An unusual disclosure of Beijing’s current strategy towards India and Pakistan has come to notice in China recently, which deserves a careful examination. It has been claimed that this strategy of the “Centre”(Zhongyang, in Chinese, meaning Party Centre/Central government), has two main themes, which are given below verbatim:
(i)”There will be important strategic actions in Pakistan; China hopes that India will not fish in troubled waters. Otherwise, China considers that at the time of necessity, it should certainly carry out containment activities”.
(ii)”There is a pressing need for China and India, most importantly for India and Pakistan, to obviate any interference and speed up the pace of reconciliation. The restart of India-Pakistan reconciliation process, under suspension for one year, is of great significance. China, realizing the need, is appropriately responding to it. China exhorts India not to continue with its stand of “sitting in the fence” and “enjoying the benefits from both directions” in the war against terrorism. Only by following a just road of geo-political harmony, India-Pakistan reconciliation can expand”.
The revelation, made in an article captioned “ Uncovering of wisdom in the Centre’s strategy towards India and Pakistan” (by “Zhan Lue”, presumably a high level cadre, attached to the International Institute for Strategic Studies-China- CIISS, with headquarters in Beijing, str.chinaiiss.org, Chinese language, 21 July 2008), has listed further implications of the strategy, which are mentioned below:
Russia- China Tacit Understanding against India
The Chinese strategist has argued that at a time when China and Russia are opposing the US shoulder to shoulder, Russia is dissatisfied over the corresponding India’s policy of ‘sitting in the fence ‘ and ‘gaining advantage from the both’. “We have seen that China has had the opportunity to rap India on the border issue, after the meeting between the visiting Russian Prime Minister and ‘elder brother’ Hu Jintao and in this way, India must have become aware of the communication level and tacit understanding between Beijing and Moscow”.
The expert went on to say that Russia is also dissatisfied with India’s ‘most negative’ position with regard to expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). India, to a great degree, was helped by Russia for gaining entry into the SCO, but Moscow is worried that as time passes, India can further rub on it; the result may be that Russia may not be able to meet the aspirations of Iran and Pakistan for joining the SCO and this in turn, to a certain extent, may lead to a visible or not so visible weakening of Moscow’s power to influence the SCO.
The article has further commented that India, which has assigned itself the position of No.1 power in South Asia, realizes that it cannot equal the status of Russia and China in the SCO and that its position will remain equal to that of Pakistan. This is the reason for its un-enthusiasm for SCO expansion. Pointing out that Russia has its own calculations, the expert has stated that with India in the SCO, a country beset with territorial and traditional contradictions with China, Russia feels that it may be able to at least partially contain China, thereby enabling it to play the role of a ‘peacemaker’ and sit firmly on the SCO as ‘eldest’.
India Vs China, Russia and the SCO?
“ZhanLue” has added that in the China-Russia-US confrontation, India is adopting a policy of ‘taking advantage of all sides’ and hoping to become a ‘movable scale’ in the Sino-US strategic relation. If there is continuous expansion of anti-US interests of China and Russia, India’s such a policy can offend Russia. India’s alliance with the US is temporary; as against its ambition in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, India will absolutely not allow the ‘wolf to enter the house’. ‘Not only that, its immediate interests on getting mutual benefit out of US ties, are exhausted. China has really seen through India’s calculations and it is for India to make its choice. India should not be insatiable and offending China, Russia and the SCO will not be in its interests’.
In the view of Chinese expert, Pakistan’s strategic action will certainly be unified with what the SCO does, taking an overall view. Pakistan’s action will be linked to Russia’s basic interests in Iran and Central Asia. This also explains Russia’s tacit understanding to China’s ‘rapping’ India.
The Chinese strategist has, in addition, stated that while assessing China’s containment of India, it should be noted that Pakistan’s ‘big action’ would not be directed at India, but at Afghanistan; the same has a meaning for India-Pakistan reconciliation. Between a hard line and a soft line, it is for India to decide which one to chose. India must have understood Russian attitude. Indians are also clever.
It is not understood how a think tank like the CIISS could get inside information on the strategy of the Chinese Communist Party/Government High Command on an important subject like ties with India and Pakistan. This organization had been jingoistic in the past while referring to India and there is no open information on who are its top leaders. Started only in 2002, the CIISS appears to be different from the China Institute of International Strategic Relations, with affiliation to the PLA, functioning for longer years, under the chairmanship of General Xiong Guangkai. Any way, it has to be admitted that the views of any think tank do not necessarily reflect those of the government; but they have the blessings of the authorities. However, considering the apparent clout, which the CIISS enjoys in China (reference earlier articles by this writer), its views merit a high degree of attention, particularly in India. Most striking for New Delhi should be the article’s open declaration that Beijing will go in support of Islamabad in the hypothetical case of an India-Pakistan conflict as well as signals that Russia has reached a tacit understanding with China on any action by the latter against India. Notably, no other Chinese media or official comments, leave alone the leadership, have so far expressed such opinions, which go against Beijing’s oft-repeated preference for a ‘balanced’ South Asia policy. Does the article give a signal towards a revision of such policy? Or, is it a deliberate leak to mislead India? These can be valid questions.
(The writer, Mr. D.S.Rajan is Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies,Chnnai,India. Necessary translation was done by him. Email: email@example.com)