News Analysis : Dealings with China~II

Today’s Editorial


Despite the positive signals from other countries, China is opposing India’s membership to the NSG. It has argued that India in any case is not eligible to become a member of NSG as it is not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) adherence to which is necessary for the entry. At other times Beijing stated that Pakistan too has similar credentials to join the NSG. Until China supports India, there is no hope for India to get entry into NSG as China has the veto on the matter. India should initiate efforts to woo China through diplomatic means and by following a give-and-take principle in its relationship.


The fifth factor is that China is against India carrying out oil exploration in a part of South China Sea near the Vietnam coast. The moves come at a delicate time in Beijing’s relations with Vietnam, which claims parts of the sea, and India, which recently sent warships to monitor the Malacca Straits, through which most of China’s energy supplies and trade passes. Vietnam granted the Indian oil firm, ONGC Videsh, a two-year extension to explore the oil block. Part of that block is in the U-shaped’nine-dash line’, which marks the vast area that China claims in the sea, a route for more than $ 5 trillion in trade each year in which the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims.


These five episodes made 2017 a particularly tough year for China-India relations, with a serious impact on how the two sides see each other. On the positive side, none of these developments has done irreversible damage to bilateral relations. These trends and the episodes of last year clearly point to the emergence of a larger and much more worrying picture of bilateral relations. Two major changes define this scenario. First, the China-India relationship is in the process of transformation and is slowly arriving at the crossroads.


The strategic and economic landscape of Asia has been changing as the rise of Chinese power transforms both Asia and the Indian Ocean region, and fuels greater competition between the Middle Kingdom on the one hand and the United States and Japan on the other. These tectonic changes are transforming the international environment in which the Beijing-Delhi relationship operates and the relationship cannot continue as before. China and India have found it much more difficult to manage their tensions and disagreements, as evident from the Doklam standoff and India’s boycott of the BRI summit, a signal that the present format of the relationship is not working. All this indicates that the China-India relationship is increasingly standing at the crossroads and the two sides will have to choose a middle path of peaceful Coexistance.


Second, the India-China relationship is progressively deteriorating. As China has increased its presence around India and has begun to vigorously shape Asia’s strategic landscape to its advantage, India has adopted a much tougher and more decisive stance towards Beijing. The Indian Army has asserted that it will not allow an expansionist China to intrude into Indian Territory at any cost, while roundly dismissing Pakistan’s reckless threats about its tactical nuclear weapons being an effective counter to India’s conventional military superiority.


China is a powerful country but we are not a weak nation…We will not allow our territory to be invaded by anyone. We are prepared,” said Army chief General Bipin Rawat, in the backdrop of the PLA needling India with as many as 415 “border transgressions” of the LAC last year, which also saw the 73-day face-off at Doklam and 215 other troop confrontations. Speaking in the run-up to Army Day on January 15, Gen Rawat also said that Pakistan’s “nuclear bogey” will be thoroughly exposed if it actually comes to a war with the western neighbour, which often brandishes its short-range Nasr (Hatf-IX) nuclear missiles as a battlefield counter to India’s ‘Cold Start’ strategy of swift, high-intensity conventional attacks into enemy territory. We will call their bluff. If given the task, we will not say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons”, he said. But even as the Indian Army continues its punitive fire assaults to “inflict pain” on the Pakistan Army for actively abetting cross-border terrorism and infiltration, with the latter suffering “three to four times more casualties”, Gen Rawat said his force was “shifting its focus” from the western front to the “northern borders” with China.


In an angry rebuttal to Gen Rawat’s comments, China has criticised the General for calling Doklam a disputed territory, saying that his”unconstructive” comments were not helpful for maintaining peace on the borders. The Army Chief should have chosen his comments and used better words on such crucial issues to avoid misunderstanding between the two countries.


Though the government is dealing with China in a holistic manner, with the diplomatic engagement “going well”, India should take care to ensure its neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, Bhutan and Afghanistan “do not drift away” from it. “We have to see we are not isolated against China in this region,” he said, also referring to the emerging “quadrilateral” with the US, Australia and Japan in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain.

2017 was stressful for China-India relations, leaving a heavy legacy for 2018. However, it also leaves homework for Beijing and Delhi to reflect on their deteriorating relations. If the two sides do their homework well, 2018 and the coming years might witness peaceful coexistence. However, India has to work hard to make its army strong enough to thwart any misadventure from China and Pakistan jointly.


Source: By PK Vasudeva: The Statesman

Leave a comment