What are China’s intentions towards India?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just met the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and they talked peace. Strangely, there was no mention of the tensions over Arunachal Pradesh. But why avoid the issue? According to the Indian army chief, between 2006 and 2008, Chinese intrusions doubled from 140 incidents to 270. That’s not all. China keeps screaming if our politicians travel to Arunachal, and keeps making claims about Arunachal being part of China. The British drew a disputed Line , but they left a long time ago, so why the sudden aggression?
We should thrash out this issue soon. Or are we going to do it at a later date, when things get worse? Are we going to wait until China brings it up and react defensively?
Funnily, Arunachal is more integrated with India than most other north eastern states. Its people speak Hindi as a link language for one thing. And even otherwise they have a strong Indian identity. Plus, in the latest assembly election they had a 72% voter turnout! In fact Arunachalis are willing to fight and give up their lives to keep China out. They know that joining China means complete obliteration of their indigenous culture. The trouble China will face if it ever annexes Arunachal will be much more than what they are experiencing in Tibet.
I am sure China knows this, and with their present problems with the Uighurs in Xinjiang and in Tibet, the last thing they want is more violence. Ofcourse China’s AP hysteria maybe a long term strategy, but on the other hand China might have another agenda.
What could China’s agenda be? Here are a few theories which I gathered from reading on the subject:
- China wants to expand its territory, it wants Arunachal Pradesh. And eventually plans to annex it. Sounds ridiculous for a country in 2009, but is China in 2009?
- China is acting like a big bully and flexing its muscles because it has now become an economic power.
- China doesn’t want Arunachal at all, but it surely covets Tawang, which used to be a part of Tibet. China annexed Tibet, but the British had made Tawang a part of India. A lot of Tibetans live in Tawang and China fears that this is where they could create trouble for China. So, China’s plans (at a later date) would be to agree to give up claims on AP in exchange for India giving up Tawang.
- What China really wants to do is destabilize India because it doesn’t want a powerful neighbour. Is it worried that it won’t be the only powerful country in Asia? Is China insecure about it’s own growth? Is it worried that its export-led economic model is not as good as India’s more balanced economy? Or that India will gang up against it with the other democracies once it becomes economically stronger? And is that why China is using the same destructive strategy that Pakistan employed for the last two decades to try and destroy India? Here are some examples:
- China clandestinely supports anti-India groups in India (Assam, Kashmir and the North East). Sure we don’t have hard proof just as yet, but then we didn’t have it of Pakistan’s involvement for many years either. China is friends with Pakistan, which everyone knows is the hub of terrorists activities of the world. China has also helped Pakistan with its nuclear capabilities. And it has helped Pakistan with weapons. You can read more about China’s growing role in PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) here.
- China was reluctant to support the U.N. sanctions against Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front, Jammat-ud-Dawa, the organizations responsible for the Mumbai hotel attacks. Finally China was forced to give in.
- China is opposed to India being made permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
- There have been news articles in the Chinese media about breaking up India. No articles in the Chinese media appear without the government’s approval.
- Chinese supports anti-Indian factions in Nepal.
- The Chinese has had a “String of Pearls” strategy for India for some time now. This strategy basically refers to China’s geo-political influence around India. The Chinese pearls are Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Pakistan and apparently a signals intelligence unit has come up on Cocos Islands, near the Andamans. You can read more about this subject here.
5. China wants to divert the attention of its citizens from its own social and economic problems. Apparently China has a rather serious problem on its hands in Xinjiang, far more so than it is letting on. China is also facing economic problems and it’s not just due to the economic disparity in its country, but also because many factories have closed down recently, forcing labour to go back to the countryside.
6. China is worried about Indo-US ties and wants to weaken India.
You can take your pick but if you ask me I think that China has little understanding of democracy (it saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s campaigning in Arunachal during the elections as threatening to it) and has no idea as to how the world has changed. It will never be able to manage the Arunachalis, who love India and love democracy and have been a part of India for more than half a century.
Countries with political systems such as China’s are naturally aggressive. In any case, I doubt that China will really take Arunachal Pradesh for reasons mentioned earlier in the post. Sure, it wants to dominate in Asia but they know that they will have to brutally suppress the culture of the Arunachalis to rule them and that is not something they want to tackle. At least not now. I believe that China is simply playing a game, in the hope of getting India to give up Tawang and back off from its claim on Aksai Chin. India says Aksai Chin is a part of Jammu and Kashmir and China which is holding Aksai Chin, says it’s part of China.
Pessimists like Gordon Chang (writes a weekly column for Forbes), author of The Coming Collapse of China, feel that the Arunachal problem could erupt into war, but there are others, like B. Raman, a retired Additional Secretary from India, who feel more optimistic and believe that “expanding economic relations between the two countries will ultimately moderate the Chinese position and facilitate a mutually acceptable compromise”. I think the truth lies somewhere inbetween. As I mentioned earlier I doubt that China will want war but I also doubt that China will want to compromise in any way except in a way which will benefit it.
The Solutions (from what I have read)
Pursue diplomacy aggressively. Misunderstandings and miscalculations can often escalate the issue.
Stop sensationalisation of the issue. Sensationalising the border issue, whipping up jingoistic sentiment amongst the public can be dangerous.
However, make the public aware. Give out the correct information.
India needs to be militarily prepared because China is.
We need infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control. China has it.
We need to ensure that our side of the story is told to the rest of the world.
The security forces should police the Indo-China Border, but do so without any noise.
Development of Arunachal Pradesh should be undertaken.
India should address the issue. Speak up and use all diplomatic means to solve the issue. There has been a beginning. For example, India has recently said that China must stop all its activities in Pak-Occupied Kashmir, which is a disputed territory. India also spoke up against Chinese objections to our PM’s visit to our own state.
(The photograph is from China.org and was taken during the 2008 meeting and map credits: travels.talash.com))
Related Reading: All posts on China.