guidelines of Mutual Reduction of Forces and Confidence-building in the Military Field in the Area of the Soviet-Chinese Border was signed.

  7. This committed the two governments to the reduction of military forces to the lowest level suited to normal good neighbourly relations on “an equal basis for mutual security”.

  8. In May 1991, an Agreement on the Eastern Sector of National Boundaries was concluded by the two countries, resolving 98% of outstanding boundary issues. They also agreed that the zone of military CBMs would be 100 km on each side of the border.


What made it work?

  1. The main characteristic of these CBMs was the willingness of the bigger power the Soviet Union to undertake unilateral concessions and asymmetric reductions in military strength vis-à-vis China.

2. The collapse of the Soviet Union, far from hindering the process of normalization only smoothened it further  Russia and China continued to improve relations,

  1. Russia and China strategic convergence spurred on by shared suspicion about the overwhelming preponderance of U.S. global power at the end of the Cold War.

  2. The success of their alignment post-1989 and the Deng Xiaoping-Gorbachev Summit was that they identified common interests and were committed to building a relationship that was “broadly based and institutionalized” (Jingdong Yuan).

5. The military CBMs and tension-reduction along the border were ‘nested’ and fostered in a vast network of cooperative alignments that Russia and China built up in numerous areas once they agreed to normalize their relations.

February 23, 2021: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

The Points to note:

  1. Where our experience with China on CBMs and tension-reduction along the border differs from the experience of Russia is that, the five Agreements we signed between 1993 and 2013.
  1. This agreement not nurtured in an environment of a steady enhancement of mutual trust and political commitment for building a strong infrastructure of bilateral relations between India and China that promoted both bilateral and regional understanding and cooperative Endeavour.
  1.  Unlike in the Russia-China case, no final boundary settlement accompanied these CBMs to sustain and strengthen their operation.Even a joint clarification of the LAC remained unattainable.
  1. China as the bigger power, unlike the Soviet Union under Gorbachev in its dealings with Beijing, has never signalled willingness to make asymmetric or unilateral concessions to India or act in a manner, especially in our neighbourhood, that enhances India’s trust or confidence.



1. Measures to strengthen peace and tranquility and confidence-building in the border areas had obviously been rendered obsolete and inadequate as armed confrontation replaced a flimsy structure of so-called peaceful coexistence.

  1. The Periodic meetings between officers of the relevant Military Regions of China and Army Commands of India and between departments responsible for military operations may overcome tension between India and china.

  2. In case a doubtful situation arises with reference to any activity by either side in border areas where there is no common understanding of the line of actual control, either side has the right to seek a clarification from the other side.


2. Adding heft to diplomacy with some help from science

The pandemic gives India a unique space to mainstream science and technology in its domestic and foreign policies.

GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.


  1. India’s ongoing ‘Vaccine Maitri’ campaign, which is aimed at provisioning COVID-19 vaccines to countries both near to and away from its immediate neighborhood, is one of the most important recent initiatives to leverage its science and technological advantages for the furtherance of its foreign policy objectives.

  2. The appreciation of leaders of Brazil and Canadian PM for securing vaccines manufactured in India has gained much attention, in global world.

3. India efforts to address this health emergency were met with even more vocal appreciation by leaders from its partners from the Global South world.


Vaccine Maitri priority:

  1. India had announced a vaccine rollout for Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles which comes in line with its Neighbourhood First Policy.

  2. India to send 5 lakh Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka as part of ‘Vaccine Maitri, and all SAARC nations.


Number of Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered from India under “Vaccine Maitri” (Jan 2021):


February 23, 2021: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

Setting the template:

  1. India’s global priorities in science and technology were clearly articulated by its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during his address to the country’s Science Congress on January 21, 1959.

  2. Nehru was aware of both the constructive and destructive power of science and made India’s intention of seeking international scientific advances for the country’s development and rise clear with added emphasis on averseness to inter-state rivalries.

  3. This template would set the tone for India’s international science and technology engagement for much of the 20th century, and met with mixed results as more powerful states such as the United States sought to curb its ambitions in critical spheres such as its nuclear and space programmers.


The Assertion of interests:

  1. Despite limitations, India still managed to assist its partners from the Global South in key areas of science and technology such as health across Asia and Africa.

  2. The country’s national confidence would also rise during the final decade of the last century as economic dynamism led to a more pro-active assertion of its interests.

3. India established the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India in November 1999.

  1. By the early years of the 21st century, it sought to reduce its dependence on foreign countries to then emerge as a net provider of development assistance in the international system.


India strategic partnerships bearing substantial science and technology:

1. The 21st century international system was more conducive to the country’s science and technology designs in spheres such as nuclear and space technology due to a thaw in ties between India and the United States given the rise of an aggressive China and other consequential challenges to the international system.

  1. India would sign strategic partnerships bearing substantial science and technology components with advanced economies such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Israel, Germany, the European Union, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, South Korea and Australia even as it strengthened its traditional partnerships with countries such as France and Russia.


India’s critical policy frameworks:

  1. The country’s Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 clearly related international science and technology cooperation with national interest.

  2. Recently, Prime Minister has been categorical in placing science and technology at the forefront of the country’s diplomatic engagement.

3. India’s state instruments of diplomacy would also begin to show a more visible alignment to international science and technology cooperation.

  1. India currently fields four Development Partnership Administrations under its Ministry of External Affairs consequential given that President Ram Nath Kovind, in Cuba in June 2018, declared that the country had “placed science and technology at the center of its development cooperation strategy”.


The COVID-19 response:

  1. India’s science and technology prowess would be tested internationally by 2019 through an unprecedented global disruption originating from China in the shape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  2. India was swift to address the global challenge by initially sending medicines such as hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to over 150 countries, welcomed by its partners across the world.

  3. India’s pharmaceutical firms such as the Serum Institute of India competently partnered with the U.K.’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine project while others such as Bharat Biotech gave rise to indigenous vaccines in the shape of Covaxin.

4. India’s response came at a time where the developed world was pre-occupied in trying to address its own domestic issues and China’s health diplomacy much like its other development assistance came with prohibitive costs.


23 February 2021: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

The Areas for review:

  1. India’s, Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative, attempts to secure maximum self-reliance through capacity building and creating an environment where science and technology can not only answer its own national needs and cross-border interests but also global challenges, there are issues that must be addressed.

2. India’s financial apportionment to science and technology related research must rise to enable the country’s own rise as must participation of its states, universities and private sector in research and development efforts.

  1. The time is also right for India’s young scientists and technologists to be made more aware of the country’s foreign policy objectives, and to also enable all stakeholders in the policy establishment to learn more about science and technology to bridge the intellectual divide.



  1. India’s help by “The Ministry of External Affairs” has seen a restructuring with a Cyber Diplomacy Division, an E-Governance & Information Technology Division and a New Emerging & Strategic Technologies Division to manage science and technology issues in the nation’s diplomatic matrix.

  2. As scientists developed vaccines to COVID-19 virus, it was India, an established leader in vaccine manufacturing that rose to the challenge of global provision. Beyond idealist invocations, India’s COVID-19 response also came closely aligned with its Neighborhood First, Act East, Indo-Pacific and Look West policies.

3. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has presented the country a unique space to mainstream science and technology in its domestic and foreign policies. It is now up to India’s decision-makers to conclusively convert this crisis into an opportunity.

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