Powering India-China Relations
Post the Indian elections in India, Wei Wei, Chinese Ambassador at New Delhi, wrote an Op-ed in the Economic Times titled ‘India’s Economic Takeoff’ outlining China’s hopes for economic cooperation and common development
Post the Indian elections in India, Wei Wei, Chinese Ambassador at New Delhi, wrote an Op-ed in the Economic-Times titled ‘India’s Economic Takeoff’ outlining China’s hopes for economic cooperation and common development.
Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch
“He (Mr Modi) recognizes that China has a sort of quality that attracts and repels. It attracts in terms of its performance and it shows in a sense a mirror image to India of what it could be if everything went right in terms of economic performance.” —Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Foundation
DECLASSIFIED AMERICAN DOCUMENT OF 1962 vintage disclose official noting stating “it is in US interests to ensure India and China should never join hands”. That powering India-China relations can boost the Asian century to the next level needs no elaboration. Yet, global power play at geopolitical level must be taken into consideration. That such global power play retards growth of nations and brings immitigable misery upon mankind is well known. Take the example of superpower USA. John Pilger in his article ‘In Ukraine, the US is Dragging Us Towards War with Russia’, dated May 14, 2014, published in The News writes, “Every year the American historian William Blum publishes his ‘updated summary of the record of US foreign policy’ which shows that, since 1945, the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratically elected; grossly interfered in elections in 30 countries; bombed the civilian populations of 30 countries; used chemical and biological weapons; and attempted to assassinate foreign leaders”. He adds, “In many cases Britain has been a collaborator”. Of course there are other global powers that too are indulging in similar acts at varying scales. Syria is the latest case of global power play with horrific misery unleashed on the hapless population by both the opposing sides. Prior to the recent elections in India, Indian scholars visiting think tanks in US and UK were invariably asked the first question whether Narendra Modi, if elected Prime Minister of India, would get closer to China. Post the stupendous win of Modi that gave him absolute majority, Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Foundation has been more cautious in stating, “He (Mr Modi) recognizes that China has a sort of quality that attracts and repels. It attracts in terms of its performance and it shows in a sense a mirror image to India of what it could be if everything went right in terms of economic performance.”
In October 2013, the joint India-China statement outlined the vision for developing an ‘India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’, main features of the vision being: one, exploring prospects of a bilateral regional trade arrangement (RTA), review negotiations on the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) and expedite framework agreement for establishing industrial zones to provide platforms of cluster type development for enterprises of both countries; three, review progress of the India-China Study Group on the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) Economic Corridor and further discussions on concepts and alignment of the economic corridor; four, Special Representatives exploring framework of settlement of the India-China boundary question to continue efforts in that direction; five, recognition of peace and tranquillity on the India-China border as an important guarantor for the development and continued growth of bilateral relations – the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) strengthening maintenance of stability on the border; six, defence exchanges and military exercises being important in building greater trust and confidence to continue as agreed to mutually; seven, appreciation of signing MoU on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-border Rivers, plus agreement to exchange flood-season hydrological data and emergency management, etc; eight, facilitating greater people-to-people contacts and exchanges, supported by sister-city relationships that have been concluded initially on a pilot basis; nine, in addition to marking 2014 as a Year of Friendly Exchanges, India and China to discuss with Myanmar commemoration of 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (Panchsheel); ten, coordination and cooperation in multilateral forums including Russia-IndiaChina, BRICS, and G-20 to jointly tackle global issues such as climate change, international terrorism, food and energy security, and to establish a fair and equitable international political and economic system.
Post the Indian elections in India, Wei Wei, Chinese Ambassador at New Delhi, wrote an Op-ed in the Economic Times titled ‘India’s Economic Takeoff ’ outlining China’s hopes for economic cooperation and common development. More specifically, he wrote about: one, increased Chinese investments in manufacturing sector with ‘Made in China’ global tag and China possessing plenty resources and experience; two, encourage Chinese investors develop Chinese-style industrial parks in India like China has done in ASEAN countries like Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam, and since such industrial parks help increase trade balance; three, partnership in developing infrastructure especially efficient transportation between inland cities and ports with railway transportation (increase speed and loading capacity and upgradation of railway stations) since this will improve efficiency of freight transportation, easing energy shortage in India, accelerate production and improve competitiveness of Indian products; four, combining China’s “Open to the West” with India’s “Look East Policy” to achieve better connectivity with a Sino-Indian railway apart from the BCIM economic corridor and since China has commenced constructing the Trans-Asian High-Speed Railway connecting southwestern China to East Asian countries.
A number of delegations have been exchanged between India and China over the past three years under aegis of the India China Economic and Cultural Council. These were aimed at learning and experiencing how to boost livelihood opportunities with increased income in rural population (by means of develop rural support infrastructure, marketing systems, government policy initiatives and various other interventions. Interaction meetings between business delegations were organised to further strengthen the understanding of the service outsourcing industry and learn to understand international service outsourcing experience in order to promote the service outsourcing enterprise to develop the outsourcing market. A high level delegation from China Electronics Corporation too visited India. Study tours from India have visited both China and Hong Kong. Several such trade and investment delegations from various industry verticals and Indian states to China in coming months have been planned. A 60-member Indian services sector delegation took part in the Third Chin International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in last week May 2014, showcasing its progress in IT and services sector. This was one of the largest services sector delegation to visit China in recent years represented by verticals of health care, media, entertainment, IT and tourism, all being priority sectors for cooperation identified by the inter-governmental Joint Working Group on Trade in Services by Commerce Ministries of both sides. Services sector is one of the key areas that India is pressing China to open up its markets, specially IT products, to address the trade deficit stretching to $35 billion in China’s favour. China is sponsoring a visit by a group of Indian journalists to China from June 29 to July 5, 2014 which besides visiting Beijing and Shanghai will also interact with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence Ministry, China institution of international Studies, All-China Journalists Association, China Daily and visit some of military camps.
On the defence cooperation front, there has been progress with the BDCA operationalised, hotlines between the DGMOs agreed upon, and creation of additional border personnel meeting point (BPM) at Kibithu (Arunachal), Damai and Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand)-Qiang and Chushul in Ladakh; Nathu La (Sikkim) and Bum La (Arunachal). Holding small platoon-level tactical exercises between troops along the LAC were also discussed. China is participating in the Fourth India-China Joint Training Exercise (JTE) scheduled in India during November 2014. While the 1962 Sino-Indian War should certainly be buried, there are very many more incidents, incursions and intrusions that have been attempted by the Chinese side including in the last two years. The CCP exercises tight control down to the lowest level, so these incidents are not some adventurous patrols at local levels but obviously part of an overall strategy controlled from the very top. CBMs are not built overnight. These require time but setbacks or unwanted aberrations can
dislodge progress and keep trust at low level despite resumption in knee jerk fashion. This has occurred time and again from the Chinese side, of which there are many examples. The ‘India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’ is stated to follow the Panchsheel, displaying mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns and aspirations. But Panchsheel is of the Nehru-Zhou era of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai and whether its application now in the ‘India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’ will continue to remain mere euphemism as earlier only time will tell.
In March this year, Qin Gang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, “The signal we have sent to our friendly neighbour India is peace and win-win cooperation.” During the same period, an editorial in China Daily also said, “As long as we do not interfere in others’ domestic affairs, as long as we do not covet others’ territories, as long as we commit our military capabilities to safeguarding peace, as long as we can afford it, we have the right to spend as much as necessary.” Here, two issues mentioned in the China Daily editorial are debatable. First, is the issue of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries that China denies. China may deny being the source of weapons and equipment to insurgents in India, these being available in the global market, but can China deny giving refuge to Indian insurgents on its soil. It is already proved that the ULFA hierarchy is based in Ruli (China). Then, China has armed the United Wa State Army (UWSA) of Myanmar lethally and that too openly. China has been providing tacit support to Pakistan’s anti-India jihad. Second, is the
On the defence cooperation front, there has been progress with the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement operationalised, hotlines between the DGMOs agreed upon, and creation of additional meeting points at the border.
issue that China does not covet other’s territory? The fact remains that it is only in the past decade that China dug out claims by the erstwhile Kuomingtang (that she overthrew in 1949) and started claiming “Other’s Territories” as Chinese territory. China is in illegal occupation Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley and Chinese claims along the LAC have been expanding over the years. Cross LAC incursions have been attempted even after signing of the BDCA last year. In Arunachal Pradesh, China claims Tawang on grounds that Tibetans come to pray at the ancient Tawang monastery but what about the enclaves of Minsar (Men ser), near Lake Mansarovar (Ma pham) which are for annual pilgrimage for all Indians and Bhutanese enclave of Tconsists of Darchen (Dar chen) Labrang etc near Mount Kailash (Gangs rin po che, Ti se) again used by Bhutanese and Indians for periodic pilgrimage – both these enclaves being under illegal occupation of China? Incidentally, Mount Kailash is the abode of an Indian God as per ancient mythology. The expanded claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh sprung as late as 2005 is highly preposterous. Coming to the claim of South Tibet, if China wants to go back in history, then it cannot go back to a period it desires otherwise the Mongols and Tibetans can start claiming large parts of China itself.
The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a decisive leader is too well known. He is predicted to bring India out of a decade of plunging economy, stagnation in security (food, health, personal), defence preparedness, employment, energy and environment, besides giving a fillip to foreign policy and international relations. The world would be watching with interest the changes that would come about in the world’s largest democracy, together with India’s foreign policy and international relations, particularly India-China relations and resultantly its effect on the course that Asia would take. But if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking India out of its time wrap, it will be contingent upon President Xi jinping to do likewise and take a call on the CCP changing the old mode of seeking more territory and weigh it against the gains that can accrue by focusing on the issues mentioned herein. Commonsense would indicate that the territorial mindset despite the euphoria of economic might and military muscle will eventually lead to a fate like Nazi Germany and Nazi Germany was luckier in not having turmoil at home like in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. China has been making every effort to get to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean through Myanmar and Pakistan. India is directly South and access to Indian ports should be lucrative enough compared to expanding territorial ambitions. India is a subcontinental power and will certainly not subjugate its national security interest in favour of any other country. Mutual understanding of the population of the two ancient civilizations also needs to be worked upon. China with its totally state controlled media is better poised to educate her masses yet only 23 per cent Chinese have a positive view of India whereas 36 per cent Indians view China positively, according to a BBC World Service Poll conducted in 2013.
True powering of India-China relations can happen with closer cooperation between India and China, mutually beneficial to both and which has infinite scope. Today the bilateral trade itself today is lopsided, India’s trade deficit vis-à-vis China having peeked to $35 billion, which must be corrected. Dumping of Chinese goods into the Indian market has shut down many smallscale industries, increasing unemployment. However, the prospects in industrialisation in both countries are gigantic, as is the scope of Chinese investments in infrastructure in India, as brought out by Ambassador Wei Wei. As it stands today, President Xi Jinping is likely to make an official visit to India later this year. That would be a golden opportunity to kick start a new phase of strategic cooperation, discarding previous practice of ‘carrot and stick’ coercive diplomacy and military muscle flexing. This would benefit both countries immensely, ushering a new chapter in Asia’s history.
Deputy Chief of General Staff (Operations), PLA China, Lt. General Qi Jianguo meeting the Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh in New Delhi