Why has the US specifically warned China about Taiwan in the midst of the Ukraine crisis? It’s a lesson from the 1962 war with India
Why has the US specifically warned China about Taiwan in the midst of the Ukraine crisis?  It’s a lesson from the 1962 war with India

Why has the US specifically warned China about Taiwan in the midst of the Ukraine crisis? It’s a lesson from the 1962 war with India

The United States has warned Beijing against trying any adventure over Taiwan as Washington maintains a sharp focus on the escalating situation in Ukraine. The teachers come from the war between India and China in 1962.

The United States is trying to draw a clear line in the sand to China. It is trying to tell Beijing not to try any adventure over Taiwan as Washington keeps a sharp focus on the escalating situation against Russia in Ukraine. The specific need to convey this to China could very well be seen in the light of Beijing’s propensity to use the distraction from major global events as time to pursue its own strategic goals. This was what China had done while launching the war against India in 1962.

Reports said the United States had placed two of its aircraft carrier groups – USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln – in patrol operations in the Strait of Taiwan, the 180-kilometer stretch that separates Taiwan from China. Another aircraft carrier group, the USS Ronald Reagan, is on standby in Japan. Such a concentration of massive firepower is certainly unusual and can be read as a definite signal to China not to engage in any escapades.

The need to keep China quiet at this time is best understood by looking at developments along the border between Ukraine and Russia. The Russian troop build-up has sparked fears of an impending invasion. Another important factor is that the window for a successful invasion of Ukraine is getting narrower by the day. The end of winter and the melting of snow in the region are marked by slush soil, which in the past has made life difficult for the military in many countries. In fact, if Putin does not march into Ukraine soon, he may have to wait a few more months. And if he chooses to do so soon, the United States would rather not have to confront military action from China in the Indo-Pacific as well.

The specific need to convey to China not to act on its expansionist impulses while Ukraine is escalating has a historical basis. Beijing had chosen to go to war with India in 1962 at exactly the time when the United States and the USSR were locked in a tense battle in the Cuba crisis. The Chinese had been informed of the possibility of such a standoff by their Soviet allies.

The selection of the exact period of the Cuba crisis for its military offensive against India enabled China not only to avoid the major sticking point of US foreign policy, but also to avert the possibility of intervention by Moscow on the part of New Delhi. True to form, the Chinese attacked India in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh four days after the Cuba crisis began and unilaterally announced a ceasefire the day after the crisis was rendered harmless.

China has not taken the presence of American aircraft carrier groups quietly and sent a barrage of warplanes to harass Taiwan’s airspace. However, there are two factors that may work to bind Beijing’s hands for the time being. One is the strong signaling from the United States. The second is that China may not want to risk more global political attention as it prepares for the inauguration of the February Winter Olympics.

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