Build­ing con­fi­dence


[ By Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch ]

The third round of In­dia-China joint army ex­er­cises held re­cently in China was in sharp con­trast to the re­cent video clips shown on In­dian news chan­nels of PLA troops jostling and push­ing In­dian troops on the LAC in an at­mos­phere of ar­ro­gance and de­fi­ance of the mu­tu­ally signed agree­ment to main­tain peace and tran­quil­lity along the bor­ders. This joint army ex­er­cise named ‘Hand in Hand’ was held at Miao­er­gang, south of Chengdu in China com­bin­ing both train­ing and sports. About 160 sol­diers each of 16 Sikh Light In­fantry of In­dia and 1st Bat­tal­ion In­fantry Di­vi­sion of 13 Group China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) par­tic­i­pated.

The 10-day joint drills that com­menced Novem­ber 5, 2013, was fo­cused on coun­tert­er­ror­ism drills that would in­clude tac­ti­cal hand sig­nals, ar­rest and es­cort, hostage res­cue, joint at­tacks and com­plete anti-ter­ror drills.

PLA Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Yang Jin­shan, Deputy Com­man­der of the Chengdu MAC, high­lighted ter­ror­ism “as a global chal­lenge” and said, “It is a sig­nal to both sides that the mil­i­taries can do some­thing to im­prove the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.” Though the prospects of ac­tual joint Sino-In­dian counter-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tions is not an im­pos­si­bil­ity but the ob­jec­tive of this joint ex­er­cise is more of con­fi­dence build­ing and trust es­pe­cially since such joint train­ing re­mained sus­pended for the last five years.

The un­der­lin­ing truth is that a joint Sino-In­dian ef­fort to counter Is­lamic rad­i­cal­ism is vi­tal for sta­bil­ity. China should un­der­stand this bet­ter with in­creased vi­o­lence in Xinjiang and with the re­cent ter­ror­ist strike at Tianan­men Square on Oc­to­ber 28, 2013. The fact of the mat­ter is that the present Sino-In­dian re­la­tion­ship has plenty of un­ease de­spite the fa­cade of nor­malcy that both gov­ern­ments project, bor­der set­tle­ment be­ing the main is­sue – ag­gra­vated much more since the 2005 pre­pos­ter­ous Chi­nese claim to whole of Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Ti­bet’. Be­sides, China’s state TV has been show­ing In­dian maps with J&K as part of Pak­istan.

The onus of bet­ter­ment of re­la­tions ac­tu­ally lies pre­dom­i­nantly on China and the re­cent deep in­tru­sions by China es­pe­cially in Dep­sang and Chu­mar ar­eas of Ladakh have not helped. More sig­nif­i­cantly, th­ese in­tru­sions are in wil­ful de­fi­ance of all the pre­vi­ous joint agree­ments: main­te­nance of peace and tran­quil­ity along the line of ac­tual con­trol in the In­dia-China bor­der ar­eas signed on Septem­ber 7, 1993, another agree­ment on con­fi­dence-build­ing mea­sures in the mil­i­tary field along the line of ac­tual con­trol in the In­dia-China bor­der ar­eas signed on April 11, 2005, and the agree­ment on es­tab­lish­ment of a work­ing mech­a­nism for con­sul­ta­tion and co­or­di­na­tion on In­dia-China bor­der af­fairs signed on Jan­uary 17, 2012. In­dia has now signed the Bor­der De­fence Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment (BDCA) with China and has also agreed not to tail and shadow Chi­nese pa­trols but it is for China to en­sure that akin to vi­o­la­tion of ear­lier agree­ments, the BDCA too is not vi­o­lated.

China’s po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy should also re­view its pol­icy for op­pos­ing a seat for In­dia in the UN Se­cu­rity Caoun­cil in con­sid­er­a­tion of the fact that the UN seat was first of­fered to In­dia but Pandit Nehru, In­dian Prime Min­is­ter, gave it to China say­ing that first ‘Big Brother’ should have that priv­i­lege. Then is the is­sue of Pak­istan which re­mains a ma­jor ir­ri­tant in both Sino-In­dian re­la­tions be­cause of its proxy war on In­dia that is likely to in­crease once US-NATO forces exit Afghanistan.

There have been indi­ca­tions that China has been giv­ing tacit sup­port to Pak­istan in this, an ex­am­ple be­ing China’s ini­tial ef­forts to scut­tle a res­o­lu­tion at the UN against Hafiz Saeed, the main per­pe­tra­tor of the 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tack. Iron­i­cally, both US and China are con­cerned about ter­ror­ism em­a­nat­ing from Pak­istan only in con­text of their re­spec­tive main­land and not what ter­ror­ism Pak­istan is sub­ject­ing In­dia to. How­ever, it would be pru­dent for China to take stock af­ter killing of three Chi­nese na­tion­als on June 23, 2013, at the western base camp of Nanga Parbat by the newly set up wing ( Junood ul-Hifsa) of Tehreek-e-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP), the Oc­to­ber 28, 2013, ter­ror­ist strike in Tianan­men Square.

When Pak­istan has been dou­ble cross­ing the United States, it can deal with China sim­i­larly. That is per­haps the rea­sons why Pak­istan is shel­ter­ing the 600 strong spe­cial unit of the East Turkestan Is­lamic Move­ment hiding in Pak­istan? Of course there are other ir­ri­tants like bi­lat­eral trade im­bal­ance, sta­pled visas/de­nial of visa for In­di­ans from J&K and Arunachal Pradesh and warn­ing In­dia not to as­sist Viet­nam in oil ex­plo­ration in Viet­namese waters on grounds that it is a dis­puted ter­ri­tory but her­self un­der­tak­ing nu­mer­ous projects in Pak­istan oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK) in­clud­ing ex­plo­ration of min­er­als and more sig­nif­i­cantly dig­ging tun­nels in PoK to de­ploy mis­siles.

Another se­ri­ous is­sue is the Chi­nese sup­port to in­sur­gents in In­dia. There have been pe­ri­odic in­tel­li­gence re­ports that China is sup­ply­ing arms to In­dian Maoists and has even pro­vided arms man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties to Kachen rebels in Myan­mar and In­dian Maoists. By arm­ing the United Wa State Army in Myan­mar to the teeth in­clud­ing ma­chine guns, mor­tars, shoul­der-fired air de­fence mis­siles, mech­a­nised ve­hi­cles and even mis­sile fit­ted he­li­copters (this year), China has cre­ated a lethal ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion in In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood much more pow­er­ful than even the Lib­er­a­tion Tigers of Tamil Ee­lam.

Chi­nese in­tel­li­gence has also been sup­port­ing other In­dian in­sur­gent out­fits. For ex­am­ple, when the United Lib­er­a­tion Front of As­sam camps were route from Bhutan, China ac­com­mo­dated them on Chi­nese soil and pro­vided train­ing and arms. China’s links (train­ing and pro­vi­sion of arms) to the Tal­iban too are well doc­u­mented. What China must re­alise is the im­mense ben­e­fits of nor­mal­i­sa­tion of re­la­tions with In­dia. The sin­gle-most sig­nif­i­cant gain that this will lead to her get­ting ac­cess to In­dian ports should lead China to adopt change course and adopt this ap­proach.

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