An In­dia-china war?

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Ved Nanda

This week’s cover story in a ma­jor In­dian na­tional weekly mag­a­zine, In­dia Today, asks omi­nously: “Will There Be a War?” This refers to a cur­rent stand­off be­tween In­dian and Chi­nese forces at the tri­junc­tion of In­dia, China and Bhutan in the Hi­malayas.

In mid-june, In­dian troops stopped road con­struc­tion by Chi­nese sol­diers in the Dok­lam area in the mid­dle part of the long Indo-china bor­der. In­dia in­ter­vened be­cause of the coun­try’s 1949 Friend­ship Treaty with Bhutan, which pro­vides for In­dian sup­port when re­quired, and be­cause Bhutan’s for­eign min­istry said the Chi­nese road would pen­e­trate Bhutanese ter­ri­tory. In­dia as­serts that it is seek­ing to pro­tect the ter­ri­tory on be­half of Bhutan, be­cause Bhutan’s complaints that China did not ob­serve the agreed process for bor­der set­tle­ment were not heeded; but China claims Dok­lam as within its ter­ri­tory.

In­ad­e­quate de­mar­ca­tion along the China-in­dia bor­der has led to oc­ca­sional fric­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, and they have been pos­tur­ing on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions. The bor­der is­sue be­tween China and Bhutan is also un­set­tled.

China asks In­dia to with­draw its forces, call­ing the is­sue one be­tween China and Bhutan. In­dia, on the other hand, calls it a tri­lat­eral is­sue be­cause of its vi­tal se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The late-july visit to Bei­jing by In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Ajit Do­val, to at­tend the BRICS (Brazil, Rus­sia, China, and South Africa) NSAS meet­ing did not re­sult in any im­me­di­ate res­o­lu­tion to the stand­off. But de­spite China’s shrill rhetoric, In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has re­port­edly asked his own mil­i­tary and civil­ian lead­ers to tone it down, as he will be vis­it­ing Bei­jing in Septem­ber to at­tend this year’s BRICS sum­mit.

It is in­deed in the in­ter­est of both coun­tries to find a peace­ful so­lu­tion. Trade and in­vest­ment across the bor­der have been steadily on the rise. China wishes to cre­ate an im­age of be­ing a re­spon­si­ble global ci­ti­zen as it grad­u­ally claims global lead­er­ship while the world watches the U.S. re­treat.

A com­par­i­son of the two coun­tries’ mil­i­tary power in case there is a war shows the heavy Chi­nese ad­van­tage. Last year, China’s de­fense bud­get ex­ceeded $150 bil­lion, while in­de­pen­dent ob­servers es­ti­mate it to have been in re­al­ity worth $200 bil­lion, al­most five times that of In­dia’s. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s re­cent re­forms have given the Chi­nese mil­i­tary a great deal of mo­bil­ity and ef­fi­ciency. In­dia, on the other hand, still re­mem­bers its 1962 hu­mil­i­a­tion in the In­dia-china war. The In­dian mil­i­tary is much bet­ter pre­pared now than at that time, but is still at a dis­ad­van­tage.

As the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army cel­e­brated its 90th an­niver­sary on Tues­day with a mas­sive show of mil­i­tary force, and the Com­mu­nist Party congress is set for Novem­ber, Xi can­not show any sign of weak­ness which might bol­ster his ri­vals. Hence, the stand­off will likely con­tinue.

This is not the only ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute that China has on its pe­riph­ery. It should come as no sur­prise as Bei­jing is known for as­sert­ing ag­gres­sive claims in its neigh­bor­hood. Take, for in­stance, Mon­go­lia, Tai­wan, South Korea, North Korea, Afghanistan, Viet­nam, Burma (Myan­mar) and Ti­bet, all of which have had bor­der trou­ble with China.

Dur­ing the last 10 days of July, while I was in In­dia, the Dok­lam stand­off was a hot topic of con­ver­sa­tion and was con­stantly in the me­dia. I was asked sev­eral times why the United States, be­sides ex­press­ing con­cern and urg­ing both coun­tries to work to­gether for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion, left In­dia out in the cold over this is­sue, al­though it calls In­dia a vi­tal part­ner. Ob­vi­ously, I had no an­swer.

Ved Nanda is Evans Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the Ved Nanda Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional and Com­par­a­tive Law at the Univer­sity of Den­ver Sturm Col­lege of Law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.