Coming to notice in the recent period is an authoritative Chinese language media comment, strongly supporting the maintenance of peace and stability along the Sino-Indian border and justifying the need for the People’s Republic of China(PRC) to avoid hostilities and seek cooperation with India, but raising at the same time the issue of threat to China coming from India’s military build-up in the border. When seen against China’s official welcome to the latest remarks of the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh recognizing the commitment of the Chinese leadership for peaceful resolution of disputes, the comment appears to be a significant pointer to the prevailing two mixed trends in China’s current policy course towards India- diplomatically benign, but strategically suspicious.
A three -part article, written by one Wu Minjie, under the caption “India’s Border Blitz, Not to be Routine, with No Prior Notice to Beijing”, has been published on 21 October 2011 in the “Military Review” column of the website www.huanqiu.com, which is the Chinese language version of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-run Global Times Net. The article has also appeared on the same day in the “World News Paper” (Shijie Xinwen Bao), a publication of the Chinese Government’s “China Radio International”.
The article has alleged that in very recent years, India, taking China’s strengthening of its troop deployment in Tibet as pretext, has all along been indulging in a continuous expansion of its troop strength in the Sino-Indian border region. It has especially noted the deployment of additional two mountain divisions, Arunachal scouts, Su-30 MKI fighters, T-72 main battle tanks and other advanced equipment in the borders. In elaboration, it has quoted from Indian press reports on New Delhi’s plans along the Line of Actual Control – to deploy a new Army, two armored brigades and one independent infantry brigade, four Su-30 MKI fighter squadrons by 2015 and additional 35 border posts for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
As per the article, in the eastern sector including in “Arunachal”, India has so far deployed 5 Armies, 240-300 fighter aircraft , 5 Mountain infantry Divisions and 1 Mechanized Division. More over, above 7 million Indian immigrants are currently in “Arunachal”, which number exceeds the total Tibet population. The article has invited attention to the ‘assessment’ of many military observers that the Indian military strategy with respect to border with China has undergone a shift – from ‘defensive’ to ‘offensive’. Giving its own evaluation, the article has said that India’s overall combat strength in the border region now actually exceeds that of the Chinese side.
The Chinese write-up, noting other Indian media dispatches on New Delhi’s ‘approval’ taken in 2011 to deploy Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles in “Arunachal Province” has said that this would amount to India’s first time deployment of offensive tactical missile against China; it has at the same time described ‘Arunachal’ as China’s “Southern Tibet”. The article has further pointed out that every year prior to the start of Special Representatives talks, the Indian military had always desired to show some muscle , but this year’s decision to deploy a ‘star equipment’, i.e Brahmos, cannot be considered a stereotype.
In addition, the Huanqiu review has quoted Pakistan Paper ‘ the Nation’ as saying that India is soon planning to hold two large scale ‘lightning’ military exercises in India and India-Pakistan border region, without prior notice to Beijing and Islamabad, in response to “threats from China”. It has referred to Indian news media’s remarks that these exercises would follow the ‘rapid response’ Army- Air Force exercise of India held in Rajasthan in May 2011.
A Chinese language blog (http://blog.huanqiu.com/?355231, 21 October 2011) captioned “PLA’s Powerful Exercise: Lightning Hit Back at India’s Border Provocation” has pointed out that soon after the Indian Army-Air Force Exercise (indirect reference to India’s exercise in Rajasthan border?), China’s Chengdu Military Region organized for the first time an Army-Air force drill using live ammunition in an area 4500 meters above sea level. China Daily (22 October 2011) termed it as a “drill at New Heights”. The blog, giving more details, has revealed that in the exercise, MI-17 helicopters, F-10 fighter aircraft, 122-mm howitzer, two car mounted anti-aircraft artillery group and a large number of infantry fighting vehicles took part, launching intensive and spectacular attack on the targets. China’s CCTV showed footages of the exercise.
The Huanqiu Review while referring to border talks has stated that China and India have large and serious differences on some aspects of the ‘political parameters and guiding principles”, agreed upon by both sides in 2005 to solve the boundary question. India is stubborn on “recognition to status-quo”, making further border talks difficult. The Review has said that as such, the Sino-Indian border issue is now more complex.
Touching upon the current level of China’s political ties with India, the Review has said that in that regard Beijing is facing strategic constraints because of the importance of India for China and the goodwill towards India coming from major world powers including the US and Russia. It has added that “though India is not enthusiastic in becoming a pawn of others, it has its own ‘imperial ambition’, but looking from the angle of real politics, it is still important for China to avoid hostility with India and seek its cooperation. The Review, has further said that China faces a serious threat from the complicated ethnic and religious relations and instability due to rampant terrorism, which are affecting China’s border regions like Tibet and Xinjiang, lying close to the Sino-Indian border region. In addition, the Tibetan and ‘Eastern Turkestan’ separatists are seeking refuge in India. It has concluded by observing that against the ever present threats of a conflict situation in China’s Eastern and Southern borders, the maintenance of peace and stability in the strategic Sino-Indian border region, should be of great significance to China.
New Delhi should carefully factor the mixed trends in China’s policy towards India in its approach to Beijing at this juncture. On the positive side, Beijing is coming out with favourable responses – readiness to resume defence dialogue with India, promotion of the process towards formation of “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border Affairs” and hosting of India-China first Strategic Economic Dialogue. On the negative side, the PRC maintains uncompromising positions on issues relating to its territorial sovereignty and integrity like the Sino-Indian boundary under ‘core interests’ principle; it claims entire Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and on India’s participation in oil and gas exploration in South China Sea, it strongly opposes New Delhi’s stand. China’s leading party-affiliated paper Global Times has lambasted India’s South China Sea project in Vietnam as ‘serious political provocation’.
(The writer, D.S.Rajan, is Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, India. Email:email@example.com)