Relations between China and India have somewhat improved since a brief border war in 1962, but deep suspicion over a longstanding territorial dispute has remained an obstacle to achieve full potential of economic ties between the two neighbors. When these lines will be published, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao would have arrived in India on a visit from 3-7 November 2015. Reportedly, China is likely to discuss Indian support to East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for creating unrest in China’s Xinjiang region.
Since independence of India and China in 1947 and 1948 respectively, both countries could not decide how far their borders went as the countries’ borders had changed at various times. China and India has two border issues – Aksai Chin (western front) and Arunachal Pradesh in North East India (Eastern Front), and China never compromises on its principled stand, be it Hong Kong or Taiwan.
Neither the terrain nor its history bore any evidence of a connection of Arunachal Pradesh with India, but Nehru was too headstrong and he was emboldened by the fact that both super powers the US and the USSR were against China at that time. Nehru thought that he could get away with his claim and China would not dare attack India, but his gamble failed and India had lost the war. China taught India a lesson while still sending a powerful message to the rest of the world. During Cold War era, India was in the Soviet camp, and Pakistan was intertwined in defence pacts with the West and the US. Since differences between Soviet Union and China emerged over nuances and interpretations of Marxism and other factors, India opposed China to benefit from both the super power Soviet Union and the US.
Fan Changlong, one of the vice chairmen of China’s Central Military Commission, which controls the armed forces and is headed by President Xi Jinping, will also visit India and Pakistan in mid-November. For decades, India was a close ally of the Soviet Union, but now it has strategic partnership with the US, and supports US policy of containing China. The largest of China’s administrative regions, Xinjiang borders eight countries – Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – and its population is mostly Uighur. China often blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) or people inspired by ETIM for violent incidents both in Xinjiang and beyond the region’s borders. ETIMwants to establish an independent East Turkestan in China. The US State Department in 2006 had said: “ETIM is the most militant of the ethnic Uighur separatist groups”.
Since India is always looking for opportunities to create problems for its neighbors, Chinese suspect that Indian intelligence agency has a liaison with the ETIM. In May 2013, Chinese and Indian forces stood eyeball to eyeball for three weeks. India had claimed that both sides had gone back to the original positions through diplomatic efforts, and tried to convey an impression to the people that China withdrew its troops unconditionally. But reports suggested that it was only after India agreed to dismantle its positions in Chumar area in Ladakh that the Chinese side agreed to withdraw its troops from Depsang valley in Daulat Beg oldi sector. The origins of the stand-off in the Ladakh Himalayas could be traced in the construction of permanent structures by the Indian side at a (separate but) similarly sensitive forward observation point in the disputed western sector.
China considered it a violation of long-standing border protocols. However Beijing decided to establish its own skeletal presence barely two-dozen miles removed from the strategic China-India-Pakistan border tri-junction area. India had stressed the need to develop infrastructure along international border in Ladakh. As Chinese withdrew from Depsang, Indian troops constructed fortifications in Chumar Sector. Chinese quick response resulted into Indo-China standoff in Ladakh. As India could not afford to prolong the standoff, it then requested for flag meeting to resolve the issue. China had put pressure on India for dismantling the fortifications as construction of fresh bunkers violated a border arrangement between India and China. Provocative probes and presence-marking operations that were implicitly directed at undermining China’s control of the strategic Aksai Chin highway, a core strategic interest, had been a key precipitating cause of the Sino-Indian war of 1962.
Both China and India had sought to minimise the incident as an isolated case. Beijing’s known irritation for some time though over the Indian forward observation post in eastern Ladakh suggested that the timing of the stand-off before the visit of Premier Li Keqiang’s inaugural visit to India was not accidental. Analysts were of the view that it was intended to politically test and establish the then Manmohan Singh government’s commitment at its highest reaches to Sino-Indian relationship management as well as anticipate the degree of reciprocity that Beijing can expect as it embarks on what is likely to be an active phase in Sino-Indian boundary negotiations. But China responded in the language India understands. Despite millions of the wretched of the earth living much below the poverty line, Indian political leadership is more focused on buying military equipment and lethal weapons to make India militarily strong.
India faces separatist movements. The Maoists threat in India has been waxing while India deliberately downplayed the issue to prove that India had neither major law and order problem nor centrifugal tendencies. But the world has started understanding the realities on ground which India has been trying to hide. India has been blaming Pakistan for the freedom movement in occupied Kashmir, what it calls insurgency, but who is to blame for the Naxalite insurgency in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal and other Indian States? It was widely felt that Naxalites was no more a law and order problem, but posed a threat to internal security. The Naxalite movement in fact is a movement against economicdeprivation and brutality of the state or central government’s law enforcing agencies. The Naxalite ideology has great appeal for marginalised strata (particularly dalit and adivasis) of India’s caste-ridden society.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
India-China Relations | Mohammad Jamil