Saturday, September 19, 2009

Countering China

India should frame strategies to match China militarily, economically and diplomatically, so that it does not have to play a second fiddle in Asian and global affairs

As reported in The Sentinel (September 17, 2009), the Chinese intruded into the Indian territory in the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir and even dared to mark many rocks on heights of 22,000 feet and above with China’s name, thereby trying to establish claims on those areas as being part of China. There were past instances of the Chinese government dispatching its PLA men and intelligence officials into Indian territories in Arunachal Pradesh in civilian clothes and later claiming that they had strayed into Indian soil while in search of medicinal herbs.

It appears that in response to the threats posed by China, the Government of India has taken up road development projects in Arunachal Pradesh and also started deployment of two additional divisions of the Indian Army in that sector, apart from deploying four squadrons of Sukhoi fighter planes at Tezpur. But in spite of the presence of our Army in considerable strength, no shots were fired from the Indian side to stop the trespassing PLA men either in Arunachal Pradesh or in Ladakh. We do not consider it adequate just to improve airports in Ladakh and post additional forces in Arunachal Pradesh, but remain as silent spectators when the aggressive, land-hungry Chinese government directs its military to intrude into our land. The present government at the Centre must understand that the people of the country have mandated the UPA government with the belief that it would take every necessary measure under a well-drawn strategy for safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

The New York Times (September 4, 2009) published a long report on the Indo-China border dispute with special reference to Tawang entitled ‘‘China and India Dispute Enclave on Edge of Tibet’’, with the sub-heading ‘‘Border is Militarized — A Himalayan Tinderbox is Straining Relation between Two Giants”. The report has mentioned about the military build-up on both sides of the international borders by India and China, near Tawang, which is just 23 miles away from the border with China. “The growing belligerence has soured relations between the two Asian giants and has prompted one Indian military leader to declare that China has replaced Pakistan as India’s biggest threat,” states the report. It also says, “Economic progress might be expected to bring the countries closer. China and India did $52 billion worth of trade last year, a 34 per cent increase over 2007. But business people say border tensions have infused business deals with official interference, damping the willingness of Chinese and Indian companies to invest in each other’s countries. The roots of the conflict go back to China’s territorial claims to Tibet, an enduring source of friction between China and many foreign nations. China insists that this section of Northeast India has historically been part of Tibet and should be part of China.” On the other side, the monks at Tawang monastery, an important centre of Tibetan learning, “express rage over Chinese rule in Tibet, which the Chinese Army seized in 1951.”

The report goes back to history and says that Tawang became part of modern India when Tibetan leaders signed a treaty with British officials in 1914 that established a border called the McMahon Line between Tibet and British-run India. Tawang fell south of the line. The Simla Convention is not recognized by China. While the report makes no mention of India recognizing Tibet as a part of China, though the latter seized it by sheer brute power, we strongly feel that it was a blunder committed by our leaders, as it has failed to assuage the hostile attitude of China towards India as also its expansionist designs against India. On the one hand, we have given asylum to Dalai Lama to fuel China’s anger against us, and on the other hand, we have not supported the Tibetan cause and have failed to score any point over China. A military and economic superpower, China wants to have its diktats dominate the Asian politico-economic-military scene, and should India fail to match China militarily, economically and diplomatically, India would have to play second fiddle not only in Asia but also in global affairs. Now is the time our leaders must realize the grim realities and take steps to ensure that our interests are duly safeguarded.

On the economic front, China stands to pose as the main rival of the US by building up huge reserves of $2.3 trillion, with huge trade surpluses with the West during the last decade. A report of The New York Times (August 24, 2009) titled “Asia’s Recovery Highlights China’s Ascendance” states that for the first time, the catalyst is coming from China and the rest of Asia, where resurgent economies are helping the still-shaky West recover from the deepest recession since World War II. The report observes, “China’s government-dominated, top-down economy is surging after Chinese banks doled out more than $1 trillion in loans in the first half of the year, in addition to a nearly $600 billion government stimulus program.” Interestingly, China already has a kitty of American bonds worth $2 trillion, which is real economic power with China to keep the United States under pressure. Though India has also contributed significantly towards economic recovery, it has not received a mention in the newspaper report.

So, it is time for India to also learn from China so that it could match China’s growing economic power to become a world leader. Experts have opined, as quoted by The New York Times, that “Asia is still relatively small in the world, but it reflects how the world is changing and economic power does translate, of course, into political power. You can use it to win friends and influence people, as the Chinese are already doing in Africa and Latin America”. Well, the Chinese are doing that in Asia too, more particularly to woo India’s neighbours — Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

India should try hard to cultivate friendship with all its neighbouring countries by increasing trade relationships, offering economic packages, and by making ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) States a free-trade zone. India has a definite edge over China to win over its neighbours, which are also tolerant of other religious groups. The Government of India would do well to frame appropriate strategies to strengthen the country’s position in regions where much needs to be done for the sake of mutual interests. India has already experienced difficult times in the Northeast from a whole lot of insurgent groups, which have been receiving arms supplies from China — a country that has also indoctrinated and trained some of them in guerrilla warfare to take up arms against India. Our policy towards China must, therefore, be very pragmatic.

JP Rajkhowa
(The writer, a former Assam Chief Secretary, is currently on a trip to the US) THE SENTINEL

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