In the last couple of months, avoidable unpleasantness have been evident in the Sino-India relations- the starting point of the unpleasantness being India’s intention to explore oil in the South China Sea. But the final corroboration came after Beijing called off talks with Delhi last week that was meant to address their long-running border dispute. The decision followed a spat over the Dalai Lama’s planned speaking engagement at a Global Buddhist Conference in the Indian capital injecting certain distrust into the relations which had been progressing quite well despite the continuing differences over the border dispute between the two countries.
It so happened that the dates of the conference coincided with the 15th round of the talks on the pending border issue between the Special Representatives of the Prime Ministers of the two countries which were supposed to oversee the finalization of the “Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs” resolving disputes in certain pockets on the 4,000 kilometer-plus line of actual control (LAC). So far, both sides have tried to play down the abrupt postponement and statements from both sides have been carefully calibrated. Though, Delhi refused to interfere with the international Buddhist conference which hosted some 800 Buddhist spiritual leaders, both India’s president and prime minister avoided the event not to further aggravate the rising dragon.
Obviously, China seems to have been enraged in the wake of a tense East Asia Summit in Bali last month when most ASEAN nations, India and the United States asserted their right for a multi-lateral solution to disputes in the region, including those in the South China Sea. Naturally, Beijing’s increasing presence in Myanmar and especially in Pakistan-held Kashmir which is something that India has objected vigorously to in recent months has been the undoubtedly exacerbated concerns and botheration for the South Asian bully. Also, the expansion of China’s port agreements in the Indian Ocean which is also known as the string of pearls, and heightened Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean have further shaken the India’s security.
Chinese analysts believe that India wants to play the South China Sea card against China in order to complicate China’s strategic environment in East Asia and gain some leverage in India-China relations. As the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary, “India jitters at the sight of China gaining prestige in Asia, in particular, in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and takes China’s ever-growing regional influence in recent years as a strategic encirclement to target and contain India.”
Most recently former Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, wrote about Beijing’s encirclement strategy. “China, has wei qui (known in Japan as go), which focuses on strategic encirclement. As Sun Tzu advised many centuries ago,” Ultimate excellence lies…not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy, without ever fighting.” According to the U.S. Naval War College analyst, James Holmes, a widely reported incident supposedly involving the Chinese and Indian navies, in which a Chinese officer is alleged to have warned an Indian vessel to leave waters claimed by China, probably never took place. And he takes Singh to task for writing as if it almost certainly did. “Singh drains all ambiguity from a situation fraught with it. Then, having assumed what happened to INS Airavat last summer, he uses this suspect assumption to cast Chinese motives and actions in the worst possible light,” Holmes wrote. “For their part, Chinese commentators construe analyses such as Singh’s as part of a concerted Indian strategy to portray China as a malign actor in the South China Sea. Having discredited China, India and its allies mean to outflank, encircle, and contain it—frustrating its rightful aspirations. Each contender, then, tends to interpret the evidence as confirming its misgivings about the other. Mutual suspicions give rise to a competitive cycle that leads…who knows where.”
Be that as it may, but mutual distrust has mounted as both sides shore up their defenses. In the recent months, India has declared it will raise 100,000 troops for stationing along its border with China, including a regiment equipped with cruise missiles. India’s newest nuclear-capable missile (so called as “the China killer’’ by the more sensationalist domestic press) Agni V, named after the Hindu god of fire, is due to be tested within three months. It will be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead 5000 kilometres, meaning it can reach not only Beijing and Shanghai but all of northern China as reported by the Indian media, which is keen to pounce on any report, however dubious it turns out to be.
Also, expressing concern over China’s involvement in the Kashmir region, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said India should show “some spine” while dealing with that country. “I wish India shows some spine while dealing with China,” he said. “Why is it that China wants us to follow ‘One China’ policy for them but it won’t follow a ‘One India’ policy for India,” he asked.
While I may sound incoherent or running out of context, but it seems like the Indians are eventually talking about ‘One India’ policy, it may appear that it is about time that the leaders of smaller countries like Nepal, in South Asia, neighboring India put forward their issues and start raising over their voice against all those border encroachment issues and the Greater Nepal agenda before the South Block that have been there for ages. Wait! Did I just mention Nepalese leaders? Who am I kidding? Forgive me, I happend to forget that Nepalese leaders respects ‘One China’ policy, ‘One India’ policy but they just don’t care about the ‘One Nepal’ policy. Maybe it’s again time for our very own Fanindra Nepal to put on some warm clothes and raise the agenda of Greater Nepal and Strike while the iron is still hot. How about showing “some spine”?
As Jason Miks, writes in his blog, “Today’s India, no matter how anxious it intends to lead the region and even the world, is far from potent and prosperous to act of its own accord.” Why India appears so impatient to take more agreeable strategies in its periphery is still beyond understanding but in South East Asia and amongst the Chinese, ambitious and unscrupulous Indians have given themselves a bad image. “The string of pearls” by India, coupled with “The China Threats theories” of the US have been circulating around for some time. Although these imaginary threats will naturally be dissipated overtime, we are now witnessing countries hoping to seize this opportune moment to inch their way forward against China. All under a cloud of wishful thinkings and short-sightedness.
Just to recall, as I witnessed a couple of teen-agers about to be involved in a street fight recently, the words were,”Whats your problem? Man!” stressing on he said “your” problem and NOT broadly mentioned “Whats the problem?”
Quote of the week: “The soap opera [of India-China relations] just got a little interesting,” Jabin Jacob, assistant director at the New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies. “It’s not really a cold war, but sort of a cold peace.”
The writer is an International Student in China.