China…India – And or Versus
The latest round of events of snapping Defence ties based on rejection of Visa to a General has cast a shadow over the uneasy relations between the two Asian Tigers and has started a fresh debate on the Sino Indian relations.
The relations between the two neighbours have never been easy at the best of times, ever since the 1962 War. However despite booming trade between the two countries this recent bout of needling appears to be motivated. Of late China has increased the stakes in Arunachal Pradesh and issued “plain paper” visas to Indians born in Jammu and Kashmir. Then there was the uproar about Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Increased border violations have been noticed in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese activities in Indian neighbourhood – its plans to dam the Brahmaputra and extend the Tibet rail link into Nepal are other aspects of continuing Chinese assertiveness. The operationalisation of rail and additional air infrastructure in Tibet for the first time are again signals of an assertive China.
This post, though not related to the incident perse, throws some light on the dynamics of “and” or “versus” theories in the relationship between the two countries. Then there are colours of American and Pakistan relations painting this relationship.
What we hear least about is the tangled weave of national interests that means China courts Pakistan as a proxy for it’s own competition with India, to the point where Pakistani experts concede that, given a choice between alliance with the US or China, Pakistan’s military will choose China “every day of the week, and twice on Fridays”.
This relationship is at the back of a lot of Chinese man oeuvres in the region to keep America and India at bay.
As per Vikram Sood, the ex Chief of RAW, US and China have their own geostrategic rivalries to settle, and the Chinese may have assessed that their moment has come.
“Yet China remains concerned with its intricate trade and financial links with the US, and also with the security of its trade and supply routes that transit the Malacca Straits. It has endeavoured to develop extensive land routes through Central Asia, but these are inadequate. It is a matter of time before China will make its presence more visible in the Indian Ocean. It has port facilities in Hambantota and Gwadar, and a presence in the Arabian Sea as it battles Somali pirates. China has expanded its contacts with Iran, more in competition with Russia than the US, it seeks mineral wealth in Afghanistan, its relations with Pakistan need no elucidation and it has developed strong ties with Burma.” This Burmese angle may resolve China’s Malacca Dilemma.
China’s enunciation of its strategic interests in South China Sea and the Yellow Sea through naval exercises as a caution on US – Korean enterprise in Jul 2010 is a reminder that China is now ready to assert itself. Thus while we may agonise over challenges across our land frontiers, we would be ignoring the new challenge in the Indian Ocean unless we plan countermeasures now. He further articulates that:
China pretty much owns Pakistan and will own Afghanistan within a decade. India would be better served, in my opinion, by turning its back upon both in their entirety, rather than shackle itself to a ball and chain designed by China. Although national pride demands that something, anything, be “done now” about terrorism, the truth is that such attacks are gnats stinging an elephant, doing more damage by distraction than by the pain they inflict.
The recent concessions by Pakistan to China over the Karakoram highway and now greater autonomy to PLA Army to operate in Gilgit and Baltistan underscores Pakistan’s need to play by Chinese rules in keeping India away. In the bargain connecting China to Iran for gas and trade.
As per this report in BBC, India can match China in next 20 years, if it retains its focus and manages its maritime interests unshackled from the tactical friction on its Western borders.China and India, accounting for roughly 40% of the 6.5bn plus people on Planet Earth, are not merely the two fastest growing major economies in the world at present, but are among the few countries that have continued to expand at a time when the economies of most countries have contracted. The article also asks the pertinent economic question, “Can the lumbering elephant overtake the hyperactive dragon?” But that is an economic assessment of 2009 and even if were to happen, “Can the two march together – geopolitically?”
Check this out for the relationship matrix between India and China:
China has strategically allied itself with Pakistan in a geopolitical move against India which concentrates as much on economics as on military support – although in Pakistan’s military-heavy economy the two are inseparable. For instance, dredging the harbor at Gwadar has given both China and Pakistan an important economic asset as well as China an advance naval base. But the overall aim of Chinese sub-continent policy, and its alliance with Pakistan, is to cut off India’s overland access to Europe, the Middle East and Asia while enhancing China’s own.That’s why Afghanistan is the battleground for these geopolitical rivals. Between Pakistan and China, India is effectively blocked from land routes into the continent, effectively an island should its rivals wish it.
In deference to China and wooing Pakistan for an Afghan exit, America appears to have forgotten India almost entirely. Although Indians must pursue their own strategic independence, that’s no reason why America and India should not have closer ties which would help India see its national interests as more parallel to America’s. In that respect, George Bush got something right and Obama seems to be floundering. However, the American people are howling at the gates of congress to end these trillion dollar, decade-long wars of occupation and aggression, and there is simply no conceivable military solution to any of our problems – whether that’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or even Iran. Diplomacy has to be the way to go. Huffington Post of 25 Aug explains this. A must read into the political and diplomatic muddle that the triumvirate has gotten Pakistan into.
This is where Obama finds himself in a logjam if he does not take India on board. In the present geopolitical environment America has to find a regional solution to the Afghan mess and think beyond Pakistan. The two names that come to mind immediately are India and China. How, has been discussed in an earlier post “Afghanistan after America”. Economically though, China is edging past America to be the next super power which complicates this relationship.
Theoretically speaking, the two Asian giants need to come together to make this century a truly Asian one. But there are impediments of geopolitics, suspicion and of course Pakistan. Pragmatic realism demands a multiple track diplomacy with China and USA which fructifies “India and China” rather than “India Versus China”.
The irritants of the present must thus be tackled from a position of equality with clear Quid Pro Quo.
- India blocks China defence ties (bbc.co.uk)