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China Continues to Quick-Step India

The Chinese decision to give stapled visas and not stamped visas to two Indian archers from Arunachal Pradesh should not be surprising. The two teenage female archers were part of a 30 member Indian team who were to participate in the World Archery Youth Championship in Wuxi, China. The team was to fly by China Southern Airlines from New Delhi. The airlines refused to honour the stapled visas.

It was a well set ploy. The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi issues stapled visas. The Chinese carrier refuses to carry them. The point made was that people from Arunachal Pradesh, which China now claims as Southern Tibet, cannot visit China on an Indian passport. The standing Chinese position is that people from Arunachal Pradesh do not need a visa to visit China as the state is Chinese claimed territory or at best, disputed territory. There were protests from the Indian side, but not strong enough and not from the appropriate level.

The former commander of India, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. B. S. Jaswal was also denied a visa by China because he was posted in Kashmir, which Beijing recognises as disputed territory between their all weather friend and trusted ally Pakistan, and India. This caused a furore and India suspended military exchanges with China for some time but eventually gave Beijing a face saving way out of the situation.

There are several ways that India could have responded. After all, reciprocity is the fundamental platform for diplomacy. New Delhi, however, has declined to do so in pursuit of improving bilateral relations. The manner in which New Delhi has been dealing with China brings to mind the story of the “Arab and the Camel”. On a cold desert night, the Arab’s camel started inching into the tent and the Arab kept giving way till he was out in the cold and the camel was warm and cosy inside the tent.

The recent incident with the Arunachal Pradesh archers may be seen from another Chinese angle. Whenever a major meeting between top Indian and Chinese leaders takes place the Chinese cause an incident. Recent examples include the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intrusion in Depsang valley ahead of new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s maiden visit to New Delhi, from where he went to Pakistan and reaffirmed nuclear cooperation. Such incidents have happened before also.

The Chinese message is “clear and consistent”, as the Chinese would say. It is for the Indian side to see and read. The message is irrespective of a spurt in bilateral trade, cooperation in WTO and Climate change, Chinese territorial claims have not receded to a position of amicable compromise. In fact, the claim lines are expanding especially in the western sector of the borders.

It would be pertinent to take note of an article (in Chinese) in the Beijing controlled Hong Kong newspaper, the Wen Wei Po. Titled “The six wars to be fought by China in the coming 50 years” and written under a pseudonym, it rates the six wars as follows: (i) 2020-2025 Taiwan unification (ii) 2025 – 2030, “Reconquest” of Spratly Islands (iii) 2035 – 2040, “Reconquest” of Southern Tibet (iv) 2040 – 2045, “Reconquest” of Diaoyu and Ryuku Islands, (v) 2045 – 2050, Unification of outer Mongolia (vi) 2055 – 2060, Taking back land lost to Russia.

First, articles in Wen Wei Po (as well as Ta Kung Pao) are serious. These mainland controlled Hong Kong media have been used by the Communist Chinese leadership to send signals abroad, and sometimes to their own people as Deng Xiaoping did in his Southern tour speech in 1991. The Chinese are extremely secretive, but at times they deliberately send messages in advance to force the opposition to seek a deal suited to the Chinese rather than risk a war.

Next, the progressive nature of the “Six Wars” are graduated on a scale of China’s increasing power, both military and economic. Taiwan as the first target is a natural choice. But the article banks on a peaceful reunification and does not expect the Taiwanese to voluntarily join China. War, therefore, is the only option. The article, however, takes care to consider the role of the US and Japan in case of a war. In such a scenario the article is not very confident and predicts an all out war.

In the case of India, the article sees “South Tibet” as the only point of conflict between the two countries post 2035. At that time it will be way past the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan movement is expected to be dissipated. The article is conscious that India’s power will grow, yet it opines by then China’s military power may be second only to the US. Yet, to be cautious, it suggests using separatist militants in Assam and freeing Sikkim from India, to start weakening and disintegrating India. In conjunction, Pakistan can be further empowered with advanced weapons to capture Kashmir while China launches a lightning war in Arunachal Pradesh.

The outline of war with India is a reflection on paper what the Chinese have been doing all these years. Russian academics and strategists are also worried about China’s intentions, and some of them have articulated as China grows stronger it will, at some point of time, start claiming Russian territory. Incidentally, the article did not mention use of nuclear weapons at all. This is significant. Is China not confident yet of its pre-emptive capability?

At a first glance the article may read like a fantasy tale. A deeper reading will reveal that it is China’s foreign policy which is being revealed gradually as its comprehensive strength gallops ahead. Hegemonism and neo-imperialism are written all over.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson clarified in Beijing October 14 that this visa issue was connected with the resolution of the boundary issue. China has also stated that the Sikkim issue will be resolved with the border issue, a position very different from the understanding in New Delhi, that Beijing has accepted Sikkim as a sovereign territory of India. China’s position on the Kashmir issue remains tilted towards Pakistan. It is building infrastructure in the Shaksgam valley in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), a disputed area. This act goes against China’s policy towards Arunachal Pradesh which they claim is disputed.

It is true that in the last three years Beijing had restrained Islamabad and its GHQ from escalating tensions and conflict with India. That was a different situation with Afghanistan boiling with an uncertain regime. China also took a Pak nuclear attack into consideration.

Today, the atmosphere in the Af-Pak region is clearer. China would not mind Pakistan keeping the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) or even the International Border (IB) on slow fire. The recent Chinese decision to supply two 1000 MW nuclear reactors to Pakistan would encourage the Pak army, the ISI and the state sponsored Jihadis to continue with their India agenda. By agreeing to transfer these reactors to Pakistan, China will be abrogating its agreement with international regimes like the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and actively involve itself in nuclear proliferation, China’s tall claims as a responsible international player remains hollow as ever.

It was, therefore, encouraging to note Prime Minister Manmohan Singh taking a principled position on the South China Sea dispute at the APEC meet in Indonesia earlier this month. Mr. Singh opted for a multilateral approach and the establishment of the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum for resolving disputes and strengthening existing international law relating to maritime security.

The freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is of importance because it is a vital sea route for India and indispensible for its Look East Policy and conducting relations with countries of the region starting from Japan in the far east to Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines among others.

In Beijing, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will face these and a host of other challenges. The only worthwhile document that is expected to come out of the visit is the Border Defense Agreement. Beyond that no serious Chinese effort to balance the trade deficit can be foreseen. China will continue to dump cheap and shoddy manufactured good into the Indian market. India’s small scale and tertiary industry is already threatened, and they may die a not so slow a death.

On the strategic front and India’s core interests no forward movement is expected. On the boundary issue, to repeat, one must carefully read statements of Chinese top leaders including President Xi Jinping. When they say the two special Representatives should work for early resolution of the border question, there is a silent “but”. The “but” becomes clear when we see subsidiary moves by the Chinese surrounding this issue. China’s concert is to get clarity on India’s strategic and military relations with the US and Japan and possible encirclement of China.

(The writer, Mr Bhaskar Roy, is a New Delhi based strategic analyst. He can be reached at e-mail

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