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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

One India and One China

September 11, 2010

"In our interactions with US policy-makers and
non-governmental strategic experts, we have been
over-focusing on Pakistan and terrorism. China
should receive greater attention from now
onwards. A greater focus on the thinking and
respective concerns of India and the US with
regard to China should be an objective of the
forthcoming talks when President Barack Obama visits New Delhi in November."
Sri Lanka Guardian
September 9, 2010

Chennai -- The strong economic relations between
India and China and their co-operation in
multilateral fora such as the recent Copenhagen
summit on climate change should not blind one to
the fact that the trust and comfort level between
the two Governments and their people remains
unsatisfactory. Unless this improves, any talk of
a strategic co-operation or partnership between
the two countries would remain wishful-thinking.

There are many security-related issues which call
for co-operation between India and China
bilaterally and for a joint leadership role by
them multilaterally. Maritime counter-terrorism
and anti-piracy measures are two examples of such
issues crying out for India and China to join
hands in countering these evils. But we will not
be able to do so unless the trust and comfort level improves.

Five issues or perceptions are standing in the
way of a better trust and comfort level. The
first is the pending border dispute. Chinese
leaders and analysts often quote Deng Xiao-Ping's
advice to keep this issue aside till a favourable
moment arrives for finding a mutually acceptable
solution. Delay suits China because the
trans-border status quo presently favours it and
it has developed its military capability in such
a manner as to be able to use it should China
decide that the time has come to impose its will
in the eastern sector. Indians suspect----with
valid reason---- that the Chinese preference for
keeping the issue prolonged is motivated by the
desire to give itself time for the further
strengthening of its military capability in
Tibet. India's interest will be served by a quick
resolution of the dispute, which has not been forthcoming.

The second is the failure of the Chinese to reach
an agreement with the Dalai Lama on the demands
of the Tibetan people. India has recognised Tibet
as an integral part of China in the expectation
that the international acceptance of the One
China principle will pave the way for the return
of the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan followers to
Tibet with honour and dignity so that they can
take their due to place in the local society.
India is the cradle of Buddhism, which spread to
Tibet and the rest of China from India. It is
natural that as admirers of this great religion
and its Tibetan leader, Indians feel disappointed
by the failure of the Chinese Government and
Communist Party to follow up the integration of
Tibet with the rest of China by restoring the
honour and dignity of the Dalai Lama and his followers.

The third is what many Indians see as the double
standards followed by China with regard to Jammu
& Kashmir. China expected India to recognise
Tibet as an integral part of China and accept the
One China principle. India did so without
reservation. Indians are greatly disappointed
that China has not reciprocated by recognising
Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India
and by accepting the One India principle, which
is as precious to India as the One China principle is to China.

The fourth is what many Indians see as China's
attempts to build up Pakistan not only as a
time-tested friend, but also as a welcome
strategic surrogate against India. China's
nuclear and military supply relationship with
Pakistan and its support to Pakistan in its
disputes with India are seen by many in India as
a malign exploitation of Pakistan's differences
with India to serve China's own interests.

The fifth is China's reluctance to support
India's permanent membership of the UN Security
Council. India under Jawaharlal Nehru played an
active role in canvassing for the People's
Republic of China to be given its due place as a
permanent member of the Security Council. In an
historic act of ingratitude, China has failed to
reciprocate India's gesture and has done everything possible to keep India out.

Unless there is a change in the policies of the
Chinese Government on these issues, the trust and
comfort level will continue to be low and there
is a limit beyond which the relations between the two countries cannot improve.

The time has come for India to re-examine its
policies with regard to China. The improvement in
economic relations has benefited China more than
India. If one analyses purely on the basis of
trade exchanges, both countries have benefited,
but the adverse balance of trade in China’s
favour and India’s dependence on raw material
exports for keeping up the steady surge in
bilateral trade dilute the significance of the surge in trade.

Other parameters of the bilateral economic
relations tilt strongly in favour of China. The
liberal opening-up of the Indian construction
sector to Chinese construction companies has led
to a situation where next to African countries,
India has become a major dumping ground for
Chinese engineers and semi-skilled workers to the
detriment of the interests of Indian engineers
and semi-skilled workers. Our opening up the
doors to sensitive sectors such as
telecommunications to Chinese private companies
---- private in name, but State-sponsored in
reality --- has added to the major security concerns of our security agencies.

Unfortunately, we do not have a debate in India
either in the Parliament or outside on the
background of the Chinese companies, which have
been entering India in large numbers and on the
threats that this could pose to our national
interests. Unchecked and inadequately monitored
Chinese economic intrusions should be of as great
a concern as unchecked and inadequately monitored
Chinese troop intrusions into Indian territory across the border.

Our recognition of Tibet as an integral part of
China and our acceptance of the one China policy
of Beijing without a quid pro quo from Beijing in
the form of acceptance of J&K as an integral part
of India and of the One India policy have proved
counter-productive. In our anxiety to avoid
adding to the tensions and distrust between the
two countries, we have let Beijing dictate what
should be the nature of our interactions with His
Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugees.
We avoid open interactions with His Holiness and
are not even prepared to associate him with the
project to revive the Nalanda University.

Our hopes that closing our eyes to the worrisome
aspects of the economic relations and imposing
restrictions on our relationship with His
Holiness could contribute to a change of Chinese
policies have been repeatedly belied. China has
taken advantage of the lack of assertiveness on
our part to advance what it regards as its core
interests in the region with total disregard for our core interests.

Better relations with China on mutually and
equally advantageous terms and not on terms which
favour China alone, but not India should be our
policy. A clear message in non-provocative
language has to go to Beijing that India has been
disillusioned by the self-centred policies of
Beijing and its lack of reciprocity in respecting
our core interests. Strategic relations have to
be a two-way traffic and based on quid pro quo.
For China, they are a one-way traffic benefiting
only its core interests. We should no longer accept this.

China has taken a major lead over us in building
up its strategic strengths, strategic presence
and strategic alliances. Its economic and
military strengths and its building-up its
military-related infrastructure in Tibet have
given it a confidence that it can impose its will
on India ----through subterfuge so long as it is
possible, through open action if and when it becomes necessary.

We are lagging behind China in all these fields.
Neutralising the advantages which China has
acquired for itself should be the main objective
of our future policies. Expediting the completion
of our infrastructure projects in the border
areas and adding to our China-specific military
strengths in a time-bound manner should be an
immediate objective of our policy-makers.

Re-fashioning our economic relations with China
in order to rid them of elements which are to the
exclusive advantage of China should receive equal
priority. There is a need for a re-think on our
Tibet-related policies without reversing our
recognition of Tibet as an integral part of
China. We have to be more assertive in pursuing
an One India policy as a quid pro quo for our accepting the One China policy.

India should do everything possible to avoid a
confrontational situation with China, but should
be prepared for it if China seeks to create a
confrontational situation at a time of its
choosing. We should pay more attention to the
China-specific dimensions of our strategic
relations with the US, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea.

In our interactions with US policy-makers and
non-governmental strategic experts, we have been
over-focusing on Pakistan and terrorism. China
should receive greater attention from now
onwards. A greater focus on the thinking and
respective concerns of India and the US with
regard to China should be an objective of the
forthcoming talks when President Barack Obama visits New Delhi in November.

Signals from the Obama Administration are
confusing. It has not hesitated to express openly
its determination to counter the Chinese designs
in the South China Sea and to maintain the
primacy of the US Navy in the Pacific as well as
the Indian Ocean. It is taking interest in the
talks of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the
Chinese Government and party. At the same time,
it does not seem to view with the same concern as
India China’s developing relations with Pakistan
and the possibility of Pakistan becoming China’s
strategic surrogate in Afghanistan too. After
having taken a strong stand on the right of the
US Naval ships to visit and hold exercises in the
Yellow Sea, it is showing signs of being
responsive to Chinese sensitivities over the
question of US aircraft-carriers visiting the Yellow Sea.

It still looks upon China as an useful
intermediary in relation to North Korea and
Myanmar. It has greater confidence in Beijing’s
ability to influence the military junta in
Myanmar than in the Indian ability. It has a low
opinion of the Indian ability to influence
Governments, policies and events in the Asian
region. Under these circumstances, it is unlikely
to be enthusiastic to any idea of an India-US
understanding on China. Despite this, we should
not fight shy of turning the primary focus of the
talks with Mr.Obama on China. We do not need
strategic alliances in relation to Pakistan. We
are capable of taking care of Pakistan with our
own means. We would need strategic alliances in
relation to China. Hence the importance of free
and frank talks with Mr.Obama on this.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),
Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi,
and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical
Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai
Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )
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