Nov 30, 2011

Nepal Perspective: Mounting Sino-India Tensions

By Deepak Gajurel
Given the past few years' experiences, India appears in China’s news media very few and far between. Even bilateral exchanges, ministerial visits and official cultural events do not make the kind of splash as in India, for such events for Chinese.

It is Chinese manner that they use media outlets as and when the State, Party or Government wants to send subtle messages without the official cover.

On the contrary, there is much more of China in the Indian media, which is more preoccupied with Beijing. At a time when Indian television and newspapers, along with a number of 'think tanks' are cautioning about Chinese assertiveness and aggressive posture towards India, China has, since last two months so to say, been speaking loud on Sino-India relations. Since India signed an agreement with Vietnam to jointly explore oil resources in the South China Sea, Chinese media, both English and Chinese languages, are coming up with a flurry of verbal attacks on India.

Headlined 'India needs pause when driving East' ,Xinhua, Chinese state-run news agency on November 8, in an analytical piece, wrote, 'It is highly advisable for New Delhi to think twice about the pitfalls in making its foreign policies.'

India signed an agreement with Vietnam in September, 2011 to jointly explore oil resources in the South China Sea, despite China’s indisposition and amid strains in their ties with China. In a similar event, India and Afghanistan declared, in October, the establishment of strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries. As seen by the Chinese as provocation of its northern neighbor, India signed defense pacts respectively with China’s neighboring Vietnam and Myanmar.

Dissatisfaction of Beijing towards India's recent military and strategic move are well mirrored in Xinhua's article. Thus, 'The intensification of defense cooperation will also be high on the agenda of India, as it expects China’s small neighbors would rather look to it to balance what is said China’s increased assertiveness in the region, and view it as an increasingly important player in evolving an “inclusive regional architecture” in Asia,' Xinhua opines, adding, 'More significantly, scared by China's “muscle-flexing”, India plans to recruit and deploy another 100,000 soldiers along the disputed borders with China and the Chinese Southwestern Tibet. The troop increase will come over the next five years, as part of a $13 billion modernization program that will mark the largest expansion of the Indian army throughout the sub-continental country’s 60-year history.'

When China has been reported to have been strengthening its military and strategic build-up in Tibet, India too has joined the race. The Indian Express early this month reported that New Delhi gave the green signal for the Indian military to deploy Brahmos cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh in what could be taken as India's first tactical missile deployment. This Indian move has aptly been answered by Chinese state news agency Xinhua, which states, 'This is, many observers see, awfully disrupting the volatile tranquility along the China-India border.' Xinhua further warned, 'There is nothing to be said against its overtures to others for strategic cooperation. But if it intended to estrange and antagonize its neighbor by taking it as an imaginary enemy and get unwisely involved in affairs which fall within others’ backyards, it would hold its national strategies as hostage and put at stake its own national interests.'

Referring to India's military build-up on the border, the People’s Daily earlier this month had said, ‘India has begun to consider China an opponent.’ In a November 10, Beijing-datelined article headlined, ‘India’s border troop surge aimed at rising China?’, the paper looks at India’s ties with others like the US, Japan and Vietnam, and how these are fuelled by fear and suspicion of China. This Chinese voice towards India came immediately after Xinhua’s ‘warning’ that India needs to reconsider its Look East policy and ‘pause driving east.’

While Chinese, through their media outlets, are suggesting India to be 'more realistic, Indian think tanks are predicting a Sino-Indian conflict. Some Indian experts are viewing the growing Sino-Indian rivalry as tensions between these two neighbors inescapable. China and India face each other across a heavily militarized nearly 4,000km-long border and are increasingly competing against each other in a scramble for natural resources around the world. Indian fears over Chinese projects along the Indian Ocean rim were matched recently by Beijing's ire over growing Indian interests in the South China Sea.

Adding fuel to the increasing verbal exchanges through media, an Indian Ministry of Defense affiliated independent think tank predicts a conflict between the two Asian giants. By spelling out a few concrete scenarios of how conflict may look between the two countries, the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) report reveals the palpable lack of trust on the part of strategists both in New Delhi and Beijing. The report applauds long-term Indian efforts underway to beef up defenses along the Chinese border, but warns that Beijing may still take action. 'In future, India could be subject to China's hegemonic attention. Since India would be better prepared by then, China may instead wish to set India back now by a preventive war. This means current day preparedness is as essential as preparation for the future. A [defeat] now will have as severe political costs, internally and externally, as it had back in 1962; for, as then, India is yet again contemplating a global role,' IDSA writes in its recent report entitled ' Consideration of Sino-Indian Conflict.'

At a time when a lot of recent media attention has focused on the likelihood of Sino-Indian clashes at sea, the IDSA report keeps its scope trained along the traditional, glacial Himalayan land boundary in the LAC, the Line of Actual Control. Since the 1962 war, China and India have yet to formally resolve longstanding disputes over vast stretches of territory along this line. Those disputes have resurfaced noticeably in recent years, with China making unprecedented signals through news media, including PLA Daily, much to the unease of New Delhi, over its historical claims to the entirety of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, to what the Chinese claim to be 'Southern Tibet.'

IDSA speculates that China could make a targeted territorial grab, 'for example, a bid to take Tawang.' Further west along the LAC, another flashpoint lies in Kashmir. China controls a piece of largely uninhabited territory known as Aksai Chin that it captured during the 1962 war. The report notes the threat of coordinated action between China and Pakistan, an alliance built largely out of years of mutual antipathy toward India. In one mooted scenario, Pakistan, either with its own forces or terrorist, insurgent proxies, would 'make diversionary moves' across the blood-stained Siachin glacier or Kargil, while a Chinese offensive strikes further east along the border.

Things seem cautionary when Chinese are speaking to 'teach India a lesson' on the one hand, and some Indian strategists are predicting, on the other, 'with the 50th anniversary of the 1962 invasion approaching, history is in danger of repeating itself.' The recent media and experts' flare-ups against each other suggest that the situation seems to have approached a serious level.

Exclusive for weekly dated November 30, 2011
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1 comment:

  1. TroubledNepaliNovember 30, 2011

    In fact, China can never be trusted when it comes about gaining support during the time of trouble. Or shall we call it- China is "good weather friend". Be it the case of sitting on the wall while India bully it's northern neighbor or if we look at extreme side- murdering Gaddafi.
    If we look back, Nepal hardly received any form of support, be it when Nepal had to go through acute petroleum shortage when it tried to buy some anti-aircraft guns during late 20th century.
    In case of Libiya too, china preferred to remain silent when NATO fighter jets were bombing Tripoli. Had it been erstwhile superpowers like USSR or the USA,they would have rushed with all their might, including 7th fleet to rescue its allies during the time of cold war.
    Now that China has imposed its dominance in global scenario, it should remain clear who they are with during the times of trouble.As they say, "Everybody's Friend is Nobody's Friend"