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China’s Insensitivity and India-China Security Deficit

China’s insensitivity and provocative refusal of visa to Lieutenant General B S Jaswal has once again pointed to the security and much talked trust deficit between the two nations. The visa denial further reveals nefarious designs of our neighbor as regards the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Firstly, it expounds that China has long relinquished its stand of neutrality in J&K and considers it as a disputed territory; this is also established by the fact that China has started to issue stapled visas to the Indian citizens from J&K.

Secondly, it endorses the Pakistan stand on Kashmir and repudiates the temporary nature of Sino-Pak border agreement on Shaksgam Valley in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) barely signed three months after the conclusion of 1962 War (2 March 1963). The agreement clearly states that China would renegotiate the border with relevant sovereign authority after the resolution of Kashmir dispute. This is established by the fact that people visiting China from POK gets visas on Pakistani passports, and also by the fact that China has undertaken infrastructure development projects in the disputed areas. The policy shift also indicates that China has revisited and is upholding its stand of the 1960s and 1970s when it vehemently supported Pakistan and the self determination in J&K. In the wake of the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, China has gone on record that ‘so long as the Indian Government oppresses the Kashmiri people, China will not cease supporting the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination; so long as the Indian Government persists in its unbridled aggression against Pakistan, China will not cease supporting Pakistan in her just struggle against the aggression. This stand of ours will never change.’

Thirdly, it is China’s game plan to force India to make more concessions as regards the border issue in the Eastern Sector (Arunachal Pradesh), for if the East- West swap does not work out, China remains a party to the dispute in J&K as it has the jurisdiction of Aksai Chin as well as Shaksgam Valley claimed by India.

Finally, it is the part of overall strategic thinking of China to pin India to the South Asia, and deny it a place outside this morass. Therefore, the denial of visa to Lt. General B. S. Jaswal speaks much more than the origin and personal perception General Jaswal holds about China.

Now, should India derail the security and defense ties with China in the wake of visa row? No, for it has not been easy to establish security dialogue between the two ever since setting up of the Joint Working Group (JWG) for the resolution of border issue in the wake of Rajiv Gandhi’s China visit in December 1988. Since then the process has been consolidated and there is a visible progress in our security environment, as various Confidential Building Measures (CBMs) were initiated in 1993 and 1996, which included mutual troop reductions, regular meetings of local military commanders and advance notifications of military exercises etc. The momentum of high level visits including the then Defense Minister Sharad Pawar (1992), George Fernandes (2003), Pranab Mukherji (2006) to China has enabled two countries to carry out CBMs at various levels. These include Indian Naval forces conducting joint search and rescue exercises in the East China Sea with Chinese Navy in November 2003; joint mountaineering exercises by border troops of both the countries in 2004; the first joint training exercise between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian Army, ‘Hand in Hand 2007’ in Kunming, China; the Suryakiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) of the Indian Air Force participating in the 7th International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China in 2008; second joint training exercise between the Indian Army and the PLA ‘Hand in Hand 2008’ in Belgaum, India; two Indian Naval ships, INS MUMBAI and INS RANVIR participating in the International Fleet Review in April 2009 etc. Besides, the visits of top military generals to China, including the visit of Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major (2008), Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Suresh Mehta (2009), Lieutenant General VK Singh (2009) continued the momentum of the high level visits. Lieutenant General B. S. Jaswal’s China visit was just a follow up of such exchanges at the highest level.

However, not halting defense ties does not mean that India should cave in to the Chinese pressure. External Affairs Ministry hitting back by summoning the Chinese ambassador on 27th August and refusing to grant visas to three high-ranking Chinese military officials who were slated to visit Pachmarhi and the National Defense College was a prompt yet a befitting response to express Indian indignation over China’s insensitivity and provocation.

Since security issue between India and China is very sensitive one, and has been suffering huge deficit owing to various historical problems, both sides need to create a congenial atmosphere, in order to improve the comprehensive strategic partnership, including military security relations. Both need to keep the momentum of high ranking mutual visits, as well as the dialogues between forward troops of both the sides in areas administered by respective countries. On this count, Beijing alone is responsible for the current brawl and the onus of improving relations completely rests with China. China must not forget its own saying that ‘when a person is driven to a corner, he is capable of anything.’ Its insensitivity to India’s sovereignty in J&K, may force India to revisit its stated position on Tibet. India must make it clear to Beijing that it should not take our stated position on Tibet for granted if it does not reciprocate to our sensitivities in J&K.

(The writer,Dr. B. R. Deepak, is Associate Professor of Chinese in the Centre of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India and Nehru Fellow, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China.

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