Sunday, November 13, 2011


the good ambassador tells it like it is: we are screwed.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ram Narayanan

If you wish to respond to this message, do NOT hit the "Reply" button; please try

Dear Rajeev Srinivasan:

I hope India’s policymakers will read and re-read the following powerful speech of Ambassador Ranjit Gupta, till his insightful comments get fully reflected in India’s strategic policy towards China..

Also, please see below Brig Gurmeet Kanwal’s essay on how India is looking east to counter the strategic encirclement by China.


Ram Narayanan

----- Original Message -----
From: tp sreenivasan
To: kictvpm googlegroups ; indianforeignservice ; spbhavan ; valliyil ; sreenilekhafriends ; roopagang ; UCASCA ; Beh, Matthew K
Cc: Ranjit Gupta
Sent: Sunday, November 13, 2011 7:23 AM
Subject: India-China Relations A Public Lecture By Ambassador Ranjit Gupta under the auspices of the Kerala International Centre Nov 9, 2011


At the invitation of the Kerala International Centre, Ambassador Ranjit Gupta delivered a Public Lecture in Thiruvananthapuram YMCA Hall on India-China Relations. Lt.Gen.Sushil Pillai chaired the session. The Lecture was well received and there was a robust Q&A session. The following is the text of the Lecture, as provided by the speaker.



China Presentation on Nov 9 at Thiruvanthapuram

May I thank my friend and colleague Sreeni, as he is widely and affectionately known, for inviting me to speak at the Kerala International Centre. I am conscious of the fact that I am speaking before a well informed and distinguished audience. Due to time constraints I will present a broad picture and hope to cover aspects which I would inevitably miss in my presentation during Q and A.

China has exhibited enormous dexterity in formulating timeframe-focused, objectives-driven, action-oriented strategic policies in the diplomatic, economic and military domains, and in converting these policies into brilliantly coordinated tactical activity on the ground in all continents across the globe, but particularly in its neighbourhood. China’s primary tools have been very impressively growing comprehensive national power, expertly complemented by drawing neighbours, major global powers and energy and other natural resources-rich countries into a progressively tightening economic embrace. Today, each one of its neighbours has a stronger economic relationship with China than with any other neighbour or another major power. At the same time, China has growing substantive political interaction with every single important country of the world including countries such as India and Japan despite having very serious bilateral disputes with both. There are significant new positive features in China’s relations with even traditional US allies such as Australia, South Korea and Taiwan. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that China’s global relationships today are far more satisfactory than those of all other major powers, including the US. Today, China is by far the most influential actor in Central Asia; while the balance of power in the Asia Pacific region remains in favour of the US, the balance of influence is increasingly contested and slowly but perceptibly moving away from US preeminence; in South Asia, India’s own region, China is more influential than India; China continues to make extremely impressive headway in Africa, Latin America and West Asia. China is unabashedly using the leverage provided by its veto power in the Security Council for strategic advantage. China is considered to be the locomotive of the growth of the global economy. Countries around the world increasingly feel compelled to take into account China’s interests and strategic preferences when weighing their policy options and choices without the necessity of China having to resort to overtly coercive diplomacy let alone military action. Not one single neighbour poses the slightest military challenge to China; indeed no country in the world poses a military threat to it. The result is that today China has a more benign, non-threatening and cooperative external security environment than ever before in its modern history and which is very significantly more comfortable than for example for the United States and many other major countries of the world. Yet, China is not content with this very satisfactory state of affairs. and wants more of everything – influence, power and territory including proprietary rights over international waters.

China’s military budgets have grown annually in double digit figures for over two decades. Spending on the military continues to rise inexorably. Defence experts within and outside governments all over the world assert that actual outlays and expenditures are very significantly higher than publicly released figures and that China is consciously and deliberately developing military capabilities to ultimately match those of the only superpower in the world. There has to be some rationale for this. China’s civilizational ethos, historical legacy and contemporary internal political discourse unambiguously suggest that China intends to reclaim its preeminence in Asia as a stepping stone to peer status with the only superpower, the United States, globally. World history is a chronicle of rising powers changing the existing status quos. China is the world’s preeminent Rising Power. As far back as January 2005 in an interview, Lt Gen Lin Yazhou, then Deputy Political Commissar of the PLAAF stated that "When a nation grows strong enough, it practices hegemony. The sole purpose of power is to pursue power........ Geography is destiny......... When a country begins to rise, it shall first set itself in an invincible position"(In the Words of Our Enemies by Jed Babbin, Regnery, 2007, page 151). During the past two years China has been increasingly assertive about its ambitions manifested in its varied claims expressed through unabashed bullying tactics and increasing frequency of ominously worded rhetoric directed at many neighbours but particularly India.

Two factors are unique to the India China equation: first, India is the only Asian country which could stand in the way of China’s hegemony in Asia due to its size, population, and diplomatic, economic and military potential. Accurately gauging this reality, in attempting to blunt these factors and overcome these hurdles, China has adopted an approach to India which has been very different from the tactics it has used with the rest of the world. Second, China’s march to superpower status has and continues to impinge directly on many components of India’s national security and on India’s vital national interests on a bilateral, regional, continental and global basis. In that sense China represents a greater challenge for India than for any other country.

Through the past decade China has been positioning a constantly enlarging array of lethal conventional and strategic military assets in Tibet even as it has established and maintains an assertive and militarily superior posture all along the Indian border with Tibet backed up by excellent state of the art and inexorably expanding transport, supply and logistics infrastructure. It would be evident even to a rookie student of international relations that Tibet, which was forcibly incorporated into China in 1950, faces absolutely no military threat at all from any quarter. Therefore, a legitimate question arises - why this phenomenal build up at a huge cost in very difficult terrain and harsh climatic conditions? This is surely not needed against the poor Tibetans who are now outnumbered by State sponsored Han migrants in their traditional centuries old self governed homeland.

Due to its takeover of Tibet China acquired a direct border with India for the first time ever in history. China has resolved its land boundaries with 12 of its neighbours leaving only the borders with India and Bhutan. In India’s case the issue is much more than a border dispute given the vast territory involved - China occupies 38000 square kms of Indian territory in Kashmir and claims 90000 sq. kms in the northeast including the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. All these Indian territories border Tibet. One does not have to be a genius to infer that China’s military build up in Tibet can have only one possible motive or target - India.

The other major contributory factor to India’s security concerns arises out of the nature of the regimes that India’s South Asian subcontinental neighbours have. These regimes have consistently projected India as the main threat to their countries and this bugbear has and is being used to legitimate the regimes and their anti-Indian policies in the eyes of their peoples. Once again China is deeply involved. It has very deliberately and consciously encouraged these orientations and provided these countries with extensive multi dimensional support. The continually strengthening Sino-Pakistan political, military and strategic alliance is the most consistent relationship in post World War II global diplomatic history. It is preeminently an India focused relationship. Disregarding all international norms and its commitments flowing from them, China has consciously helped Pakistan in becoming a nuclear weapons and missile power. Pakistani capabilities today are greater than India’s in both these categories and these capabilities are being upgraded by China on a continuous basis. China has been a major weapons supplier to Pakistan. It is supplying J 10 fighters, frigates, tanks and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) to Pakistan, amongst other arms. It has created Pakistan’s weapons and armaments manufacturing industry agreeing to co-produce the efficient JF 17 fighters, amongst other armaments. China is developing road and rail transport connectivity corridors linking the China constructed Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea through Pakistan to Tibet and Sinkiang. China has a rapidly growing multi dimensional presence, including deployment of an increasing number of PLA troops, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region and POK, both regions under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Since 2004-5 joint military exercises between the Pakistan Army and the PLA have been held regularly in both countries. China’s footprints in Myanmar in multi dimensional activities are to be seen throughout the country and are the largest Chinese footprints in any neighbouring country of India. There are more than 2 million Chinese in Myanmar now with the economy of areas which border China having become almost an integral part of China’s economy. China is engaged in creating road and rail transport links between Yunnan and Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal even more frenetically than it is doing in Pakistan. In addition, gas and oil pipelines through Myanmar and Pakistan are also being constructed. The Maoists, the most potent political force in contemporary Nepal, have developed a particularly close relationship with China and have explicitly called for a Sino-Nepalese Treaty akin to the 1950 Treaty with India while demanding a revision of the document with India. China is constructing a railway link between Tibet and Kathmandu in addition to the already existing road linkages. The rapidly growing economic, defence and political partnership with China is the most conspicuous aspect of Nepal’s contemporary external relations scene. Senior officials and Ministers in Bangladesh under the previous regimes had no hesitation in publicly terming China as a trusted military ally and extolling it as its closest friend. It is basically Chinese patronage that has empowered Bangladesh to deny transit facilities to India to its northeastern states thus enhancing their sense of insecurity.

Ever since 1993 when China became a net importer of oil for the first time, China has been publicly declaring its intentions of stepping beyond its traditional continental land oriented security paradigms. In 1993 Zhao Nanqui, the Director of General Logistics Department of the PLA had said: “We can no longer accept the Indian Ocean as an Ocean of the Indians”. (Strategic Asia 2011-12: Asia Responds to Its Rising Powers - China and India edited by Ashley J. Tellis, Travis Tanner and Jessica Keough, National Bureau of Asian Research, Sept 2011). China has come out with its ‘string of pearls’ strategy, which includes the construction and upgrading of ports and naval facilities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar, as well as proactively wooing Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka where it has constructed the strategically vital Hambantota port. Chinese warships now regularly patrol the Indian Ocean even as far as the coast of Somalia. Much of this activity is ostensibly in the context of China’s quest for energy security to have options vis-a-vis the Malacca Straits choke point and to contribute to the security of the sea lanes since a very high percentage of its oil and conventional trade transits through the Indian Ocean. However, all these transport connectivities and naval facilities have very clear military and strategic implications too. China has thus very successfully diluted India’s natural strategic advantages in the Indian Ocean. For all these reasons Chinese commentators have termed the Indian Ocean as China’s ‘ocean of destiny’.

China has thus spun a web of very strong economic, military, political and strategic relationships with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan with the conscious objective of keeping India contained in and preoccupied with and within the subcontinent. The net result has been that in strong contrast to China, India has a more unfriendly and security threatening neighbourhood than any other major country in the world. India’s vulnerable security related concerns are further compounded by a long list of contentious issues between China and India.
In recent years China has adopted an increasingly hard line attitude on the Arunachal issue which is being deliberately and very consciously articulated and orchestrated publicly by responsible Chinese officials, official think tank scholars and commentators in the media, which in China is officially controlled. They have been asserting their claim rather frequently, often in rather threatening language and increasingly referring to Arunachal as ‘South Tibet’. They protest vociferously even about India’s Ministers visiting Arunachal. There are references about a repetition of 1962, about the need for India to be taught a lesson, etc. The Chinese Foreign Minister has told his Indian counterpart that “mere presence” of populated areas would not affect Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh. All this effectively consigns the central feature of the 2005 agreement signed at the Prime Ministerial level to virtual irrelevance. The de facto 3500 kms long boundary continues to 
be referred to as the Line of Actual Control. China does not exhibit the slightest keenness to resolve the issue, not even exchanging maps though it has agreed to do so. As another facet of its assertiveness the number, frequency and scope of incursions and intrusions over the LAC have been increasing incrementally.

What happened in 1962 is too well known to spend time over. The 1960s and 70s were a period of intense mutual hostility and minimal interaction. However, after 1965 India started exhibiting increasing keenness to normalise relations and took the initiative by sending back its Ambassador to Beijing in 1976. This was followed by the visit of Foreign Minister Vajpayee in 1979; however, China exhibited its contempt for India by invading Vietnam, then arguably India’s closest friend in Asia, while the Minister was still in China. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988, another Indian initiative and regarded as path breaking, was very warmly welcomed in China partly because the Joint Statement contained a significant paragraph: “The Chinese side expressed concern over anti-China activities by some Tibetan elements in India. The Indian side reiterated the long-standing and consistent policy of the Government of India that Tibet is an autonomous region of China and that anti-China political activities by Tibetan elements are not permitted in India.” India’s acknowledgement of China’s takeover of Tibet was enshrined in the 1954 Agreement which was only a trade agreement; even this agreement was valid for only 8 years and lapsed in 1962. After that there was no bilateral agreement in which India formally accepted Tibet being part of China. Therefore, given all that had transpired since 1962, there was no good reason for including this provision and using phraseology which was much more explicit in recognizing the Chinese takeover of Tibet than in the 1954 agreement and that too in a suo moto and subservient manner. India also completely ignored the fact that at that time a large scale revolt was underway in Tibet and China was under considerable pressure. China was actively involved in the creation and nurturing of insurgency in India’s northeastern states. However India has not deemed it necessary to talk of Chinese assistance to these insurgents nor ask for let alone insist upon reciprocal Chinese acceptance of India’s territorial integrity in Kashmir and Sikkim. Pakistan had already ceded some territory in Kashmir to China and this has not been raised with China. China never had a claim on or relating to Sikkim and no country in the world had a dispute with India regarding Sikkim but China made it into a bilateral problem by the mid 1970s and by entertaining Chinese objections India gave China a say in the matter. Even today there is no bilateral document in which China acknowledges that Sikkim is a part of India. 

The Rajiv Gandhi visit set in motion a process of increasing frequency of exchanges of high level visits; a remarkable fact worth noting is that while each Indian visit has been a single country visit, each Chinese visit to India has been part of a tour of South Asian countries. China tested a hydrogen bomb during President Venkataraman’s visit to China in 1992. These are symbolically important matters and symbolism has always been a very significant component of China’s diplomatic practices.
The texts of recent China India Joint Statements have invariably contained a specific mention of India’s commitments to respect Chinese sensitivities in regard to Tibet and the One-China concept as suo moto Indian policy positions and, incredibly, a sentence in which China pats India on the back for doing so! For example: “The Indian side recognizes that the Tibet Autonomous Region is part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China and reiterates that it does not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India. The Chinese side expresses its appreciation for the Indian position and reiterates that it is firmly opposed to any attempt and action aimed at splitting China and bringing about “independence of Tibet”. “The Indian side recalled that India was among the first countries to recognize that there is one China and its one China policy remains unaltered. The Chinese side expressed its appreciation of the Indian position.” However, there has never been any mention of even one of the many issues of Indian sensitivity and concern. (Vajpayee Wen Jiabao Joint Statement June 2003).
The official Chinese map of the Tibet Autonomous Region includes Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh as parts of Tibet. Therefore, the use of this phraseology implies that the Prime Minister of India acknowledges that these integral parts of India are parts of China! How this was allowed to happen is mind boggling and it is extraordinary that this language was reiterated in the Manmohan Singh Wen Jiabao Joint Statements of 2005 and 2008. But this was not all. India suggested wording which was included in the Joint Statement in 2005 in which Prime Ministers expansively declared that “India and China relations have now acquired a global and strategic character” and therefore the two countries have “agreed to establish an India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for peace and prosperity based on …mutual respect and sensitivity for each other’s concerns and aspirations ... and….based on mutual and equal security”. This partnership sentiment is repeatedly reiterated in press conferences after high level meetings and in other Indian official statements and comments despite the fact that Chinese actions and policy have consistently been the exact opposite of these noble sentiments. 

China’s patronizing and arrogant attitude at the time of the Olympic torch passing through Delhi and in relation to public protests by Tibetans in Delhi; India’s top governmental leaders being the most conspicuous world dignitaries not invited to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics; China’s consistent diplomatic protection of Pakistan’s egregious involvement in heinous terror attacks against India including the blocking of American sponsored moves in the Security Council since 2007 to declare Hafiz Mohammed Saeed’s Jamat ud Dawa as an international terrorist organization; China’s reaction to the Mumbai terrorism carnage being a qualitatively different reaction as compared to that of the whole world; the absence of any reference to the issue in the Joint Statement of December 2010 between the two Prime Ministers; China’s singularly obstructionist attitude in the NSG when the Indo-US nuclear deal was being considered, finally coming on board very reluctantly at the eleventh hour due to President Bush’ intervention and seeing that all others had fallen in line; conspicuously attending the ‘Coffee Club’ meetings in New York seeking to throw a spanner in the works as far as India’s aspirations for a Permanent seat on the Security Council; blocking funding by the Asian Development Bank for projects in Arunachal Pradesh; issuing stapled visas, the issue of construction of dams on the Brahmaputra, etc are all manifestations of an unfriendly attitude hardly in consonance with the grandiose phraseology of the Joint Statements. India nevertheless valiantly continues its strenuous efforts to keep China in good humour. 

As Indian Ambassador to Thailand, I know from first hand personal knowledge that amongst China’s regional policy priorities was thwarting the emergence of any significant Indian role in Southeast Asia. China was absolutely livid when India was invited to become a full Dialogue Partner of Asean ahead of China and it conveyed its anger to Asean countries in no uncertain terms; I was personally witness to what had transpired in Bangkok; China had been invited to join the ARF in 1994 and thereafter it tried to prevent India being included in the ARF. China tried very hard to have the ARF issue a very strong condemnation of India’s nuclear tests in 1998 but these attempts were blocked by ARF’s Asean members; China’s strong but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to block India being invited to be a part of the East Asian Summit mechanism; many of the subcontinent’s and Southeast Asia’s major rivers originate in Tibet but China has stubbornly refused to enter into any multilateral or even bilateral agreements governing the usage of these waters in the interests of all riparian states but instead has proceeded with unilateral and frenetic dam constructions on these rivers, etc. China’s strong demarches after the first 5 Power Joint Naval Exercises in the Bay of Bengal persuaded India to back off from holding them again.
I would also like to draw attention to two more issues before moving on the section on conclusions. The Indian establishment is constantly going into spasms of ecstacy about the Sino –India trade relationship. This is completely misplaced. China and the UAE have been switching places as India’s top ranked trading partner during the past 4-5 years. A comparison of the two relationships is most instructive. India is only China’s 10th largest trading partner, there is a huge and growing adverse trade balance, the trade basket is completely skewed with 70 % or so of India’s exports consisting of iron ore while the Indian market is flooded with cheap low quality Chinese goods which are deleterious for India’s small industries, China continues to place restrictions on India’s highly competitive pharmaceutical goods amongst others, China is being allowed to make heavy inroads into the strategically important telecom and power sectors, etc. There is s strenuous government effort behind this trade relationship. Unlike each of China’s major trading partners, India has acquired no leverage whatsoever as a consequence of this utterly one-sided trade relationship which is more akin to that between a colony and its colonial master. On the other hand India has a favourable trade balance with UAE which is also India’s largest export destination. This is a trade relationship which is truly market driven. This is the trade relationship that should be celebrated but remains barely a blip on the official Indian radar screen when remembered at all.

The notion of 2000 years of friendly and peaceful interaction between the ancient civilizations of India and China which India incessantly peddles is largely a deliberately created myth as Giri Deshingkar, the renowned and respected scholar on China has aptly pointed out in his writings and another distinguished scholar Prof. Tansen Sen has equally eloquently alluded to in his. The towering Himalayas and the inhospitable Tibetan plateau not only separated India and China geographically but politically also and prevented any meaningful interaction, both positive and negative. The mainly Kerala centred trade relationship was certainly flourishing but was primarily through Arab and Southeast Asia based traders which had not the slightest political connotations; not even Zheng He’s visits to Calicut. Substantive interaction started only after the British assumed control of India when China was in decline. The leaders of the Communist Revolution had the negative legacies of this interaction much more on their minds than images of the shared heritage of Buddhism and Dr. Kotnis when they assumed power and hence joined the Soviet Union in deriding the new Indian leadership as the “running dogs of imperialism”.

As will be evident from my presentation of Sino-Indian interaction during the past 60 years, India’s methodology of dealing with China can be summarized as follows:

-The first strand has been the formulation of policy on the basis of personal convictions of political leaders which had/have little or no empirical foundations and on the basis of unsubstantiated assumptions and wishful thinking in total disregard of the lessons of history, the imperatives of national interests and China’s publicly announced intentions, policy approaches and priorities even when these had self evident and serious negative implications for India.

- The second strand is that India has consistently adopted an attitude of being deferential, readily offering concessions unconditionally without any demands for reciprocity. Since the emergence of the PRC, China has been bringing up issues pertaining to its sensitivities in bilateral discussions constantly and forcefully and India has gone out of its way to be responsive to each Chinese concern. India on the other hand has been inexplicably reticent if not completely silent in seeking China’s respect for its sensitivities.

- The third strand is to continue to ignore unpleasant ground realities, which have been the hallmark of the relationship for the most part and pretend that these are more critics’ imagination running riot than fact.

The major contours of China’s policy towards India have been: to adopt a posture of friendship as and when needed to encourage India to continue on its chosen path of cultivating China; to frighten India by intimidatory rhetoric as and when China feels like doing so; to weaken India by consciously undermining its internal and external security; to nurture and promote anti-Indian sentiment amongst India’s neighbours in particular and other countries in general; to obstruct and undermine India’s regional and global aspirations; to pursue the establishment of an assertive strategic presence in the Indian Ocean, etc.

China has always known what and why it was doing whatever it was doing while India has never got to grips of how to handle this relationship from the very beginning. The Tibet issue has been central to the bilateral relationship and I have covered how India has handled it from 1949 onwards in my article entitled Tibet: The Sad Saga of India’s Craven Diplomacy published in the journal – AGNI (Vol XI Number II) April-June 2008 brought out by the Forum for Strategic and Security Studies New Delhi –, Succeeding generations are likely to view this as a particularly shameful episode in Indian diplomatic history.

However, there is another side too and this must be acknowledged. China had offered what was the only pragmatic and reasonable basis for a solution to the border and territorial issues during 1958-1960 and again in 1982-83. The border would be settled on the basis of existing ground realties with minor modifications; India did not agree. Ironically, these were the only suggestions that China has made that India did not accept. There is also much to be said for the view that India’s ill conceived and incompetently implemented Forward Policy, launched in 1958, contributed to the conflict in 1962.

However, all this is water under the bridge and is capped by a huge and growing gap in comprehensive national power between India and China. The net result is that China now holds all the cards in shaping the agenda and contours of Sino India relations. There is no point in blaming China for doing what it has done and even for the manner in which it has done it –it is the responsibility of any country’s leadership to protect its national security and to promote its national interests and to achieve its strategic goals by any and all means available to it, fair or foul. If, in the process, other countries are adversely affected the onus is on them to evolve suitable policies and approaches to meet the challenges posed. Abstract ethics and morality have rarely if ever been the lodestars for the conduct of a country’s external relations in the real world.

Having said all this, India is not wrong in believing that cooperation and not containment or confrontation is the right way forward. India is also quite right in making it clear that India will not be a party to any policy of containment of China. Indeed, in a statesmanlike and mature approach, the Indian leadership has consciously articulated the view that there is enough space for both India and China to grow and prosper. But for all this to be meaningful policy to serve national interest rather than being merely a cliché and a nice-sounding diplomatic slogan, India has to start proactively occupying its share of that space and discard its reactive and self demeaning attitudes.

Even though there are many and increasing asymmetries in the China – India equation, they do not necessarily stand in the way of friendly co-existence. The critical asymmetry, one which matters most, is the mental one, of the attitude that each adopts towards the other; this is where India has consistently surrendered even before the contest begins. There is absolutely no rational reason for this. Chinese are not 10 feet tall. China has many vulnerabilities. Going forward, these are likely to increase. On the other hand, India’s youth demographic bulge and soft power attractions such as democracy and universal human freedoms for all its citizens, in addition to an inevitably strongly growing economy will begin to count for even more. India’s advantages are most tellingly reflected in the fact that India’s rise is universally welcomed and considered good for the world - major countries, the US and Japan in particular, and virtually all of China’s Southeast and East Asian neighbours have been enthusiastically reaching out to India. On the other hand, China’s rise has been arousing increasing apprehensions and anxieties.

There are those who believe that if India stands firm about its legitimate rights and interests even without being confrontational China will still feel provoked into taking aggressive action against India. China is a habitual and compulsive bully bit it is not irrational. China has as much to lose if not more irrespective of the outcome of any such adventurism; in any case the situation is very different from what it was in 1962. If China wants to attack India it will do so and find a rationale but this decision would not be lightly taken. It would be taken on the basis of an exhaustive cost benefit analysis. It would not be primarily determined by almost anything that India says. It is difficult to conceive of India suddenly deciding to take self evidently provocative actions. Therefore, there is no real risk of armed conflict.

The only thing that China respects is power and the willingness to stand up for one’s interests, irrespective of consequences. China has contempt for weakness and weaklings and its internal strategic discourse has displayed this assessment of India only too starkly. China breathed fire and brimstone in the context of the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Tawang last year and for a change India did not back down as it had done a couple of years earlier. Once the visit was done the vituperative hectoring rhetoric died down. The rising crescendo of anti China sentiment building up in India due to China’s highly threatening and insulting rhetoric, the stapled visa issue, the cancellation of the Indian General’s visit to China, frequent intrusions over the LAC, etc finally prompted the Chinese Premier to come calling. The Joint Statement at the end of his visit to India in December 2010 did not contain the usual demeaning paragraph about Tibet. Stapled visas for Kashmiris are no longer being issued. Military interaction has resumed, etc. India has stood firm on the issue of joint oil and gas exploration with Vietnam and with Japan on the issue of freedom of navigation in international waters etc. 

There is a lesson in all this. India has to change its own behaviour if it wants to change China’s behaviour. India has to exhibit self respect before it can expect the world to respect it.


November 12, 2011

Strategic encirclement by China
Looking East to counter it 

by Gurmeet Kanwal

China views India as a future challenger for supremacy in Asia and has been engaged in the strategic encirclement of India through its proxies like Pakistan along our land borders and its “string of pearls strategy” in the northern Indian Ocean region. However, till very recently India had not taken recourse to proactive measures to develop counter- leverages of its own. This is now changing gradually as India has begun to reach out to its friends in Southeast Asia and further east along the Asia-Pacific rim as part of a carefully thought through strategy to develop some pressure points.

The first step in the new “Look East” policy is to propel India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam to a higher trajectory. One month after China objected to oil exploration by India in the South China Sea under a contract awarded to the Indian state-owned company ONGC Videsh Ltd by the Vietnamese and three months after the Chinese Navy warned Indian Naval ship Airawat, which was sailing in international waters between the Vietnamese ports of Nha Trang and Hai Phong, to leave Chinese waters - a warning that INS Airawat ignored --- India and Vietnam signed an agreement on energy cooperation during the visit of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to New Delhi. The two countries also decided to pursue a regular security dialogue.

Visibly incensed, China’s state-controlled media responded angrily. The Global Times warned that prospecting for oil in China-claimed waters would “push China to the limits”. The relatively more moderate People’s Daily also did not mince words: “… China should denounce this agreement as illegal. Once India and Vietnam initiate their exploration, China can send non-military forces to disturb their work, and cause dispute or friction to halt the two countries’ exploration.” The China Energy News said, “India is playing with fire by agreeing to explore for oil with Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea… its energy strategy is slipping into an extremely dangerous whirlpool.”

Chinese analysts are perhaps unaware that the ONGC’s association with Vietnam for oil and gas exploration goes back 23 years. For the time being India has chosen to ignore Chinese warnings and continue its activities in accordance with the contract signed by ONGC Videsh with Vietnam.

Defence cooperation between India and Vietnam is being gradually stepped up. Recent news reports have suggested that India is considering the sale of the non-nuclear BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to Vietnam. A case can be made out for the transfer of obsolescent SRBMs like the Prithvi missiles to Vietnam as these are likely to be removed soon from the Indian arsenal. Some Indian analysts have gone to the extent of saying that India should project Vietnam as “India’s Pakistan” in its quest to develop leverages against China as Vietnam offers India an entry point through which it can “penetrate China’s periphery.” Others have suggested the supply of military hardware at “friendship prices” and the provision of advanced combat training facilities in India, especially for Vietnamese fighter pilots.

Another nation on China’s periphery that India has begun to engage pro-actively is Myanmar. India’s relations with Myanmar, a devoutly Buddhist country, have been traditionally close and friendly. India’s national interest lies in a strong and stable Myanmar that observes strict neutrality between India and China. For India, Myanmar is a bridge between the countries comprising the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC for short, (Myanmar has an observer status at SAARC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). President Thein Sein of Myanmar visited India in October to further cement the growing relationship.

China has made rapid advances into Myanmar and established close political, military and economic relations. China is engaged in exploiting Myanmar’s oil and gas reserves, is building a 1,100-km overland pipeline from Kyaukryu port in Myanmar to the border city of Ruili in Yunnan and is developing Sittwe as a commercial port on Myanmar’s west coast. It is natural that Chinese naval activity in the Bay of Bengal will soon follow. China has also been stepping up arms sales to Myanmar as other nations, including India, are loathe to sell offensive military hardware to that country.

The key drivers of the India-Myanmar strategic relationship are cooperation in counter-insurgency operations and the need for India to ensure that Myanmar is not driven into Chinese arms through neglect of its security concerns and arms requirements. Indian insurgent groups (NSCN, ULFA and Manipur rebels among others) have been operating out of their bases in the weakly controlled areas across the borders of Manipur and Mizoram and Myanmarese rebels, primarily the Chins and the Arakanese, have often taken shelter on the Indian side. The two armies have been cooperating with each other for mutual benefit.

India-Myanmar cooperation is also essential to control narcotics trafficking and to curb the proliferation of small arms in the region. India and the other regional powers can play a positive role in the re-entry of Myanmar into the international mainstream so that it can be nudged towards becoming a strong and stable democracy.

India is also developing a low-key security relationship with Japan and South Korea. During Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s recent visit, Japan agreed to join India for the first bilateral naval and air force exercise in 2012. Significantly, stepping up defence cooperation, the two countries agreed to deal with maritime security issues, including anti-piracy measures, freedom of navigation and maintaining the security of the Sea Lanes of Communication to facilitate unhindered trade bilaterally as well as multilaterally with regional neighbours. The Japan-India Defence Policy Dialogue will be held in Tokyo in early 2012. This will be followed by staff-level talks between the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force and the Indian Army, and staff exchanges between the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force and the Indian Air Force.

As India begins to flex its maritime muscles and reach out to its East Asian and Southeast Asian neighbours, the geopolitical implications of enhanced strategic cooperation will not be lost on China. The footprints of the navies and the merchant fleets of India and China will increasingly criss-cross in future and there is need for a serious dialogue to avoid clashes. Both nations need to exhibit maturity and balance in their responses to the emerging challenges.

The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

If you wish to respond to this message, do NOT hit the "Reply" button; please try

Powered By PanWebMailer Version 2.0 © 2004-2005

No comments: