Chinese balloon over the US and India as a Peacemaker

Prelims level : International Relations Mains level : GS-II International Relations | Bilateral, regional, and global groupings and agreements involving India’s interests.
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Why in News?

  • On 1 February, a high-altitude balloon of Chinese origin was spotted over the US state of Montana, which also houses one of the country’s three active nuclear missile silos. on 4 February, US forces shot down the balloon over the country’s South Carolina coast and are now proceeding to collect some of the debris.

Balloons for surveillance:

  • Balloons could prove much cheaper and loiter for extended periods, providing continuous surveillance over targets, unlike satellites based on orbital motion.

How America responded?

  • Initial assessment: The US government officially described it as a surveillance balloon with no immediate military or physical threat but was quick to go back on its initial assessment.
  • Incident as a part of Chinese larger troubling pattern: An American view describes the Chinese balloon incident as part of a larger, more troubling pattern.
  • China claims as it was civilian airship and unintentionally flown: Despite Chinese claims that the balloon was a harmless civilian airship that had unintentionally flown into US airspace, Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled his much-anticipated diplomatic visit to Beijing.
  • Issue is a matter of violation of sovereignty: The US has said that the balloon issue is a matter of violation of sovereignty, and, as of 4 February, there are reports of another balloon being spotted over South America that China has admitted is also theirs.

Similar experiments:

  • US utilising high-altitude balloons: Not just China, the US has also experimented with utilising high-altitude balloons in space for a long time. In July 2022, NASA tested an aerial robotic balloon that would work in tandem with an orbiter to carry out scientific measurements of Venus.
  • UK demonstrated in 2022: In August 2022, the UK selected an American company to demonstrate an uncrewed platform for stratospheric communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The need was for manoeuvrable, long-duration missions capable of locating targets anywhere on earth.

Global geopolitical struggle:

  • Default mode but with different players: The event if viewed from a historical perspective, the world is back to its default mode, only this time, it has a different set of actors.
  • It involves various forms of power, primarily shaped by technology: Notably, there exist also nuclear weapons in the hands of nine powers, unlike during the Cold War era, when the number was confined to five.
  • Economic and technological integration is much greater than ever before: Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, attempts at desegregating economic and technological fields have not just continued but also gained momentum.
  • Camps led by the US and China: Global cooperation is in short supply and is being morphed into a coalition-building exercise ensconced in primarily two camps led by the US and China.

India’s posture in a polarized world:

  • Benefited from lower cost supplies from China and Russia: Economically, it has maintained trade with China and benefited from lower-cost energy supplies from Russia.
  • India’s tilt towards west: After China’s aggression on the northern borders, India has tilted to the West, especially in the maritime and technological arenas.
  • Increasingly polarised world challenging India’s foreign policy: But as global tensions grow and confrontations increase, India could find itself under pressure to take sides even when its interests are not under contention. Therefore, there is a need to articulate a foreign policy paper on India’s alignment posture in a world that is becoming increasingly polarised.
  • This policy must foster partnerships based on context and not on blocs: India could join hands with the US and its allies in seeking an open and rules-based Indo-Pacific order. It could even partner with China on climate change if there is a congruence of interests.
  • Challenge is to avoid being dragged in war: In grand strategic terms, India’s challenge is to avoid being dragged into a World War that must be considered a growing possibility.

India as peacemaker:

Exploring the role of a peace broker:

  • What could be at the back of the Indian strategic mind is to play the role of a peace broker and explore every possibility to make it count.
  • This is important because the state of relations between the US and China does not seem to have many prospects for a return to dialogue that can facilitate consensus on bilateral, multilateral and global issues.
  • It is a possibility reflected in the inability of the United Nations to intervene, as the major parties involved are themselves in contention for the position of the stronger superpower.
  • India may be getting into a position to make a peacebuilding attempt:
  • A report by a US-based business intelligence consulting firm corroborates this asserts that India may be getting into a position to make a peacebuilding attempt
  • According to this survey, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the world’s most popular global leaders. With a 78 per cent approval rating, Modi is far ahead of other contenders.


  • It is high time that Indian strategists explore the feasibility of making India a peacemaker. It is a difficult and challenging task that may seem impossible. But there is no reason not to try, as the Prime Minister and the posture of the nation has both internal and external popularity on its side.
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