Geopolitics

Historically India’s Soft Power Comes a Cropper to Chinese Irredentist Belligerence
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 24 Jun , 2015

India’s universities were the most important centres of cultural interaction. They attracted large number of students and scholars. Students and teachers from such universities carried Indian culture abroad along with its knowledge and religion. The Chinese pilgrim Huien-tsang is a classic example of this exchange. His stay at Nalanda University is well documented in India and China.  Vikramshila was another university whose description was given by the Tibetan scholar Taranatha. Teachers and scholars from this university were so famous that the Tibetan King is stated to have sent missions to invite the head of the university to promote interest in common culture and indigenous wisdom. Another university was Odantapuri in Bihar which grew in stature under the patronage of the Pala Kings. A number of monks migrated from this university and settled in Tibet.

What stands out most noticeably is that India spread its culture, religion and knowledge without ever carrying a sword to force its way into any country.

Two Indian teachers, Kashyapa Martanga and Dharmarakshita, went to China on an invitation from the Chinese Emperor in 67 CE. They were followed by a number of teachers from universities like Nalanda, Takshila, Vikramshila and Odantapuri. When Acharya Kumarajiva went to China, the Emperor requested him to translate Sanskrit texts into Chinese. The scholar Bodhidharma, who specialised in the philosophy of Yoga, is still venerated in China and Japan.

Achraya Kamalasheel of Nalanda University was invited by the King of Tibet. After his death, the Tibetans embalmed his body and kept it in a monastery in Lhasa. Another distinguished scholar was Janabhadra. He went to to Tibet with his two sons to preach Dharma. A monastery was founded in Tibet on the model of Odantapuri University. The influence was as widespread in Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. India’s links with West Asia were similarly well developed.

What stands out most noticeably is that India spread its culture, religion and knowledge without ever carrying a sword to force its way into any country. All interaction was people-to-people based. That scholars and students came and went unhindered speaks of the utopian nature of administration. It is in sharp contrast to how the Western Colonial powers carried out business by the sword and forced their religion on the people where ever they went. And what China is doing.

China is enacting the same drama claiming territories that were never theirs now with backing of hard power and bluster. India needs to be cautious with regards to these claims as they relate to it.

The geopolitics of India in the geographical context of the sub-continent has a lot to do with India’s benign existence. Self-contained and isolated on all sides by high mountains and oceans, in geopolitical terms in effect India is an island. This ‘island’ is surrounded in the southeast, south and southwest by oceans. To the west it is isolated by mountains that rise off the coast of the Arabian Sea stretching northwards to the Hindu Kush, where it swings east connecting Pamirs with the Karakoram ranges. Finally becoming Himalayas running southeast over 2000 miles to the border of Burma where the Rakhine Mountains emerge running south to the Bay of Bengal.

These mountains were substantial barriers; the terrain beyond these mountains in every direction was harsh and sparsely populated. In many ways the resources of lands beyond the high mountains were insufficient to support a sizable sedentary civilisation. As a result India rarely demonstrated an appetite for adventure beyond the subcontinent. So the reality was – relative isolation from the outside world, lack of imposed boundaries, immense population and localised systems and states that shifted constantly.

As it so amply emerges, China laid claims on lands it never occupied but may have subdued temporarily by the power of the sword. Always a case of hard power projection by China. In contrast Indians, not India, reached out and established intellectual and religious presence in most of Asia. Soft power radiating from India that has endured.

China is blatantly laying claims to most of Arunachal Pradesh and keeps the issue of Aksai Chin out of all discussions.

China is enacting the same drama claiming territories that were never theirs now with backing of hard power and bluster. India needs to be cautious with regards to these claims as they relate to it. India should not seek to display any over eagerness to resolve the boundary or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as China will extract major concessions.

As it is China has displayed no urgency to resolve the issue. As evidenced, after the Officials Meeting in 1960 which heavily favoured India’s arguments, Nehru proposed to seek resolution through the International Court of Justice, but China refused. The Colombo proposals after 1962 War were again not acceptable to it. It refused to exchange maps of the LAC of the Western (Ladakh) and Eastern (Arunachal Pradesh) Sectors. It is blatantly laying claims to most of Arunachal Pradesh and keeps the issue of Aksai Chin out of all discussions. It proposed settlement giving due consideration to the “settled populations” but revised its interpretation of the clause.

Moreover the Indian Supreme Court has ruled – “….. not an inch of Indian territory will be ceded without a Constitutional amendment.” All the more reason to put the issue on the back burner and lie low till the armed forces are modernised and ‘hollowness’ of the current forces made up and infrastructure along in the entire northern border built up with axial roads, lateral roads, tunnels for round the year access, large helipads and Advance Landing Grounds. Build up military strength well forward with overwhelming fire power to back the defending forces and by also positioning large uncommitted reserves in vicinity for immediate reaction.

References:

William A. Callahan,   “The Cartography of National Humiliation and the Emergence of China’s Geobody”, http://publicculture.org/articles/view/21/1/the-cartography-of-national-humiliation-and-the-em.

Le Minh Khai, “Sovereignty, Maps, etc.” https://leminhkhai.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/sovereignty-maps-etc/

Michael Turton, “The Century of Humiliation is Expansionist Baloney”, http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-century-of-humiliation-is.html.

Indian Culture and Heritage Secondary Course, http://www.nios.ac.in/media/documents/secichcour/english/ch.21.pdf

http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Seafaring_in_Ancient_India.htm

Dr George Friedman, “The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting Self-Contained World”, https://www.stratfor.com/analyses/geopolitics-india-shifting-self-contained-world.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa

is Editor Indian Defence Review and former Chief of Staff, Eastern Command and Director General Infantry.  He has authored two books Modernisation of the People's Liberation Army and  Modernisation of the Chinese PLA

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3 thoughts on “Historically India’s Soft Power Comes a Cropper to Chinese Irredentist Belligerence

  1. which Indian civilization? India itself is word of English given by British to these people>these hinduuos of ganga and juman vallies(actuall india or Hindu area or so called civilization) to made slaves of sikess and souths and see dreams of “greater” >ganga jumni fraaaaaaaaud civilization was not able to give one word of their dead soldier’s(these kafirs hinduuos use word shaheed: pure quranic and jihadi word for Muslims dead soldiers:” I just tell Chinese just give weapons and money to Pakistan> I will say on Quran we will teach such a lesson to these Indian hinduuos> they will next 2000yars will not seee any dream”

    • @yazKhan: Looks like you have a lot of hate for India, Hindus and the place where Ganga and Yamuna flow. You are not even a Pakistani or Chinese and you try to speak English and swear by religious book. You must be really frustrated. Try doing it with the desert sand if the jack ass kicked you out off the tent.

    • You do realize that Pakistan is just a vassal state, passing it’s vassalage from the US (& Saudi Arabia) to China. This is clear from your comments where you just invoke patronage of your Chinese masters for money, infrastructure, weapons etc. Moreover, we don’t need to worry about your destruction, you guys are doing a fine job without our help, specifically in FATA, NWFP, Balochistan, G-B, and, alienating Shias. If only you guys had realized your dharmic ancestry and vedic roots. Btw, someone in your ancestral lineage adopted the title ‘Khan’, either under physical duress, or, economic compulsion of that time.

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