US-India Global Review

India in 2014 that Delhi would stand firm in the Ladakh region of Kashmir, where the PLA had made a number of limited probes. Then, when confronted with China's road-building activities at Doklam, India moved quickly to aid Bhutan, deploying troops to block further Chinese progress. (In 2013, under the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India had downplayed protracted Chinese incursions into Indian ter- ritory in Ladakh.) Finally, India's understanding of its self-interest appears to be expanding. By stopping China's road-building project, it protected not only itself but also a smaller neighbor from coercion by a pow- erful third country. In doing so, India not only demonstrated that it would resist Chinese bullying, but also showed that India would, at least in some cases, seek to pre- vent China from bullying others. This suggests a more muscular approach not just to defending India's own interests, but also to preserving the existing regional order, and may hint at the emer- gence of a more robust Indian leadership role in the region. In private conversations, Indian strategists acknowledge that such leadership implications were an important part of their calculus in dealing with the crisis. The question now is whether this more assertive Indian approach will endure. India was in a particularly favorable legal and geographical position to intervene in Doklam, and the characteristics of future crises could differ consid- erably. The Indian government shows no signs of adopting a more conciliatory stance, however. A post-crisis statement, though measured, made clear that India would not accept forceful attempts to alter the status quo. Border agreements, it said, must be "scrupulously respected." Moreover, the winds favor New Delhi: The Doklam episode was generally interpreted as a victory within India, garnering largely favorable press coverage and commentary from the strategic community. This will create domestic political incentives to continue to pursue forward-lean- ing policies. Finally, general strate- gic momentum is pushing India in an increasingly competitive direc- tion. India has become one of the world's largest arms importers, while also emphasizing indige- nous defense production through its "Make in India" campaign. Its projects include raising a moun- tain corps, modernizing its fleet of combat aircraft and improving its nuclear capabilities. In addition, India is working closely with part- ners such as Japan, Vietnam, and the United States to hedge against regional security chal- lenges through efforts such as joint exercises, training and mili- tary sales. The U.S.-India relation- ship is especially important; Indian leaders have described it as "indispensable," and the two coun- tries are cooperating on a number of significant projects, including the joint development of jet engines and aircraft-carrier tech- nology. All of these developments sug- gest that Doklam was not a wholly unique event, but rather part of a broader trend toward increased Indian strategic activism. And the standoff's favorable outcome may encourage the Modi government to adopt even more activist poli- cies in the future. If this proves true, India will face an increased risk of regional confrontation, including more Doklam-like stand- offs along the contested Sino- Indian border. But India may also begin to shed its reputation for passivity, emerging as less of a strategic bystander than as a stakeholder in and defender of the existing regional order. -- The views expressed in this article do not necessarily repre- sent those of the U.S. Department of Defense. Sumit Ganguly | Foreign Policy 19 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JANUARY-MARCH 2018 S. Paul Kapur | Foreign Policy