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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Superpower rivalry, Sino-Indian style

October 26, 2009

China's aggressive stance is set to leave a deep
mark on the century. India must stand firm against its expansionist neighbour
Kapil Komireddi
Guardian (UK)
October 25, 2009

The idea of China's "peaceful rise" has always
represented the triumph of imagination over
reality. But over the last several months,
Beijing has done enough to shatter every hope of
peace in Asia. It began with an unprecedented
attempt by Beijing in March this year to block a
$2.9bn Asian Development Bank loan to India on
the grounds that some of the cash was intended
for use in the eastern state of Arunachal
Pradesh, a region China claims as its own. This
was followed by a gratuitous broadside against
India in the People's Daily, the Communist party's mouthpiece.

Military incursions into India by Chinese forces
were backed up by Beijing's diplomatic assault on
India's territorial integrity and pluralistic
nationalism: the Chinese embassy in New Delhi
began issuing irregular visas to Kashmiri Indians
in an effort to legitimise separatism. And last
week, Beijing officially condemned prime minister
Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

Officially, India maintains that it is on good
terms with Beijing. China's outrageous
provocations manage only to elicit
"disappointment" in New Delhi. This week, Dr
Singh will even meet with his Chinese
counterpart, Wen Jiabao, on the sidelines of the
Asean summit in Thailand; warm words about
friendship will be exchanged. But platitudes can
no longer conceal the fact that China is
strangulating India. Using a combination of aid
and ammunition, Beijing has drawn a hostile
circle of influence around India: beginning in
Pakistan (to which Beijing supplied nuclear
technology) in the north-west, it runs through
Nepal (to which it exported Maoism) and Burma
(where it shields a dictatorship) in the east,
ending in Sri Lanka (where it armed a genocidal state) in the south.

Two reasons account for China's obsession with
India. The first is historical: China crawled on
to the world stage on India's back. India not
only became the second non-communist country in
the world to bestow recognition on Mao's pariah
state; it was also, in Nehru's words, the most
passionate pleader of China's "cause in the
councils of the world". When President Eisenhower
offered India the UN security council seat held
by Taiwan, Nehru, ever the idealist, turned it
down, urging the US to offer it to China instead.

But soon, Beijing developed the arriviste's
disdain for its most forceful supporter. Mao
could not abide an Asia with multiple centres of
power. New Delhi's decision to grant asylum to
the Dalai Lama in defiance of Beijing's bullying
confirmed India as a contender. China initiated a
surprise multi-pronged attack on India in 1962,
occupying a substantial portion of contested
territory on the Tibetan plateau. Beijing
retreated just as American jumbo jets, flown to
aid India's assault, began landing in West
Bengal. Today, Beijing actively aligns itself
with India where its interests are involved – on
climate change, for instance – but on a bilateral
level, it views India as inconvenient competition.

The second reason goes to the heart of China's
current condition. Western observers of Beijing,
enraptured by the glitz of China, have long
stopped examining the decay of the party that
runs it. Many in the west still argue that
China's economic prosperity is a precursor to
political freedom for its people. But this
theory, as Minxin Pei has argued, ignores the
important fact that an authoritarian state is
less likely to loosen its grip on a wealthy
country than it would be to forego the control of
an impoverished one. Last month's celebrations in
Beijing bore out Pei's point: so insecure was the
Communist party that, as Gordon Chang reported, a
security force more than a million strong force
was put in place to keep ordinary people away
from the celebrations marking the 60th
anniversary of the "People's Republic"; hotel
rooms overlooking the procession were booked by
the government; and residents in nearby houses
were barred from looking out of their windows.

Chinese nationalism is a genie that serves the
state. With such a fragile hold on the country,
the Communist party has to invoke monsters in
order to rally support. Japan has been the
traditional target, but today's India vexes
Beijing even more. If India can guarantee
fundamental rights to its diverse citizens while
managing a growth rate not far from China's – and
more than make up for the low numbers with a free
press, regular elections, and independent
institutions – why, someone is bound to ask, can China not do the same?

In the coming months and years, Beijing is going
to become even more aggressive with India. New
Delhi must now discard the myth of China's
invincibility that has led it into appeasement,
and devise a definitive China policy featuring at least three elements.

First, India should continue fortifying its side
of the border with China by upgrading
infrastructure, deploying troops, setting up air
bases; New Delhi must yield to the overwhelming
patriotic sentiment in Arunachal Pradesh and
allow the formation of a local military regiment.

Second, India must deepen its engagement with
Australia and Japan, broaden its military
exercises with the US, and build active alliances
with south-east Asian countries wary of China.

Finally, India must allow the "Dalai clique" to
engage in political activity. It makes no sense
for New Delhi to suppress Tibetan protesters in
order to mollify an expansionist monster that has
sponsored anti-India insurgencies for at least 50
years. Tibet's restive population is a time bomb
whose detonator, the Dalai Lama, is with India.
New Delhi must stop gagging His Holiness.

The Sino-Indian conflict will define the 21st
century in a more complicated manner than the
Soviet-American conflict characterised the second
half of the 20th. So far, this clash has received
very little attention in the west. In the
not-too-distant future, people everywhere are
going to have to pick sides. The troubled peace
of today is necessarily a prelude to the impending war.
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