Saturday, 15 April 2017

Sino-Indian Relations and Future Prospects


India was the first non-socialist country to recognize the Peoples Republic of China on its founding. It supported China's efforts to join the United Nations and during the Korean war it maintained neutrality. It proposed the famous five principles of Peaceful Coexistence with China in 1954 and called for the spirit of Afro-Asian at Bandung in 1955. China had very cordial relations with India in the 1950s with the mutual exchange of visits of the two premiers till 1957. However, tensions developed from 1959 onwards, along the borders, leading to the 1962 War. The reasons for the war are well known, and the dispute persists even today, due to the disagreements on the validity of the Macmahan Line, despite 17 meetings of the Joint Working Group. Finally the relations were repaired and the two countries exchanged Ambassadors in 1976. Mr Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988 and accelerated restoration of cordial relations. PM Shri Narshima Rao visited China and signed the agreement on Peace and Tranquility on the borders, in 1993. When Jiang Zemin reciprocated the visit in 1996, he signed the Agreement on Strengthening Military trust along the Lines of Actual Control and proposed the establishment of a constructive partnership with India. The President of India visited China in 2000 and the misunderstandings after India's nuclear tests of 1998 were smoothened.Mr Atal Vihari Vajpayee made a formal visit to China on 22 June that greatly promoted the Sino- Indian relations.During his visit the two countries issued the Declaration of Principles of Relationship and Overall Cooperation. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao also visited India , primarily to discuss the trade and economic matters.The issue of stapled visa's being issued to the residents of J & K was cleverly ducked by stating that China considers J&K as a disputed territory. The recent visit of the Chinese President to India has been path- breaking and historic. .All the issues were discussed with Mr Modi in an atmosphere of great frankness and cordiality.We reminded them that just as the Chinese are sensitive to the issue of the Tibet so are we to our territorial integrity. China has been aggressive on the entire 4,057 km un-demarcated borders on land as evidenced during the recent Depsang and Chumar stand offs. On the Indian Ocean region the PLA Navy is making more forays ostensibily to make friendly port calls or on rest or refits consequent to fighting the sea pirates in Somalia. The Chinese strategy of 'String of Pearls' by creating naval facilities at Gwadar. Hambantota, Chittagong and Sitwe has provided her ability to make presence in the Indian Ocean or develop the so called silk-route. These developments, security access and the basing facilities in South Asia along with the improved infra structure in Tibet provide her a military capability that has to be taken note off seriously , notwithstanding the increasing trade relations. The recent visit of the Chinese President and his Discussions on all the issues with Mr Modi, were more significant .The Chinese promise of financial investments and infrastructure developments in India are the positives which augur well for the future. However, there are the following important issues which persist and need to be resolved amicably to normalise the relations between the two countries--

(a) The unresolved border issue.

(b) Trade imbalance with India.

(c) Maritime cooperation and Challenges.

(d) The China-Pak military and nuclear collaboration.

The Border Issue.

2. The Sino- Indian border dispute is the most challenging issue, divided into Eastern , Middle, and the Western sectors. The 1914 Simla Agreement between Britain and Tibet is not accepted by the Chinese, and thus the Macmahan line is not recognised by them. The principle the Chinese government applied to the Sino -Indian border dispute, were, that the boundary has never been formally drawn but that there is a traditional boundary line; that the two countries should maintain the status quo and avoid escalation before they reach a solution and should be considerate and tolerant to each other. However on the ground the situation has already been altered by the Chinese in the Aksai Chin sector where they built a road in 1954 and call it, as their own territory. They also entered into a boundary agreement with Pakistan who has illegally acceded the Shaksgham valley in the Pak occupied Kashmir to them. In fact after the 1962 conflict with us, they unilaterally withdrew from the territoriies occupied except in the Western sector, where their have been periodic standoffs in the Depsang, Chumar and Chushul areas. They have an excellent net work of roads and billets. It is highly unlikely that they would ever vacate this region. The Middle sector is the least contentious and lends for an early settlement. The Eastern sector is our State of Arunachal Pradesh which they call as the Southern Tibet.Although other than the Tawang Monastery ,which had religious linkages with Lhasa, the Chinese are never known to have any physical control of this region, yet they claim this region. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Eastern sector generally follows the water shed and approximates to the Macmahan line. We have de facto control over this region and the Indian government and the armed forces would defend this even if the Chinese persist to claim this. The troops on the ground are handicapped as in the absence of a demarcated border; and the personnel from the two sides patrol or make forays in the area leading to frequent protests and diplomatic interventions, to resolve the issue as it happened even during the recent visit of the Chinese president to India. Their have been 17 border Joint Working Group (JWG) meetings without much headway.Although, we have also improved our military capabilities, and can hold our ground, we are not in a position to retake our claimed line due to the superior Chinese military posture and better infrastructure. Military solution is, therefore, not a practical option. Ultimately it would have to be a political solution acceptable to both the sides involving trade -off of the territory, as a package deal which only a strong government in the two countries can deliver, as both sides will have to make a compromise to their stated positions. It is believed that such a plan was even visualized between Chou-en-Lai and Nehru in the early fifties, before the stands hardened .

The Trade Imbalance.

3. Objectively speaking, the Sino-Indian relationship is characterized by both conflicts and the existence of common interests such as trade and economic development for which both need a peaceful environment. The trade with China is nearly touching 80 billion US Dollars, however, their is a huge trade deficit with India. The adverse trade deficit with China is more than 40% of the trade, which can not be rectified unless our exports to China are increased. There are opportunities in the Indian Pharmaceuticals, automobile ancillaries, textiles and IT where exports can be increased provided the Chinese reduce tariff or provide a level playing field, otherwise this would remain a serious problem. The recent promise by the Chinese of investing in India in the infrastructure sector to the tune of 30 billion dollars is a good step in this regard and would reduce the trade imbalance.India's Look East Policy to open up the North Eastern States and develop trade with the neighbours and with China are other welcome developments which should be pursued vigoursly.

Maritime Security and Challenge.

4.China has been modernising its Navy since past two decades into a 'Blue water Navy'. Their submarine forces have modernised with their nuclear submarines going up from 5 to 10.It has also added its first aircraft carrier into the service, along with number of amphibious ships. The stated objective of the Chinese modernisation is the security of its energy and trade routes of communication through the Indian ocean. However, its attempts to convert the South China sea , as its own territorial waters is unacceptable and has been rightly challenged by the West and India, as these are international waters. The development of basing facilities in the Indian Ocean region also provides China presence in the Indian ocean. The development of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and the Gwadar in Pakistan allows China uninterrupted utilisation as both these countries will not be able to return the loan or the capitol invested in the development of these strategic facilities. India with its unique peninsular shape and the island territories dominates the Indian ocean, however ,the Indian Navy also needs to continuously up grade its capability to retain its edge. We also need to actively cooperate with other important navies in the region ,such as the US, Australia and Japan to dominate the various choke points, in the Indian ocean region that exist from the straits of Hormuz to the Malacca Straits.

Sino-Pak Nexus.

5. China has always been interested that Pakistan remains a strong challenge to India ,so that India is likely to be threatened by a two -front situation. It is also interested that Pakistan continues to retain control of the POK. This not only ensures that its vital interests are protected in Gwadar, but also frustrates India's access to Central Asia. In the 1965 and 1971 wars Chinese announced support to Pakistan and are treating J&K as a disputed state. Their recent policy of issuing stapled visas to the people of J&K residents and conducting of development activity in the POK supports this design. A muted response by India is likely to convey surrender of our claim over POK, The proposed economic corridor to Gwadar would pass through POK, which implies that China has given de facto acceptance of the Pakistan's claim on the disputed area. India must register its strong protests against the development activity in the POK. The other area of concern is the active collaboration of the Chinese in the Pakistan's nuclear assistance, which can only be countered by developing our own capability as all attempts of international pressures have failed. Similarly our efforts to dismantle the insurgent camps in Pakistan, which are used to support the terrorist activity against India have failed to enlist any support from the Chinese. We should be clear that China favours Pakistan and take this as a factor in our strategic calculations.It is ,therefore imperative that we develop a strong military capability and economic potential to deter a two front war. The nuclear deterrence and the missile development, along with the military modernisation is a compelling need to safe guard our national interests, while talking and promoting peaceful environment for the economic growth.


6. This is not to conclude that there are only differences between the two countries, as we do have common interests and values. Among the common points shared by China and India are their similar cultural and historical traditions. Indian Buddhism greatly influenced ancient China.Both countries have opened up to the world and are engaged in the economic development and need a peaceful environment. The two countries have same views on the structure of the multi-polar world politics , on the climate change, WTO and both call for reduction of the nuclear stock piles of weapons. On the human rights the two countries are against the western intervention in the internal affairs of the nations.We are opposed to international terrorism and the sea piracy in the international waters. It is worth noting that India has consistently supported the one China policy and the Chinese Sovereignty in Tibet. How ever we also demand that the Chinese should also be sensitive to our sensitivities in the J&K and and in the Eastern sector. India and China both need to realise that while following different patterns of government and economic development models, the ultimate aims are the same and we need to cooperate rather than compete. To that extent the present policy of pursuing economic development leaving aside the differences on the border settlement to the future generations appears sensible and pragmatic.

Lt Gen Chandra Shekhar

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