Tuesday, April 19, 2005


From The Statesman
ND Batra

Nothing could have been more deceptive than what India’s Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said at a press conference in New Delhi at the conclusion of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit. “India and China are partners, and they are not rivals. We do not look upon each other as adversaries.”

Look at the Chinese activities in Pakistan, an all-weather friend — from financing the building of a deep seaport, Gwadar, at the gateway to West Asia to its clandestine contribution for developing nuclear weapons; building road links with Bangladesh; its surveillance station in Myanmar’s Coco Islands; and its efforts at trying to cosy up to Nepal after India, the UK and the USA denounced King Gyanendra’s high-handed action to snuff out democracy.

Nor should it have gone unnoticed China’s wishy-washy non-committal support for membership of the UN Security Council. The Chinese vague official statement that it “attaches great importance to the status of India in international affairs” and “understands and supports India’s aspirations to play an active role in the UN and international affairs” is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to get out of a definitive commitment.

One should take with a pinch of salt a pious sounding but diplomatically meaningless utterance such as, “Aware of their linked destinies as neighbours and the two largest countries of Asia, both sides agreed that they would, together, contribute to the establishment of an atmosphere of mutual understanding, trust and cooperation in Asia and the world at large.”It reminds one of the pre-1962 Hindi-Chini “bhai-bhai” Nehru era, when Panch Shil was peddled as an alternative to the Cold-War’s hard-headed diplomacy. India might put up a brave face and assert that it has overcome the feeling of betrayal but it does not have a definitive answer to the question whether Chinese intentions have changed. China is still holding a large chunk of territory in Kashmir, 38,000 sqkm (14,670 sqmiles) of Aksai Chin, which it seized after the 1962 blatant invasion, and claims more.

Another 5,180 sqkm (2,000 sqmiles) of northern Kashmir was given by Pakistan to Beijing as a price for an all-weather friendship pact signed in 1963. China had already built a road through Aksai Chin linking Tibet with its Xinjiang province before it laid an aggressive claim on it. Now it seeks a political solution, not a technical one, to the border problem. In other words, since Aksai Chin highway helps China to maintain control over the region, it is politically more important to China than to India.

So India should give up its cartographic, that’s technical, claim on Aksai Chin in lieu of letting India keep what it already controls in the east, in Arunachal Pradesh. That’s what Prime Minister Chou En Lai said in 1962 that India should accept “the present actualities”. So it is back to the future with the same old Chinese argument: Technically Aksai Chin may be yours, but politically it is ours.

The solution to the border problem, especially in Aksai Chin, interestingly, could be technical and political at the same time. For example, China could use the Aksai Chin highway on a long-term basis provided it recognised India’s technical and political claim on the region.

China must also withdraw other claims it makes on Indian territories. If the time is not ripe for a settlement along these lines, India should wait and watch. Trade and technological cooperation could continue to grow as they have been doing in the last few years even without a final resolution of the border disputes. Much is being made of India-China trade relations. If China is now India’s second-largest trading partner, after the USA, with a bilateral trade of $13 billion, it shows how puny is India’s total foreign trade in comparison with that of China. In the fiscal year 2004-05, India’s total export amounted to $80 billion as against China’s global export of $593 billion.

What does India export to China? Mostly raw material for its construction industry and other semi-finished goods in exchange for Ganesha idols, toasters, television sets and so on. China sells value added goods to India, much as the British did during colonial times. Of course if you add to it “bitter gourds and grapes” (Wow!), the bilateral trade might jump to $20 billion by 2008.

Not to be scoffed at, true, because international trade helps create jobs and reduce tension in international relations, but pushing the expectations to the level of “strategic and cooperative partnership” is not only ridiculous but also dangerous. A free trade agreement would give China an unlimited access to Indian market, which would kill Indian manufacturing as it has done in the USA.

While the USA is a complex and dynamic economy and creates alternative jobs to replace the ones lost to Chinese manufacturing, India cannot mimic the USA. In the coming decades India would be racing against China: for energy, scarce raw materials, intellectual property, and outsourcing. While there are possibilities of cooperation, the competition between the two giants would be brutal.

India’s cooperative and strategic relationship with the USA, ranging from fighting terrorism and the security of the Indian Ocean to sophisticated technology sharing and building a knowledge society is too important to be sacrificed for another round of India-China illusory friendship. The USA has helped build Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China into global economic powers. India should see where its national interests lie.

1 comment:

  1. Many international comapnies are building roads and ports in china. Are they threatening India.

    About the trade between India and China. China now is more open to Indian goods. About the material exported to China, it is an Indian Issue, not the fault of China, and has nothing about policy. The only reason is that India can make no competetive industrial products for Chinese market. Without raw material, what can India export?

    Be a man, buddy. If you cannot make love, please don't complain woman is tigh. Yours are too soft.