Join our Mailing List

"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."

Warmongers in China, India miss the mark

August 31, 2009

By Bhartendu Kumar Singh
Asia Times
August 29, 2009

NEW DELHI - China and India had only just
concluded their 13th round of special
representatives' border talks this month when a
Chinese strategist suggested the "Balkanization"
of India into several parts to prevent any
possible challenge to Chinese supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Officials from both countries dismissed the
hypothesis, but such reports are on the rise on
both sides of the border. On June 11, the Chinese
state-run Global Times published an editorial on
"India's unwise military moves" in reference to
the announcement earlier that month by the
governor of Arunachal Pradesh that some 60,000
Indian troops would be deployed along the
Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control in that Indian state.

The Global Times article was certainly not in
good taste, factually or logically, but there is
no dearth of similar war cries in India. For
example, an article by an editor of a leading
defense magazine predicted a Chinese attack on
India before 2012. Another article in a
Delhi-based newspaper a few months back claimed
that China would attack India in 2017.

No officials or experts from the two countries
have taken such talk seriously. Yet, the media in
the two countries have publicized these theories,
and there are reasons for this.

Firstly, the border talks at the special
representatives' level over the unresolved
demarcation of the 3,500-kilometer border between
China and India have been preceded by several
others, but none have yielded any significant results.

Both countries are also consolidating their
positions in the world's great power club, so
competition for power and influence is spilling
over into other areas. The latest example was a
spat at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), where
in May China objected to a loan program from the
ADB that included a proposed flood-control
project in Arunachal Pradesh, much of which China claims as "southern Tibet".

China lays claim to about 90,000 square
kilometers of territory in India's northeast,
roughly approximating the state of Arunachal
Pradesh. During a 1962 border war, China advanced
into and briefly occupied territory there before
announcing a unilateral ceasefire and pulling
back to the McMahon Line that India recognizes as
its border with China. In 1987, there were
serious skirmishes at Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh.

Above all, it is mutual ignorance, misperceptions
and mistrust that create space for speculation of
war. Two decades of political, economic and
military relations since former premier Rajiv
Gandhi's epic China visit in 1988
notwithstanding, the two countries are yet to
institutionalize and expand relations. This
mutual apathy has prevented genuine research into each other.

While war can never be ruled out in an anarchical
international system, more so since China and
India fought in 1962, there are genuine reasons
that make another war between the two countries highly unlikely.

First, China and India have come a long way
towards building a cobweb of relations,
criss-crossing many areas, and both have made
genuine investments in reaching out to one another.

Second, the growing complexity in international
relations and a mutual interdependence have
escalated the costs of war. China and India are
part of this process. There are fewer wars
between great powers, and India is relatively
better prepared and may deny another victory to China.

Thirdly, the unresolved border that could lead
the two countries to another war has been subject
to special negotiations. If the talks have not
succeeded, neither have they failed. Perhaps, the results will be incremental.

If some Chinese scholars fantasize over a Chinese
attack on India and its disintegration into
smaller states, it only reflects their desire to
carve out China's own area of influence, where no
amount of power games by India or the United
States will undermine China's leadership.

China's sustained investment in military
modernization and recent attempts to expand its
area of operation into distant waters, such as
the Gulf of Aden, unfortunately add weight to
such apprehensions. China's military
modernization is clearly no longer targeted
solely at Taiwan; but aimed at playing a larger
role in the Asia-Pacific region. Here, a rising
India could claim its own sphere of influence, if
not compete with China, and this annoys Beijing.

For Indians, the only thing that unites them is
the rising importance of China in Indian foreign
policy. However, policy suggestions are often
quite opposite, with some proponents still
dreaming of "Chindia", not having learnt the
bitter lessons from the bhai-bhai (Hindi for
"India and China are brothers") fiasco.

Others see relations with China as being full of
conflict, with some creating the ghost of a
looming attack from China sooner rather than
later. Such a militant attitude, from Chinese or
Indians, will only derail the painfully
constructed relations between the countries.

China could be a threat, but the best way out is
to enhance India's capacity to manage relations
with China. While numerous hypothetical factors
could lead the two countries to war, much depends
on the ongoing border talks and the communication
channels between the respective political leaderships.

As rising powers, China and India will compete
for power, influence and resources, but perhaps
the neighbors can live with a fair amount of healthy competition.

Dr Bhartendu Kumar Singh is in the Indian Defense
Accounts Service. The views expressed are personal.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank