Bharat and China: A Cautionary Tale

via Dr. Vijaya Rajiva published on July 2, 2010

Ever since Jawaharlal Nehru visited his wooly headed idealism on the unfortunate Indian public, the saga of India-China relations has been beset by one form or other of confused thinking. Despite the Chinese betrayal in 1962 (of which there were many prior warning signs) Indian politicians and leaders continue to believe that the northern neighbour is a smiling soft entity that wants friendship with India. Nothing could be further from the truth and the Indian public should follow its well honed instincts. China’s overweening ambition to be the super power in South Asia has never changed, whether the official policy is Maoism or straightforward Nationalism.

While bilateral trade and economic co operation are desirable with all countries, India
should exercise great caution in that field, vis a vis China. The polyannish talk of increased trade between the two countries hitting nearly US $ 60 billion  by the end of 2010, must be placed against the fact that there is an enormous trade deficit for India in this ‘cosy ‘relationship. That deficit has been  US  $ 27 billion  so far and will continue. India sends raw materials to China, not value added goods, while China dumps its value added manufactured goods on India. In addition, the small industries sector in India is suffering owing to the cheap products dumped in Indian markets. The presen writer had ample opportunity to see this in the  cheap Chinese goods stocked in Indian stores. There has also been some suspicion that telecommunications may be in danger of spying from China.

Secondly, opening up India’s IT to China ( as some advocate) would be a disaster since that is one of the strengths of the Indian economy which China has been eyeing with a view to overtaking it. In March 2004 Beijing Review openly said : in the IT software sector,
“ a fierce face-off with an old competitor-India has just begun.” Indeed the Chinese
President’s much publicized visit to Bangalore in 2005 is an ominous sign of the times.

Thorium based nuclear energy is India’s strength and opening up research in the area to China would be a fatal mistake given that China’s open and covert support of Pakistan’s nuclear program has been unbroken since the two countries teamed up in a joint effort of military co operation . Again,as with the IT sector China will exploit India’s strengths and in the end stick a knife into its side. China’s attempt to infiltrate Bharat’s telecommunication system was fortunately foiled by an alert government. So also the attempt to push in unlimited numbers of workers.

Teaming up with Pakistan and keeping India on the edge with threats to Arunachal Pradesh and the Ladakh region serve China’s overall policy of keeping its only serious rival in Asia down. Territory, trade, maritime policy (the intrusions into the Indian Ocean, the building of ports in Sri Lanka, Mynamar,Karachi ) the friendship with Mynamar, the covert support of
Naxalism, the interference in Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan etc. are all part of the overall strategy of ensuring China’s dominance . This  agenda entails curtailing the rising power of India.

While engaging in trade and friendly relations with a neighbour it is also important to keep in mind that the myth of India and China walking into the sunset arm in arm must be dispelled. For this a brief historical review is necessary.

Thanks to the Himalya India and China were not easily accessible to each other in the
last few millennia. Politically the two did not interact, even when travelers and Buddhist pilgrims and Chinese scholars  came to Indian universities .  Imperial China of ancient times had no hesitation in attacking and subjugating its immediate neighbours. India was too distant and the Himalays too formidable to navigate in those days.

After the Islamic invasions in the 10th century even these contacts became fewer. It is only after European colonization began in the 19th century that the political situation began to change. China occupied Tibet in 1950. After the 1962 war with India the border dispute continued to simmer. Armed skirmishes took place in 1967 and 1987.

Since then there have been incursions into Arunachal Pradesh. The claim to Tawang is only a sinister prelude to all of Arunachal Pradesh. The 2,520 mile border between India and China remains undemarcated, precisely because China wishes to keep India on edge.

India’s testing of the nuclear bomb in 1974 was a direct response to China’s in 1964.
This was followed in 1998 by India’s nuclear tests. China’s nuclear supremacy and its
proliferation to Pakistan are an ever present worry.

Politically China has continued to oppose India’s permanent membership in the Security Council, does not accept India as a nuclear power alongside of the 5 in the Nuclear Club (China,Russia,U.S.,France,Britain). It has opposed India’s participation in APEC(Asia-Pacific Economic Co operation). China continues to be obstructive with much of India’s nuclear program.

Most recently it tried to prevent the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal (which with a proper liability clause will be helpful to India’s energy needs, although some influential scientists have claimed that India does not need the U.S. and can be self sufficient in that area).And to day,despite it being signatory to the non proliferation treaty, China is in the process of supplying two nuclear reactors (Chashma III and IV) in addition to the two earlier ones. Clearly, all this is not just in the interests of China’s own indigenous industry. It is to play the Pakistani card as one more destabilizing factor.

The euphoria which began with Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in December 1988 is
fast disappearing under the weight of realities. Premier Wen Jiabo’s glib rhetoric is just that : peace and friendship has been the mainstream of India-China civilization ties for 99% of the time ! So he says !

Despite the far fetched stats. even that 1% remains problematic and crucial. Nirupama Rao may gushingly say what she has to say as a foreign secretary. She advocates  co operation, not competition, but as the old saying goes : It takes two to tango !

Chinese diplomacy and PR are famous. Bharat must proceed with the utmost caution. 1962 was not an accidental or an incidental phenomenon. It was the expression of great power expansionism. Treatises have been written on the subject of who was to blame for 1962. The Indian public has not forgotten, nor should it ever. Despite rhetoric, smiles and handshakes the Middle Kingdom has not abandoned its hostility to India.

India was the first to recognize the newly formed Republic of China. India, led by an
idealist who dreamed of eternal India China friendship in world affairs bowed out and did not accept the Security Council seat offered to it and instead pushed China’s candidacy forward. China now is the main vetoer of attempts to bring India into the Security Council! There was hyped up abusive invective directed against a country that had just emerged from colonization (the abuse hurled by China at India after its 1962 backstabbing). The unfortunate Nehru had to endure being called the running dog of imperialism !

Beijing must surely have wondered(and laughed) at India’s behaviour. But the elephant is known for its memory. 1962 was a defining moment. Nothing China has done since then warrants a revision of anything. Foreign policy and normal trade can continue, but to open up
the IT industry and nuclear research to China is not on the cards. China is the  second largest economy in the world, and its exports have overtaken even Germany. It does not need India. India’s exports to China are only a small fraction of its overall world economy. But China does intend to demonstrate that it is the leading power in Asia. A dreadful predicament for that country to be in. To be considered the second largest economy in the world and yet have its poorer rival held in  esteem by the world community.

Does India need China ? Not if politicians and leaders do not mess up the situation. And not if certain Indian industries do not try to get ahead of others and betray the country. And as one astute commentator put it: we have managed for so long without a seat in the Security Council. Tibet ? Bharat and Tibet have had ancient ties of religion and culture. This is something the present Chinese leadership cannot understand, obsessed as it is with great power ambitions.

(The writer is a Political Scientist who taught at a Canadian university).

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