The fact that the media is government paid and government controlled in Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is no secret. It is convenient since then the population, particularly the youth can be fed what the CCP wants to feed them. The information explosion and social networking has upset all that though no stone is left unturned to curb even that. So there is no wonder that anything in foreign media, including Indian media, which is not in tune with what the CCP wants to feed the population is not taken kindly.
This may come as a surprise to you as unlike China, our media is not paid by the government and so there is freedom to write what one feels, particularly in blogs.
In the above context, I received a communication titled ‘some questions’ from a serving PLA scholar I had met during an international seminar last year. The scholar claimed to have read an article of mine, deduced it was very very hostile to China, wanted to know why and also forwarded a set of four questions seeking response that would help in the scholar’s research. Replying to the insinuation of “very very hostile to China”, my response was thus – I have authored some 350 articles and two books since I retired in end November 2009 and many of these on subject other than China are much more critical of my own country on many issues. You would agree that if I was a Chinese national and criticized my own country in similar fashion, I would be in jail or probably done away with. This may come as a surprise to you as unlike China, our media is not paid by the government and so there is freedom to write what one feels, particularly in blogs. I believe in writing bluntly since I believe it is through criticism that points for improvement can emerge. There is no hostility or animosity that I nurture towards China. For my son’s wedding in November 2011, I had invited Vice Chairman of a prominent Think Tank in Beijing. When I extended the invitation to him verbally while visiting Beijing earlier in that year, he was taken aback, surprised and he asked me, “Does this mean you consider me a friend?” I was equally surprised by this question and my response was, “Of course I do.”
Perhaps he thought I was joking but then I sent him a formal invitation after returning to India. Closer to the wedding I received a telephone call from China’s Assistant Military Attaché in New Delhi that the Vice Chairman of the Think Tank in question thanked me but was unable to attend, and whether the Military Attaché can attend and represent him. I confirmed this. Later I received another telephone call asking whether the Assistant Military Attaché can also attend. I again confirmed both are welcome along with anyone else. They both did come and attended the wedding. I don’t think I would have done so if I nurtured any hostility towards China and I don’t think many military personnel posted at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi would have received invitations on personal level to attend an Indian wedding, if at all.
The response to the four questions was as under:
Question 1. What is your comment on the present Sino-India relationship? What is your opinion on its future development?
Declassified US documents of 1962 vintage disclose official noting stating “it is in US interest to ensure India and China should never join hands.”
Response. The present Sino-Indian relationship has plenty unease despite the facade of normalcy that both governments project. The onus of future development predominantly falls on China, as may be seen from the obstacles discussed in response to Question 2 below. As per all indications, China will become the number one economy surpassing the USA in couple of years and Indian economy too will come to number three position surpassing that of Japan. You can well imagine what power a strong Sino-Indian relationship can wield. Declassified US documents of 1962 vintage disclose official noting stating “it is in US interest to ensure India and China should never join hands.” So, there are external factors that would not want the Sino-Indian relationship to flourish. But China being an economic giant can easily understand how a strong Sino-Indian relationship can benefit both economies and the betterment of the world, of which I am mentioning just three: First, China’s quest to the Indian Ocean is well known, which is vital to its increasing energy needs despite future possibilities through the Arctic, the Eurasian energy corridor etc. That is why the efforts through Myanmar and Pakistan. However, a good Sino-Indian relationship opens tremendous possibilities for China to use Indian ports for trade; Second, The South-South Corridor for trade would open up connecting Eursia-CAR-Afghanistan with South Asia and Southeast Asia, which would catapult the Asian Century into the next level. China can promote this even now with its influence on Pakistan and physical presence within Pakistan, particularly in the Gilgit-Baltistan area but is not doing so; Third, a joint Sino-Indian effort to counter Islamic radicalism is vital for stability. China should understand this better with increased violence in Xinjiang and with the recent incident at Tiananmen Square on 28th October.
Question 2. What do you think are the main problems (obstacles for further development) in the Sino-India relationship?
Response. These in my view are as under, other than China passing on nuclear materials (mainly 500 ring magnets) and technology to Pakistan that China denies :
- Not only is China in illegal occupation of considerable Indian Territory (mainly Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley), more significantly Chinese claim lines have been expanding over the years. To top this are the periodic and wilful intrusions which are portrayed as something happening at the Border Defence Regiment level but certainly are being orchestrated centrally at much higher level since these Border Defence Regiments are under command of the PLA, and these are on the increase with the new leadership in place. No Border Defence Regiment patrol can take a decision on its own to intrude 25-30 kilometres deep without higher blessings. More significantly, these are in wilful defiance of all the previous joint agreements: Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas signed on 7th September 1993, another Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, the Protocol on Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in India-China Border Areas signed on 11th April 2005 and the Agreement on Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs signed on 17th January 2012. The recent BDCA despite the media blitz covers nothing new and maintaining its sanctity depends on China. It would be no surprise if China violates it too as China appears to be following the ‘Carrot and Stick Policy’ against India.
- In Arunachal Pradesh, China claims Tawang on grounds that Tibetans come to pray at the ancient Tawang monastery but what about the enclaves of Minsar (Men ser), near Lake Manasarovar (Ma pham) which are for annual pilgrimage for all Indians and Bhutanese enclave of Tconsists of Darchen (Dar chen) Labrang etc near Mount Kailash (Gangs rin po che, Ti se) again used by Bhutanese and Indians for periodic pilgrimage – both these enclaves being under illegal occupation of China? Incidentally, Mount Kailash is the abode of an Indian God as per ancient mythology.
- The expanded claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh (suddenly sprung as late as 2005) as South Tibet is highly preposterous. Coming to the claim of South Tibet, if China wants to go back in history, then it cannot go back to a period it desires. Might as well go back all the way. Indian territories were once right up to the Hindukush Mountains, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were part of India and portions of Tibet too were annexed by India. British Indian troops were holding Yatung but it does not mean that we start claiming all this territory. ‘In the seventh century Tibet was an empire, spanning the high heartland and deserts of the north-west, reaching from the borders of Uzbekistan to Central China, from halfway across Xinjiang, an area larger than the Chinese heartland. Indeed in 763 Tibetan army briefly captured the Chinese capital Chang-an (today’s Xian and much later it was the Mongols who later ruled China then occupied Tibet. So should Mongolia claim Tibet? Historically until the early 13th Century, China had no claims on Tibet. Indeed the opposite applied: Tibet ruled half of present day China, but looked to India for its most significant influence, Buddhism. So on what basis does China claim authority? What is the justification for what happened in the 1950’s, the liberation by Mao’s army, when 30,000 battle hardened communist troops crushed 4000 Tibetans?
- Trade. The bilateral trade continues to be grossly in favour of China and needs to be balanced out as per the original joint agreement. Then is the question of the South-South Corridor (as mentioned above) which China is making no move to facilitate.
- Islamic Terrorism. Pakistan remains a major irritant in both Sino-Indian and Indo-US relations because of its proxy war, which incidentally is likely to increase once American leave Afghanistan. There have been indications that China has been giving tacit support to Pakistan in this, an example being China’s initial efforts to scuttle a resolution at the UN against Hafiz Saeed, the main perpetrator of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack. Both US and China are concerned about terrorism emanating from Pakistan only in respect of their respective mainland and not what terrorism Pakistan is subjecting India to. However, it would be prudent for China to take stock after killing of three Chinese nationals on 23 June 2013 at the western base camp of Nanga Parbat by the newly set up wing (Junood ul-Hifsa) of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the 28th October 2013 terrorist strike in Tienamen Square killing five and injuring 38 plus the increased violence in Xinjiang. When Pakistan has been double crossing USA, why will it not deal with China same way. Any reasons why Pakistan cannot locate the 600 strong special unit of the ETIM hiding in Pakistan?
- UNSC Seat. Most Chinese would not be aware that the UN seat was first offered to India but Pandit Nehru, Indian Prime Minister gave it to China saying that first ‘Big Brother’ should have that privilege. Today the irony is that China opposes India’s bid for a UNSC seat. This is despite Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister reiterating that there is enough space for both India and China to grow.
- Disputed Areas. China has been warning India not to assist Vietnam for oil exploration in Vitnamese waters on grounds that it is disputed territory but then what about the numerous Chinese projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir including exploration of minerals?
Question 3. What do you think about the present military-to-military relations between China and India?
Response. Outwardly they may be portrayed as friendly but there is deep suspicion of Chinese designs because of factors mentioned above.
Question 4. What are the main problems in the present military-to-military relation between China and India?
Response. These could be summarized as under:
- Support to Proxy War. As mentioned above, China’s tacit support to Pakistan in latter’s proxy war against India creates distrust. Then are periodic media reports that China is supplying arms to Indian Maoists and has even provided arms manufacturing facilities to Kachen rebels in Myanmar and Indian Maoists. By arming the United State Wa Army (USWA) in Myanmar to the teeth including machine guns, mortars, shoulder fired air defence missiles, mechanised vehicles and even missile fitted helicopters (this year), China has created a lethal terrorist organization in India’s neighbourhood much more powerful than even the LTTE. Chinese intelligence has also been supporting other Indian insurgent outfits. For example, when the ULFA camps were route from Bhutan, China accommodated them on Chinese soil and provided training and arms. China’s links (training and provision of arms) to the Taliban too are well documented.
- Border Management. Periodic intrusions to change the status quo disregarding the joint agreement of maintaining peace and tranquillity along the borders are a prominent cause of discord. There have been incidents of Chinese soldiers jostling their Indian counterparts along the LAC, video footing of which is available and appears in the electronic media on occurrence. How then can there be trust?
- Border Infrastructure. Border infrastructure on the Chinese side of the LAC has been methodically developed over the years, to which India never objected. How then can China object to development of roads and tracks by India? This type of bullying must stop.
- Gilgit-Baltistan. China is reportedly digging some 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan area with intent to house missiles. Ate these benign moves coupled with the deployment of nuclear missiles in Tibet targeting India?
- Stapled Visas. China’s handling of ‘disputed areas’ has already been explained in response Question 2 above. This drama of stapled visa for officials from Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh and more significantly not giving a visa to India’s northern Army Commander on grounds of ‘disputed area’ are moves that only increases distrust and acrimony.
- Territory. CCTV (which is totally state controlled) has been showing whole of J&K as part of Pakistan. How then can you expect Indian Military to have good relations with China.
Readers may draw their own conclusions.