1. The Chinese President Hu Jintao and the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh have met in Yekaterinburg (Russia) on 15 June 2009. The former referred to his country’s policy of promoting relationship with India from a ‘strategic and long term perspective’ and hoped for a solution to the border dispute with India at ‘an early date’ through negotiations in the spirit of ‘equal consultations, mutual respect and mutual accommodation’. Dr Manmohan Singh, on his part, stated that India would give ‘top priority’ to its relations with China and that India is seeking a ‘fair and reasonable’ solution to the boundary problem ‘acceptable to both sides’. The two leaders at the same time called for maintaining ‘peace and tranquility along the border’, till a solution to the boundary issue could be found. (Xinhua, 16 June 2009).
2. The meeting in Russia has taken place in the background of Chinese media concerns over two important developments -India’s dispatch of additional troops to and deployment of SU-30 fighter aircraft in the border as well as the Indian Prime Minister’s statement (9 June 2009) ruling out any compromise on the border issue. It is not known whether such concerns figured in the meeting, but what is important is that both the sides have agreed on the occasion to maintain ‘peace and tranquility’ in the border pending a final solution.
3. Beijing’s practice to articulate on its strategic concerns through its media is well known. It is therefore not surprising that the Chinese state-controlled strategic and military journals are coming out with more and more hard-hitting articles, castigating India on the border issue. The following are some samples.
4. Global Times (Chinese, 16 June 2009), an affiliate of the party central organ, the People’s Daily, has accused certain Indian bodies and officials like the Indian Air Force chief of raising the bogey of Chinese military threat and in this connection, noted a statement of the Indian Defence Minister advising the military leaders not to make open statements on issues relating to India including on China’s military strength.
5. A comment reflecting a military viewpoint (www.mil.people.com.cn, Chinese, 17 June 2009) has alleged that the dispatch of additional Indian troops soon after the conclusion of the Indian general election would mean, “the new government of Dr.Manmohan Singh will adopt a hard and uncompromising stand on important questions relating to national security and interests”.
6. A report in the ‘International Herald Leader’, a journal associated with Xinhua, quoted (16 June 2009) one Kuo Shaowen, now with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and earlier worked in the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi as saying that the geographical terrain in the Sino-Indian border is difficult, denying taking of positions there by large scale armies. “ If the Indian military is not planning to attack China, then the deployment of its additional troops in the border may not have great military significance. Perhaps, India wants to exploit the factor of additional troops as a ‘political card’ in the border talks”. Pointing out that India’s 33rd Corps, 15th Corps and the 3rd Mountain Infantry Division, along with the special force comprising Tibetans, are meant to deal with China, it has stated that the “strengthening of its war preparedness in the border by India, contradicts with its policy of having friendly relations between the Chinese and Indian armies. Perhaps, India feels the necessity for both”.
7. An article in the same journal (17 June 2009), has tried to address the question whether the Indian Prime Minister’s ‘hawkish’ remarks on 9 June 2009 had anything to do with India’s ground level actions like dispatch of additional troops to and deployment of SU-30 fighter aircraft in the border. Taking note of the remarks made by Dr Srikanth of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, during an interview with the paper’s correspondent that it is natural for a head of the government like Dr Manmohan Singh to dwell on an issue of territorial integrity, the paper has opined that what Dr.Manmohan Singh has said may perhaps have had no links with actions like dispatch of troops. It has also admitted that ‘fierce’ language was used in the Chinese media’s comments on the Indian prime minister. An effort to project the Indian Prime Minister in a positive light is thus being seen, in contrast to the general media trend so far in China to criticize him.
8. The article, while covering the ‘quick’ reactions of the Indian scholars and media to the Chinese press criticisms of India on the border issue, has highlighted two examples – the article in the Times of India and another in the Chennai Centre for China Studies website, both of 12 June 2009. On the latter, it has said, “ Mr Rajan, of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, who can read and understand Chinese, has especially mentioned about the satirical tone in the language used by the Chinese media to criticise India and commented on a Chinese website article captioned ‘India is a paper tiger and its use of force against China will be trounced’”. In conclusion, it has said, “no matter whether it is ‘Tiger’ China or ‘Elephant’ India, the border and national security issues will always remain sensitive to them. As such, the officials, military circles and public opinion in both the countries should earnestly search for “a neighbourly path” and any move or action causing provocation intentionally or unintentionally, will not be beneficial for the coexistence of the two nations”.
9. According to a high-level Chinese military strategist, writing under the pseudonym “China Strategy”, (China Centre for International and Strategic Studies, Chinese, 17 June 2009), India has started thinking in recent years that its power has already exceeded that of China. New Delhi also perceives that the international situation has become extremely beneficial to it; in particular, it feels that India is getting the support of the US and Europe in pressurising Pakistan and in turn in “restricting China’s military”. The writer has alleged that accordingly, India is trying to change the Sino-Indian border status quo, while accusing the Chinese troops of carrying out incursions into the borders. Noting in this connection India’s dispatch to ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ (i.e China’s Southern Tibet) of additional two divisions with a total of 50000-60000 troops and induction of two squadrons of SU-30 MK1 fighter aircraft, each consisting of 18 aircraft, the write-up has assessed that the key question before China and India now relates to the border and that the ‘China factor’ now occupies a greater place in India’s strategy. Observing that under this strategy, India has even reached the Western Pacific through its Look East policy, strengthened military relations with China’s surrounding nations, allied with the US and Japan to conduct strategic containment of China and taken steps to control the strategic location of Malacca straits, it viewed India’s dispatch of additional troops to the border as an attempt to achieve ‘absolute military superiority’ and a ‘strategic balance’ vis-à-vis China.
10. Arguing that the Chinese troops in the border are well experienced in operating from the high altitude Tibetan plateau, an advantage the Indian soldiers may not enjoy, the ‘Chinese strategist’ has pointed to the completion of Qinghai-Tibet railway with capacity to transport 63,000 tonnes of material to Tibet in a week, in support of the Chinese troops in Tibet belonging to 5 mountain brigades. ‘The railway would mean that India no longer enjoys power to threaten the Chinese army from the rear or to check the speed of the latter in marching up to the borders’.
11. The Chinese specialist has also disclosed, rather unusual in China, the military ORBAT in the Sino-Indian border, in an effort to prove that the Indian military may not be a match to China’s troop strength. ‘India will not be in a position to conduct any border clash or any small or middle-scale war in the border’. According to the given ORBAT, the Chinese People’s Liberation army (PLA) has deployed a total of 13 Border Defence Regiments in Eastern and Western sectors of Sino-Indian border, the 52 Mountain Infantry Brigade to protect Southern Qinghai- Tibet region, the 53 Mountain Infantry Brigade to protect the high plateau in the Western sector, the 149th Division of the 13th Group Army in the Eastern Sector and the 61st Division of the 21st Group Army in the Western Sector.
12. In sum, the write-up has analysed that with China completing its basic infrastructure building in Tibet to connect the latter with the inland, particularly through the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway and A LI airport, the border military conditions in Eastern and Western Sectors have improved and as against this, if India, by dispatching additional troops, wants to gain ‘military balance’, the same will be ‘impractical’. It has finally warned the “Indian top brains” behind such dispatch that they “ will feel dizzy in acting rashly against China; India’s loss will outweigh its gains”.
13. There is no need to emphasise the importance for India of what the Chinese media have said on the border issue; this is particularly so for India’s foreign policy planners. An examination of the articles coming out since the appearance of reports on India’s dispatching additional troops to the border, reveals following notable points:
The Chinese military viewpoint foreseeing adoption of a hard and an uncompromising border position by the new government of Dr.Manmohan Singh.
China’s unrelenting stand that Arunachal Pradesh, called by it as Southern Tibet, belongs to the PRC
Beijing’s perception of India’s dispatch of additional troops to the border. The Chinese appear to see a new element in the border issue.
The Chinese opinion that India’s dispatch of additional troops to the border will affect Sino-Indian border talks (Prof.Sun Shihai, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, www.people.com.cn, 12 June 2009)
Some Chinese opinions on India making its dispatch of additional troops as a bargaining chip during border talks.
The role of the newly formed Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs under China’s foreign ministry, in Sino-Indian border talks. The main agenda of this department is to develop policies concerning land and maritime boundaries including handling of external boundary matters (Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, 5 May 2009).
The Chinese suggestion at academic levels that the India-China border dispute can be solved taking the Sino-Russian border agreement as a model. (Refer CCCS article entitled “Solving the Sino-Indian Boundary Problem:China-Russia Border Agreement Could be a Model, feel Chinese scholars”, by D.S.Rajan, C3S Paper No.285)
The Chinese position that its military deployment across Indian border is strong and India, in spite of the additional troops, will not be a match to China.
Beijing’s linkage of India’s additional troops in the border with the alleged Indian foreign policy of joining with the US and Japan to contain China.
(The writer, Mr.D.S.Rajan, is the Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, India. Necessary translation done by him. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)