Indo-Chinese Relations: Let’s Play Cautiously

DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI discusses the intricacies of Indo-China relations and suggests careful treading and building of bridges for sustainable cooperation between the two Asian giants.

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DR. S. Ausaf Saied Vasfi

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DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI discusses the intricacies of Indo-China relations and suggests careful treading and building of bridges for sustainable cooperation between the two Asian giants.

The latest trend in international diplomacy is: Postpone resolution of problems; irritants can wait and be discussed, if necessary, at a later stage; the position of priority should be given to trade, commerce and projects of mutual benefit. Because to quote the latest American phrase: “It is the economy, stupid!”

The reference point to this mercantile approach is Dr. Henry Kissinger, who is also credited with underscoring the importance of geopolitics.

The apologists of this approach crown the thesis with maturity, accommodation, pragmatism and strategy. Their dissenters bemoan the loss of ideology, values and principles, which almost as a rule, are sacrificed at the altar of expediency.

But there is a third angle also, which, the critics should admit, ensures the outward march of history. Rigidity disallows one to break the ice and move ahead. Absence of flexibility proves a road-block and worsens the situation. The attitudes get avoidably hardened with the passage of time.

One finds the finest example of constructive flexibility in the “Sulah-i-Hudaibiyah”. But for that vision, one has to be a prophet. And neither our Prime Minister is a prophet nor the President of China.

It is in this background of maturity or lack of it, pragmatism or lack of it, that the 4-day visit of the Chinese dignitary, preceded by the Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Sun Yuxi’s reiteration of Beijing ’s age-old claim on Arunachal Pradesh has to be viewed.

10- Point Strategy

Pushing the question of recovery of 37,700 km Indian territory under possession, New Delhi signed 13 Agreements with Beijing on November 23. The occasion was the visit of Chinese President, Hu Jintao, who, however, promised to step up talks on the boundary issue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did well by making it clear in the very beginning that Tawang and other parts of Arunachal cannot be considered for territory exchange to boundary settlement.

He also held out the view that any solution involving uprooting of a settled population will not be acceptable to India .

The two countries have decided to formulate a 10-point strategy to consolidate mutual bonds.

A Feat

Amidst 44- year old mistrust and misgivings, this in itself is a remarkable feat that the said visit took place. New Delhi deliberately ignored the two main irritants: the status of the Dalai Lama and the border with Tibet .

There is definitely enormous room for mutual progress. The present Indo-China trade stands at $20 billion. By 2010 it would be somewhere near $ 40 billion. The two governments are going to open two consulates in each other’s country.

The operative part of the joint Declaration hints at the direction of the wind: “Both sides hold the view that there exist bright prospects for their common development, that they are not rivals or competitors but are partners for mutual benefit. They agree that here is enough space for them to grow together and play their respective roles in the region and beyond, while remaining sensitive to each other’s concerns and aspirations.”

Add to these solemn words two headlines making assurances given by the Chinese leadership. One, “we are sincere friends.” And two, “we are not seeking selfish gains.”

Ground Reality

But what is the ground reality, vis-à-vis the ramifications of border issue, most probably innocuously ignored by New Delhi . To quote the editorial of The Statesman (November 17): “Communist China’s attack on Ladakh and NEFA (the new Arunachal) was part of its attack and occupation of Tibet . The anti-communist Koumingtang Government of Chiang kai-shek had asserted suzerainty over Tibet too but the Nationalists were civilised people and it was unlikely they would have been as brutal with the peaceful, religious people of Tibet as Mao’s and Zhou’s communists were. Stalin’s communists suppressed many minority “nationalities” and the Tibetans were going to be one such for Mao’s communists to suppress. The communist Chinese were battle-hardened from decades of fighting Nationalists, Japanese, and then Americans in Korea . Tibet had no chance, and was far easier to absorb than Stalin’s absorption of Eastern Europe . Nehru failed to understand Stalin and failed to understand his Chinese adversaries too, just as handsomely as he failed to understand any economics. And his self-knowledge was so weak he did not know that he did not know. Galbraith, Kennedy’s Ambassador during the Chinese aggression, found the Indian Army “tragically old-fashioned”. Similar backwardness permeates Manmohan’s New Delhi today where the Congress, BJP and Left have deluded themselves into thinking the USA wishes to build India up as a bulwark to China .”

If Dr Manmohan Singh proves another Nehru, God save Bharat.

Security Council  Seat

It is understandable that significant progress on the nuclear issue was not possible because the Indo-US nuclear deal, according to the US foreign policy analysts, is directed against China . New Delhi has, however, been assured that Beijing would not put any hurdle in its march towards the UN Security Council seats.

A careful reading of the Chinese pronouncements in New Delhi would reveal Beijing ’s emphasis not only on regional but sub-regional cooperation also.

Those who know China tell us that development over there is un-even. That is an area of their concern. Their vision is to integrate their landlocked western region with the extended region, especially with north-eastern and eastern Bharat. What worries them has been appropriately put through an allegory: “An eagle spreading only one wing for flight.”

For a proper appreciation of this point, remember that the North-East region of Bharat looks outward as it shares 98 per cent of its borders with China , Myanmar , Bangladesh , Bhutan and Nepal .

Trump Card

For Beijing , the border issue is a trump card. The more New Delhi shows anxiety to settle the dispute, the more its value gets enhanced. Let us play this issue cautiously and coolly. Our only worry should be that 1962 does not occur or reoccur.

China , believing in multi-polar world, in the given situation, is the only country that can challenge the US in its own den. Both India and China are Asian giants. If they honestly become partners in progress, the world or at least Asia would be worth living. They can, with the passage of time, play a significant role in bringing the world order, in which the UN is supreme and is really respected and no sovereign country is pulverized by any crazy fellow, believing in “pax”.