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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Opinion: Treat with Caution

June 12, 2008

China's animosity towards India is more than historical
Ashok Ganguly
The Telegraph (India)
June 10 , 2008

It was certainly not diplomatic, but it was spot on. At the time it
was said, it was felt that George Fernandes, India's defence minister
in the National Democratic Alliance government, had committed a
diplomatic faux pas. He had declared that China was India's biggest
enemy. Considerable embarrassment and indignation followed. "How
could he?" people asked, including his own colleagues. But Fernandes
did not retract his statement. In their heart of hearts, everyone
knew that a long-festering truth was out in the open. Diplomacy
requires a certain manner of transactional behaviour and dialogue
even under the most trying circumstances. But the people in a
democracy are not bound to ignoring reality. History may credit
Fernandes for saying openly what needed to be said for a very, very long time.

China's animosity towards India has a history. In recent times, it
was rekindled by Mao Zedong in the Fifties. He was peeved with India
for providing refuge to a persecuted Dalai Lama and thousands of
Tibetans who were fleeing from the pogroms of the People's Liberation
Army. The other irritant for the Chinese was Jawaharlal Nehru's
growing international prominence as a leader of the Non-Aligned
Movement. While the Soviet Union was friendly towards India, it was
with the full knowledge of, and understanding with, Nikita
Khrushchev, that Mao Zedong embarked upon an unprovoked military
attack on India in the Northeast — "to teach India a lesson" as he is
supposed to have put it. The end of hostilities left a festering and
what appears now to be a well-entrenched sore on the India-China border.

China has become a significantly strong global military and economic
power and its belligerence has become more erratic and blatant. There
is no other nation that has as many territorial disputes with a
majority of its neighbours as China has.

As far as India is concerned, what we want has always been a
reasonable neighbourly relationship and a sensible diplomatic
resolution to any border issues. China's aims are entirely different.
It has now dealt a hand by claiming Arunachal Pradesh and parts of
Sikkim as its own territory.

By the nature of our economies, China and India have to transact
bilateral trade and commerce. However, trade must be seen entirely in
commercial terms, without any emotions or long-term expectations.
Under the circumstances, it is strange that a section of our
countrymen and some prominent NRIs have been promoting the concept of
'Chindia' as a potentially pre-eminent global joint entity of huge
commercial and economic potential. This is unlikely to ever bear
fruit. Unlike us, the Chinese are neither emotional nor starry-eyed
about India, other than for the short- to medium-term gains they wish
to make in the Indian marketplace.

The recent events of the passage of the Olympic flame through various
countries, and the protests which followed in its wake, were
triggered by the disturbances in Tibet and some other parts of China.
The responses of the Chinese State were crude and heavy-handed. In
India, we have directly experienced their unsuccessful attempts to
interfere in the security arrangements for the passage of the Olympic
torch through New Delhi. Similarly, the Chinese foreign office
summoning the Indian ambassador in the dead of night was a display of
the same arrogance and belligerence. Whether the man on the street in
China feels the same way about India is difficult to know.

It is reasonable to expect that as China becomes more economically
powerful its belligerence towards India and other countries is likely
to increase. Fortunately, there is now greater access for the
international media in China. This was on display in the recent
reporting of the devastating earthquake in the Sichuan province. The
media showed the world the soft side of the Chinese State on display
for the domestic as well as international audience by the presence
and participation of Chinese leaders in the rescue operations. This
was in stark contrast to the recent orchestrated tour of Tibet for
foreign journalists and diplomats. China will stay open as long as it
suits its purpose, and that is at least until the Beijing Olympics.
It may also be the case that China can no longer keep the Chinese
people in the dark regarding major disasters and crises, thus
ensuring a degree of selective openness.

In search of raw material and food, China is exploring 21st-century
colonialism in its neighbourhood and in Africa. It will surely
include South America in due course. All this presages a welcome
transition where management by absolute secrecy and isolation may no
longer be possible.

China's one-party rule will remain manageable as long as the economy
keeps growing and 1.3 billion Chinese remain reasonably contented and
hopeful. There are, of course, dangers that the Communist Party of
China may be faced with some unanticipated challenges in the future,
triggering major disequilibrium. The recent events in Tibet and in
India's northeastern borders make one wonder whether the PLA and CPC
are in as much harmony as they have been historically. In any future
major domestic crisis, China's immediate neighbours are more likely
to bear the brunt of the CPC's belligerence in its efforts to divert
the attention of the Chinese people from its internal problems.

The international community and India are well aware of the fault
lines in the fast-unfolding Chinese story and their potential
consequences. While diplomacy must remain, as it has through the
ages, the primary means of engaging with China, India has to be
significantly better prepared in the event of China's unprovoked
belligerence, such as claiming ownership of parts of Indian
territory, as China has done.

It is the government's role to conduct diplomacy and militarily
secure India's northeastern borders against any Chinese designs.
However, the Indian public, and particularly the Indian business
community and consumers, must appreciate the fragile nature of what
may appear to be the huge trade and business opportunities between
China and India. Naturally, and at least for the time being, it has
to be business as usual, but plans for the long term have to be
couched with caution. Chindia, as a concept, is a non-starter.
Fernandes had publicly raised an issue of the true nature of the
China-India relationship. The relationship has not changed much
during the last 50 years and is likely to remain as uncertain in the future.
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