Bor­der ob­du­racy – China’s loss?

SP's MAI - - MILITARY FEATURE - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

In­dia call­ing off the press meet be­tween In­dia and China in the face of con­tin­u­ing Chi­nese in­tru­sions in Dem­chok and Chu­mar was ex­pected though China may not have ex­pected it con­sid­er­ing the weak-kneed pol­icy of the erst­while In­dian Gov­ern­ment. On July 14, 2014, in his meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in Brazil, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping had said that as the two big­gest de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and emerg­ing mar­kets, both China and In­dia are in a great his­tor­i­cal process of re­al­is­ing na­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion; thus, what the two coun­tries value most is peace and de­vel­op­ment, and the ideals and goals of the two coun­tries are linked closely. Later Xi went on record to say, “When In­dia and China speak in one voice, the world will pay at­ten­tion.... The com­bi­na­tion of the world’s fac­tory and the world’s back of­fice will pro­duce the most com­pet­i­tive pro­duc­tion base.”

But then came a sud­den damper to Xi Jin­ping’s visit; some 300 so­called Chi­nese no­mads trans­ported by the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) trucks in­trud­ing and pitch­ing tents across the line of ac­tual con­trol (LAC) in the Dep­sang Plains a day prior to Xi’s ar­rival in In­dia, and re­port­edly some 1,000 sol­diers of a Chi­nese Bor­der Reg­i­ment (Bor­der Di­vi­sions of China are di­rectly un­der com­mand the PLA) in­trud­ing about six km inside the In­dian ter­ri­tory in area of Chu­mar. Not that it is some­thing new. That this is part of the ar­chaic the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) stand­ing op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure dur­ing/close to high­level vis­its is well known: Chi­nese troops in­truded six km into In­dia in Fe­bru­ary 1997 fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Jiang Zemin’s visit to In­dia pre­ced­ing De­cem­ber; Chi­nese in­tru­sion in Arunachal in June 2003 dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee’s visit to PRC; Chi­nese in­tru­sion in Arunachal in May 2005 in the af­ter­math of Prime Min­is­ter Wen Jibao’s visit to In­dia; just prior to Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao’s visit in Novem­ber 2006, Sun Yuxi an­nounced en­tire Arunachal is part of Chi­nese fief­dom and pro­longed Chi­nese in­tru­sion in Dep­sang Plains prior to and dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Li Ke­qiang’s visit to In­dia in May 2013.

Th­ese in­tru­sions have in the past too have been or­ches­trated by the CPC to show their claims in con­gru­ence with Mao’s dream, as re­it­er­ated by Deng Xiaop­ing that Ti­bet is the palm of China while Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and NEFA (read Arunachal) are its fin­gers. Chi­nese com­pa­nies have al­ready in­vested $396 mil­lion in In­dia, while Chi­nese com­pa­nies had ex­e­cuted in­fra­struc­ture con­tracts in In­dia worth $24.7 bil­lion till 2011, cu­mu­la­tive con­trac­tual value of th­ese projects be­ing $53.46 bil­lion as per the Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try (CII) es­ti­mates. Chi­nese com­pa­nies have also been in­vest­ing in the power sec­tor. In­dian mar­kets are flooded with Chi­nese goods, im­ports of Chi­nese toys, gaming and sports alone amount­ing to $36.7 mil­lion dur­ing 2013-14. It is no se­cret that China has been eye­ing In­dian mar­kets in ma­jor way. Just be­fore Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s visit, me­dia talked of a $100 bil­lion in­vest­ment pack­age be­ing brought by him, over­shad­ow­ing Ja­pan’s $35 bil­lion in­vest­ment.

How­ever, in this par­tic­u­lar in­stance, the Dep­sang-Chu­mar in­tru­sions with Xi’s visit can best be de­scribed in milder terms as id­i­otic be­cause of the fol­low­ing: BDCA signed be­tween In­dia and China and prom­ise not to dis­turb bor­der peace; China’s re­it­er­a­tion that bor­der pop­u­la­tion should not be dis­turbed – why then 300 so- called Chi­nese no­mads be­ing trans­ported in PLA trucks deep into Dep­sang Plains; re­la­tion­ship that Prime Min­is­ter Modi en­joyed with China; bonhomie shown by Pres­i­dent Xi when he met Modi in Brazil, and no-non­sense Modi head­ing a majority gov­ern­ment in In­dia and his belief for part­ner­ship and peace with all for de­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity of all, boost­ing the Asian cen­tury.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi was ex­plicit in say­ing that a “cli­mate of mu­tual trust and con­fi­dence; re­spect for each other’s sen­si­tiv­i­ties and con­cerns; and, peace and sta­bil­ity in our (In­dia and China) re­la­tions and along our bor­ders are es­sen­tial for us to re­alise the enor­mous po­ten­tial in our re­la­tions”. Xi’s planned $100 bil­lion in­vest­ment in In­dia over five years al­ready ap­peared doomed from the be­gin­ning with Beijing’s re­fusal to ac­cept the ‘one-In­dia’ pol­icy while want­ing con­tin­ued In­dian com­mit­ment to ‘one-China’, be­sides other ob­du­racy like sta­pled visas for res­i­dents of Arunachal Pradesh.

So, in the bar­gain, what Xi achieved was just a $20 bil­lion in­vest­ment in In­dia over five years, far be­low con­tem­po­rary Ja­pan. Sure Xi’s visit up­graded In­dia-China re­la­tions that re­sulted in the fol­low­ing specifics: Chi­nese com­mit­ment to invest $20 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture over next five years; invitation to China to invest in man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor; two Chi­nese in­dus­trial parks will be built in In­dia; new road to Kailash Mansarovar via Nathu La; Mumbai and Shang­hai to be twin ci­ties, as also Ahmed­abad and Guangzhou; com­mit­ment by China to ad­dress bi­lat­eral trade deficit; fa­cil­i­ta­tion of visit of 10,000 pupils from both coun­tries; Chi­nese agree­ment to hold friendly dis­cus­sions to re­solve bor­der is­sues, and invitation to Prime Min­is­ter Modi to visit China next year. Modi had raised the is­sue of the Chi­nese in­cur­sions in Ladakh and said, “There should be peace in Indo-China re­la­tions at the bor­ders. If this hap­pens the two na­tions can re­alise true po­ten­tial”. Xi did say that “China and In­dia are two key na­tions in the multi-po­lar world.”

The two na­tions share sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ing goals. But to say that the at­mos­phere was marred by the Chi­nese in­tru­sions, which con­tinue even after Xi de­parted New Delhi for Beijing would be an un­der­state­ment. It ap­pears that China has missed a his­tor­i­cal op­por­tu­nity, per­haps ar­ro­gant on her eco­nomic and mil­i­tary might. She will take some cool re­flec­tion to un­der­stand that at­tempt­ing to wrest Ladakh or Arunachal mil­i­tar­ily from In­dia will make her pay very dearly, the pol­icy of inch­ing for­ward and gob­bling In­dian ter­ri­tory also needs to be put aside. China has al­ready usurped some 642 sq km of In­dian ter­ri­tory in Ladakh over and above Ak­sai Chin and has es­tab­lished new posts in ar­eas like Sir­i­jap. It will be pru­dent to shelve the pol­icy of mus­cle-flex­ing and go for po­lit­i­cally re­solv­ing the bor­der is­sue in peace­ful man­ner “with­out disturbing sta­tus quo of the LAC” un­til a mu­tual so­lu­tion is found.

What China fails to re­alise is that in­stead of mus­cle flex­ing, res­o­lu­tion of bor­der will not only fa­cil­i­tate Chi­nese in­vest­ment in In­dia much beyond the $100 bil­lion that Xi had planned but more im­por­tantly it would give China im­mense strate­gic ad­van­tage through trans­porta­tion, eco­nomic and en­ergy cor­ri­dors link­ing In­dian ports along the In­dian Ocean. The com­bi­na­tion of Princelings and PLA clout in China’s Polit­buro per­haps is the heady mix­ture that is defin­ing the tra­jec­tory that China is tak­ing. Pres­i­dent Xi needs to re­flect what is best for China that has been singing hymns of peace but not prac­tis­ing it.

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