India China Official Relations
Strategic partners since 2003. What is the scope of strategic partnership? Creation of multipolar world order. Means Challenging US hegemony. Cooperation in multilateral institutions like IMF, World Bank, WTO, Climate Change. What is the actual state? China is a biggest challenge for India’s foreign policy makers. There is a huge probability of the conventional war between India and China. Chinese proverb suggest that ‘there cannot be two tigers in a one mountain’.
What is China’s strategic culture? Shyam Saran in his book HOW INDIA SEES THE WORLD compares India’s and China’s perception. India see this world in the form of mandals. Each mandal has its own dwip (island). At the center lies Jambudwip, describes its sacred texts as four petaled lotus, floating in the ocean. Bharatvarsha is a southern pettle. Thus India never sees itself at the center, rather just a pettle. On the other hand, China always see itself as the center of the world, the ‘middle kingdom’. Thus China has an ambition to create sino-centric world order, if not in the world, at least in Asia. India can challenge China’s aspirations. Hence China wants India to remain contained in South Asia.
How Indian scholars look at China ?
There are three schools of thought.
1) Idealists, inspired by Tagore, Pandit Nehru. They talk about Asian century.
2) Realists. Sardar Patel. Sardar Patel warned Pandit Nehru that China is irredentist (land grabbing) country. China always had expansionist culture. The only way to deal with China is to remain prepared for war.
3) Pragmatic school. Shyam Saran, C Rajamohan. China is both a challenge and opportunity. (Always take this stand) Hence India’s policy should be congegment. It means engagement wherever possible and containment wherever necessary.
Views of Shivshankar Menon in CHOICES book.
China shares a very long border with India, has direct impact on India’s security. The asymmetrical accumulation of power constrain our ability to exercise strategic autonomy, a fundamental principle of India’s foreign policy. It means India would have no option but to go for partnership with USA to counterbalance the asymmetry. India cannot remain non aligned.
Overview of India’s China policy.
India’s China policy can be divided into following phases.
1] Nehruvian era: It is not that Pandit Nehru did not know that China is a threat. However Nehru preferred appeasement as a better way for defence. It was imperative for India to stay away from blocks. Hence India’s capability of defence were limited.
Analysis of India’s policy by John Garver PROTRACTED CONTEST book.
Nehru overestimated the value of India’s initial help to China. Nehru ignored the fundamentals. Nehru could never recover fully from the shock of 1962 war. It was a huge loss of prestige for India in the developing world. International community appreciated the radical approach of China rather than the timid status quoist position of India. Protracted conflict can end only when India accept China’s hegemony in South Asia or China accepts India as a regional hegemon. Both are impossible goals.
2] 1962 – 1990.
This phase is called as the phase of cold peace. No engagement with China after 1962 war. Though Vajpayee as a foreign minister in 1979 tried to break the ice, however when he was in China, same day China invaded Vietnam. Russia, India and Vietnam were allies. Hence it was embarrassing.
Towards the end of cold war.
By mid 80s, it was evident that USSR will not be able to retain itself as a superpower and India will need newer friends. Hence India started ‘Look East’ policy. Rajeev Gandhi visited China, he was successful in breaking the ice. Both the countries re-iterated the faith in Panchasheel and agreed to set up joint working group to resolve the border dispute. The very framework of the resolution of the dispute that it will be fair and from the position of equality was decided during the visit. What encouraged India? Deng Xiaoping’s peaceful rise. What motivated China? China knew that once USSR collapses, the theatre of conflict will shift towards China. Hence peaceful relations with neighbours is needed. China should bide time, focus on internal development.
3] India China relations since the end of cold war.
US administration started looking at India as the ideal swing state to balance the rise of China. Thus India-US strategic partnership resulted into India going for look east policy. Now the look east policy became the strategic initiative to contain China. As China was increasing its presence in South Asia, India had temptation to enter in China’s neighbourhood.
What is the impression of India among Chinese strategists?
Since beginning Chinese looked at India as the supporters of imperialist powers. China was extremely annoyed with India’s decision to join Commonwealth. Chinese never looked at India as a mature country. USA always had a role in India-China relations. Even in Nehruvian era, India’s policy towards China has been influenced by USA.
What is the basic conflict between China and USA?
USA’s hegemonic ambitions force USA to follow the policy of containment of China. It is because of USA, Taiwan cannot be integrated, Hong Kong remains democratic and Tibet remains unsettled.
USA also has hands in Uyghur insurgency. China is completely contained in the east by US and its allies. On the western side, India prevents the expansion of China. The only direction China can expand is toward Eurasia. To connect China with Eurasia, Tibet and Xinjiang are important. To maintain connectivity between its restive provinces Tibet and Xinxiang, China needs Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin is the only land route which connects and can be utilized throughout the year. Hence China sees that India always act as a puppet of USA.
1962 Indo China war.
Reasons for Indo China War
It is a boundary dispute which resulted into border war.
Why? Territory is a western concept. India and China used to be civilizational states. There used to be transition zones. It was Britishers who tried to fix Indian boundaries to avoid war with expansionist Russia. India and China have boundary dispute in three sectors.
1] The eastern sector – China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory. China accused India of occupying 90,000 square miles of territory. China does not accept MacMohan line. Why? According to China, it is a imperial boundary. It was the outcome of Shimla conference in 1914. Chinese delegation left the conference. British entered into the agreement with the representative of Tibet. What has been the relation between Tibet and China? Whenever Chinese central empire was strong, Tibet was under control of China but when it was weak, Tibet used to be autonomous. What was British view on Tibet? British accepted China’s sovereignty on Tibet, however they divided Tibet into two lines. 1) Inner Tibet – Full sovereignty of China. 2) Outer Tibet – Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang tract as a part of China but autonomous.
2] Middle sector – not much conflict, the basic conflict was on Sikkim. In 2003, during Vajpayee’s visit, China recognized India’s sovereignty on Sikkim. China opened Nathu La pass for cross border trade.
3] Western sector – India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square miles of Indian territory. i.e. Aksai Chin since 1962. Pakistan has also given 2170 square miles territory to China, known as Shaksgam valley. At present the two forces are divided at LAC (Line of Actual Control). Britishers wanted to settle the boundary in the west. Britishers proposed two maps. 1) Johnson line – this will put Aksai Chin under India. 2) MacDonald line – this will put Aksai Chin under China’s sovereignty. China did not accept any of the map. There was no communication or engagement with respect to the boundary on western sector. According to Indian sources, it has been a part of state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to China, it is an extension of Tibet. The problem is bigger in Aksai Chin because it is not habituated. In Arunachal Pradesh, the opinion of people can be taken. Presently area is under Chinese occupation.
What has been China’s approach? It has been reported that China offered package deal. If India accept Chinese sovereignty in Aksai Chin, China will accept India’s sovereignty in Arunachal Pradesh. India’s approach? No package deal. There will be proper demarcation in each sector. What is the current approach of China? China has increased its demands on Arunachal Pradesh. Why change in the stand? Earlier the gap between powers of India and China was not that big. Now, there is a huge asymmetry. There is no need for China to compromise. What is India’s approach? Earliest resolution of Border dispute. According to Modi, ‘future generation should not be the prisoner of past’. What is China’s approach? China already has, what it wants. If China will resolve the dispute, India will have more free hand to promote instability in Tibet. China will lose the leverage. So long Tibet issue is not resolved to China’s satisfaction, China will not resolve the border dispute. So long border dispute is not resolved, India will not lose the Tibet card (Dalai Lama), the only leverage that India has. China wants 1) Peace and tranquility at border. 2) Go for border incursions time to time to pressurize India. Why China does incursions? Psychological warfare. To burst Indian bubble. China’s strategy is directed towards South East Asian countries. Why? They look at India as a balancer in their territorial dispute.
What led to the war?
1) The status of Tibet.
There was apprehension of war with respect to the status of Tibet as China knew India’s connections. (Cultural-historical as well as administrative [British had special rights in Tibet]).
What is geopolitical importance of Tibet to India? Tibet is a ideal buffer state. Hence from India’s point of view, it will be a huge disadvantage in war if Tibet is under the control of China. What was Nehru’s approach? As India was not in a situation of war, Nehru preferred appeasement. e.g. Panchsheel agreement of 1954. Contest of the agreement. Settlement of Tibetan issue. 1) India recognized the sovereignty of China on Tibet. 2) India left all special rights, which it had (trading rights) because of the British. 3) Panchsheel agreement included the view that there will no interference by each other in domestic affairs. (India accepted Tibet as a domestic affair of China. 4) Panchsheel agreement also held that both will accept each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, mutual respect, non-aggression and peaceful settlement of dispute. Analysis of Nehru’s action. It is said that India lacks strategic culture. In International sphere, India may be ‘hard negotiator’ but ‘poor bargainer’. There was huge criticism of Nehru’s approach in India because Nehru got nothing in return. It was unilateral. What India should have bargained? In return of recognition of China’s sovereignty over Tibet, India should have pressurized for the settlement of boundary on eastern, middle and western sector. What was Nehru’s attitude? Nehru’s attitude was to avoid war by appeasement. What does the fundamentals of international politics suggest?
1) In international sphere, countries are either in the war or in the preparation of war. 2) The only way to avoid war is, be prepared for war. Either internal balancing or external balancing. India did nothing. India opted non-alignment. However China is a country that will never let India to assert autonomy. What is China’s view on war? China blames Nehru’s forward policy. According to China, India is a imperialist nation and it was necessary to teach a lesson. According to China, India has not upheld Panchsheel. How? & What was Nehru’s forward policy? When there was a criticism of Nehru in the parliament, the way he dealt on Tibet issue, he changed his approach. China accused India supporting Tibetan insurgents. India was working with CIA to train the insurgents in Darjeeling hills.
In 1957, it was reported that China has built a road across Aksai Chin, known as Karakoram highway. Hence to subside the domestic criticism, Nehru ordered the establishment of Indian Military bases in Aksai Chin. This action of Nehru is called as forward policy.
1959, India granted asylum to Dalai Lama. China accused that without India’s help, it would not have been possible. Hence India need to be taught a lesson. According to China, the 1962 war was offensive defence. A preemptive approach to protect China’s sovereignty.
Consequences of 1962 war.
1_Humiliating defeat for India and India has not been able to recover.
2_It created such a huge trust deficit that a permanent rivalry has got established between the two Asian giants.
3_India played in the hands of USA rather than having its own independent policy.
4_It emboldened Pakistan to start the war in 1965.
5_Later on China Pakistan started coming together. Pakistan brought US and China together. The three formed an axis which compelled India to seek quasi-alliance with USSR. Even USSR did not favour India in 1962 war. USSR stopped the supply of Migs during 1962 war. India was compelled to seek the help from USA. However before USA’s help arrived, China had withdrawn, declared ceasefire.
Movement towards negotiations for resolution of border disputes.
In 1987, there was Chinese incursion in Sumdorong Chu valley, Arunachal Pradesh. The reasons was, India gave the status of state to Arunachal Pradesh.
1988, Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China changed the climate of the relations.
1993 Narsimha Rao’s visit resulted into peace and tranquility agreement at border. It is because of this agreement, LAC is peaceful.
2003 Vajpayee’s visit.
1) Strategic partnership with China.
2) China recognized Sikkim.
3) India China agreed to determine guiding principles and political parameters to solve the disputes.
4) Agreed to setup the mechanism of special representatives.
5) Agreed that the resolution will be in 3 stages.
i) Agreement on guiding principles and political parameters.
ii) Demarcation on the ground as per the agreement.
iii) Exchange of map.
What is the status? First two stages are complete, only third stage is pending. However China is not showing any urgency. In 1990s the gap in power was not so huge but now there is huge asymmetry. Hence China only aims at, at the max peace remains on the border.
What are guiding principles?
As agreed during Rajiv Gandhi’s visit, resolution will be fair and from the position of equality.
While demarcating the boundary, geographical features, sentiments of the population and practical difficulties will be considered.
Till the time border dispute is not resolved, we cannot expect qualitative improvement.
What is the current trend?
Rising China has become a serious threat for India.
There is a growth of China Pakistan Axis.
India Russia relations are not that strong. On the contrary, Russia China Pakistan axis is emerging. Hence India is compelled to go for internal balancing (India is developing its conventional and non conventional capacities).
India is entering into strategic partnerships / quasi alliance with like minded countries. e.g. USA, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand.
It is predicted that there is a huge possibility of India-China war on Indian ocean. Indian ocean has become a new theatre of conflict. India is working with US and Japan to maintain rule based peaceful order in Indo-Pacific.
Current state of Indo China relations. 2019.
After Doklam crisis of 2017, there was a thaw in the relations. Significant improvement since Wuhan Informal summit in 2018. Wuhan spirit was declared by ministry of External affairs as movement towards ‘Asian Century’. At Wuhan they agreed to reduce the trade deficit, recognize wide and overlapping regional and global interests. Resumed joint military exercises. China ended its reservations on Masood Azhar. India diluted its commitment for QUAD. India released its vision for Indo Pacific at Shangri La dialogue in inclusive terms.
China showed sensitivity towards India’s interest in Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Regular meetings at BRICS, SCO platforms.
Second informal summit is planned in Varanasi in October.
Modi also called Indo China relations as ‘multilayered’
India and China acted as engines for global economic grow for 1600 years out of the past 2000 years.PM Modi at Wuhan Summit. April 2018.
No other relationship of India has as many layers as our relations with China.Modi at Shangri La dialogue June 2018.
What are the complexities?
The post Cold war world order has created the state of complex interdependence. India needs to work with China at WTO, Climate change talks to counter the unilateralism of USA. Multilateralism is necessary to ensure India’s economic growth which in turn gives India opportunity to balance China. However in the regional context, India has to work with USA to ensure that the rise of China remains peaceful. The uncertainty created by Trump administration has compelled India to rebalance its relations with China, Russia, Iran and other countries in the region. According to the Indian strategic community, India should pursue the policy of ‘multiple alignments’. Multiple alignments give India the bargaining power.
What should be the approach of India China toward each other?
The Chinese president has given ‘five point approach’ at BRICS summit in Brazil.
1_Continue the strategic communications. (High level communications).
2_Handle the difference with maturity.
3_Harness each other’s comparative strength.
4_Collaborate on multilateral forums.
5_Stengthen people to people contacts.
According to former secretary and present foreign minister S Jayashankar, India and China should follow Astana consensus agreed in June 2017 SCO summit.
1_It recognized that in the age of global uncertainty, India China are the factors of stability.
2_India China should not allow differences to become disputes.
3_He wants India to be imaginative and open minded. (It’s not always required to see China from negative perspective.) India should learn from the wisdom of China. To quote Sun Tzu, ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting’.
What are the other issues in India China relations?
1_Trade imbalance… / write on your own.
2_China is protectionist…
_Bramhaputra issue. China is trying to build dams over it.
_Data sharing agreement with China (of Bramhaputra river). In 2018 we witnessed it benefits of it i.e. its easier to predict floods when we have data about river flow in its China region.
6_Conflicts on ocean.
// In Exam current developments on these topics will be asked.
Que. How China challenges US hegemony? / How Iran challenges etc.
1_Write theory of hegemony little bit, hegemonic stability.
Regarding the status of US hegemony, there is a debate between the declinist and anti-declinists.
A_Declinists – Samuel P Huntington, Robert D Kaplan, Mearsheimer, Henry Kissinger, Robert Gilpin, Michael Mandelbaum, Fareed Zakaria, Joseph Nye.
B_Anti-declinists – Madeleine Albright, Charles Krauthammer, Suzan Strange.
Declinist argument – Since the end of cold war, we see a very short period of unipolar movement as US hegemony started declining with Sep 11 attack. Why it declined? According to Joseph Nye, excessive use of hard power despite the fact that US had enormous soft power. Francis Fukuyama in his later works criticized the policies of George Bush responsible for the end of the end of history. According to Robert Gilpin, the normal span for any country’s hegemony is 100 years. The biggest challenge to US hegemony is coming from China. As per the report of RAND corporation ‘Receding frontiers of US military dominance in East Asia’ – USA’s dominance will be over by 2020 in East Asia. According to IMF director Christine Lagarde within 10 years, IMF would have to open its office in Beijing (it depends upon the size of the economy of the member country). Long back Napoleon had remarked that ‘Once China comes out of slumber, it will astonish the world’. Fareed Zakaria held that ‘We are already living in ‘post American world”.
Once China comes out of slumber, it will astonish the world.Napoleon Bonaparte
However anti-declinist believed that China is no match to USA’s power. Before China will become too big, China will grow old. USA is a indispensable nation (Madeleine Albright). According to Charles Krauthammer, decline is a choice. According to Susan Strange ‘the structural power of USA is unbeatable’.
Though anti-declinist do not accept that China is displacing USA yet US administration has started the policies of containment. As suggested by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USA is making ‘strategic bait’ on India. Hence India US relations have to be seen in the background of US China relations.
Jeff Smith THE COLD PEACE book.
On Indo China relations.
China’s perception of India is of either disbane or disinterest. China does not accept the rivalry as the rivalry of equals. The six Ts (Territory, Tibbet, Taiwan, Third Party, Threat Perception) share the relations. Though the relations are conflictual, yet cooperation is not altogether missing. Unlike India Pakistan relations, China India relations have not been zero sum game. Competition and cooperation moved on parallel tracks. They were able to craft the durable framework in the confines of cold peace. (It is believed that cooperation could take place because China acted as a mature country where India could not reflect similar maturity in dealing with Pakistan). What is the current situation? China has outmaneuvered India almost everywhere. According to Rajiv Sikri, India should not lose the psychological war against China. According to C Rajamohan, the unintended consequence of China is, it compels India to think more strategically. According to former foreign secretary, India needs to be imaginative, open minded, neither complacent, nor rhetorical.