The confrontation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China is the result of Beijing wanting to punish New Delhi for rejecting the multinational infrastructure programme -- Belt and Road Initiative -- and has nothing to do with the border dispute between the two countries, according to a veteran Swedish journalist.
In an interview to The Irrawaddy, Bertil Lintner said that China is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, flexing its muscles in the Indo-Pacific region with a new security law in Hong Kong, Chinese fighter jets entering Taiwan's airspace, the ramming of Vietnamese and Philippine fishing boats in the disputed South China Sea, a month-long standoff between a Malaysian oil exploration vessel and a Chinese survey ship in the same waters, and an open confrontation with the Indians along the LAC.
"First of all, the confrontation along the LAC between India and China has nothing to do with the border as such, if it should be on this or that barren rock in an uninhabited area," he said.
"It is a question of strategic rivalries between Asia's two giants and, more specifically, China's wanting to punish India for rejecting its multinational infrastructure programme, the BRI, and show the neighbours who rule the roost in the region," he added.
China wants to become the world's leading superpower, and those aggressive postures and the more "benign" BRI are part of that long-term strategy, he said.
Tensions have been escalating along the LAC since May. The Chinese and Indian troops had engaged in a number of confrontations along the LAC.
The border tensions between India and China heightened after 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in a violent face-off in Galwan Valley on June 15-16 after an attempt by the Chinese troops to unilaterally change the status quo during the de-escalation. Indian intercepts revealed that the Chinese side suffered 43 casualties including dead and seriously injured in the face-off.
When asked about Myanmar China Economic Corridor (MCEC), Litner said that the passage holds more importance to China because it can help Beijing in controlling the insurgents in Myanmar as well as playing a role in domestic politics.
"CPEC is also located in westernmost China, far from the country's industrial centres. Therefore, the Myanmar-China Economic Corridor is far more important to China. There, they can control the insurgents as well as playing a role in domestic politics. The Ruili-Muse border crossing is much closer to China's industrial centres and major cities than CPEC," Litner said.
On the importance of the ASEAN grouping at the time when China is flexing its muscles in the region, the journalist is of the view that the group has no common policies and there is actually minimal cooperation between its member states.
This divergence of political systems and views makes it impossible for ASEAN to agree on its most fundamental principle -- consensus, he said.