“Frontiers are indeed the razor’s edge on which hang suspended the modern issues of war and peace, of life and death of nations ”
– LORD CURZON, 1907.
DEFINITIONS AND OVERVIEW:
1) Till recently the Oxford Dictionary carried only the meaning that a ‘Stakeholder’ (SH) is an individual with whom all the “stakes” i.e. bets or wager money in a game of gambling , which the participants bet or wagered, are deposited till he paid out to the winners at the end.
2) Lately, it also carries the additional sense to mean all those who had vital investments or interests in any enterprise. i.e. who had a ‘stake’ in its success or otherwise. The second meaning has now become a commonly understood and used cliché and the first almost forgotten !
3) In the context of China and the India-China relations, Government of India (GoI) is ‘ipso facto’ the only stakeholder (SH-1) in the first conventional sense , and the rest of the country and the people, & particular segments , are the stakeholders (SH-2) in the clichéd current popular sense.
4) One important additional point is that, in this dispensation , SH-1 is not only the sole custodian of all the nation’s ‘bets’, charged with safeguarding their vital interests and deliver the “winnings”. It has also assumed simultaneously the role of the “ player “ in the game, make the “call”, roll the dice, etc. perhaps the Dharmaputra in this case to the Chinese Shakuni ! It is charged with the sole & whole responsibility to conduct all aspects of relations with China with the task of “ winning” & delivering the “game” for the country.
5) The role of SH-1 is thus vital, primary and indivisible in the nature of things , as structured and evolved. The role of others comprising SH-2 is secondary and supportive , to the extent allowed, advised and consented to by the Primary , SH-1.
6) The task of putting forth suggestions on its role for SH-1 entails evaluation of its performance so far in all detailed respects, the results turned up , & reasons there for if the outcome is deficient , as it sadly happens to be the case .
7) This exercise has been made well nigh impossible by the fact that too little is known , or revealed , about what is actually going on in the bilateral relations , & the underpinning negotiations to fix them . These are done behind the scenes, as required normally when they are in progress. But in our case, these have been kept under the wraps all through, , out of the view of SH-2 ,seemingly deliberately , to deny all scope of review by SH-2 , or peers within.
8) A number of Documents, Statements, Declarations, Agreements, officially released periodically , as end products after various events like high level visits, meetings , are the only means through which SH-2 is allowed to know about developments in bilateral relations. The contents of these official releases are in most part vague, general platitudes , couched in grandiose clichés common to this genre , whence they seek to hide unpleasant ground reality & lack of success/progress .
9) 90% of the text of these official releases cover extant global, international issues and the pious intention of the two countries to co-operate/coordinate in responding to & influencing them .( they can do justice to the proverbial declamations of a Nihang ! ) References to bilateral relations, which are crucial & the crux , get relegated , given minimal space and bromided over & a patina of “friendliness” facade.
10) In the context of other evidence of actual events on ground, these seem designed to pass off “ a cauldron of conflicting interests as a comforting pot of hot milk.”
11) Chairman Mao always wanted to pose the question, “for whose benefit” as the touchstone to judging any proposal/issue. It can definitely be noted that this practice of “shrouding“ is not to the benefit of India or its people & their interests. On past record only the Chinese have gained from this veil pulled over the so- called negotiation process.
12) On the crux issue of bilateral relations also, the core, which is at the bottom of all troubles between the two countries, including the 1962 war of aggression unleashed by China , preceded by similar tactics of “ negotiations “, is the vexed Border question, marked by big, conflicting territorial claims.( Lord Curzon to the fore!)
13) This contentious Border question, in turn, is vitally anchored on the perceived location of the actual border line between the two countries. Its in-vogue, present incarnation is the Line of Actual Control (LAC) around which all negotiations territorial claims, effort to reduce tension, maintain peace and tranquility revolve.
14) Sadly the LAC has for all practical purposes, remained, nay allowed to remain, a “virtual” entity, rendering all Agreements sand castles built on quicksand.
15) The boundary question became a contentious issue in bilateral relations since around 1954 when it was raised formally by India . The LAC concept in particular can be deemed to have been born around 1959, when periodic exchanges of claims & counters on the differing perceptions of the Border began between the two Governments. & there were clashes & casualties on the ground.
16) Something difficult to even imagine, the Chinese side has consistently and successfully avoided giving a meaningful description of what they consider as their version of the LAC. Prime Minister Chou Enlai gave it a little meaningless specificity in his letter to the Indian PM on 4 November, 1962, after the first phase of the Chinese trans-border aggression in October, vaguely describing “as marked on the (small) map in 1959, as amended in 1962”.
17) Subsequently, the only concrete commitment by the Chinese regarding the LAC figured (as far as could be made out), in Article-X, Para-1 of the November 1996 Agreement signed between the Governments of China and India on Confident Building Measures (CBM) as follows: “both sides agree to exchange maps indicating their respective perceptions of the entire LAC as soon as possible”.
18) It has not been possible to ascertain whether the Chinese have complied with this undertaking to provide the map so far in all these 14 years, marked by, among other things, 14 sessions of high level meetings under rubrics like JWG, Special Representatives, even though the LAC remains the crux of all bilateral declamations, vague as they are typically, but clearly indicative of only lack of progress, despite proforma “ad infinitum” affirmation of the aim to solve the Border question peacefully, fairly, in a “friendly” way, to mutual benefit.
19) Certainly, what is going on is not to India’s benefit. Then, with apologies to Chairman Mao, “for whose” is this “Wayang Kulit” being played out ? It is surely not an ill-wind – for someone is getting entertained, laughing all the way to exultation about the success of his tactics.
20) How has this mystery-wrapped-enigma of allowing the Chinese to get away with their vagueness continued for over 50 years? Apparently, they have successfully “persuaded” India to accept that bilateral negotiations should be kept “confidential” (a typical Chinese negotiating tactics with all partners, one learns, where they can get away with it). This unilaterally yielded advantage has enabled the Chinese to carry out creeping territorial aggression unhindered for over six decades and periodically create tension in violation of all agreements, at will.
21) As the Chinese public in any case are accustomed to be routinely kept in the dark by their government, the victim of this “confidentiality” is only the Indian public, and the Nation’s vital interests in multifarious ways.
22) Mr.Nehru is reported to have mused in November 1962, in the aftermath of Chinese armed aggression across the Border that his big mistake was not to have taken “the people” of India into confidence on his dealings with China. In those personally traumatic days, firmly rejecting a Chou Enlai message, personally conveyed through Dr.P.K.Banerjee, India’s envoy, in Beijing, proposing truce and pull back of troops, Mr.Nehru has been quoted as saying that the Indian people cannot accept any more such “Chinese bluff and non-sense”. Apparently, this determination of India’s great statesman, and the lessons he painfully learnt, have been interred with his bones.
23) When the contacts and talks resumed with the Chinese in 1976 and various Agreements were inked after exchanges of high level visits in 1988, 1993, 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2008, the successor GoI’s had apparently forgotten the bitter experiences and hard lessons of the stormy evolution of bilateral relations, and the Border Conflict, in the 1949-1962 phase.
24) Ironically, this culpable lapse cannot be attributed to absence of information. Unlike the post 1976 denouement, the crucial exchanges of 1949-1962 are meticulously compiled and long in public domain, available for serious students of History. When Mr.Nehru rued about not having taken “the people” of India into confidence, he literally meant “The People”, which he would have done in his characteristic way.
25) Obviously, the foremost requirement is for SH-1 to open up and take SH-2 into full confidence of what all have transpired so far on the Border negotiations with the Chinese, after the contacts were resumed in 1976, so as to get the full benefit of the wisdom of the Indian cognoscenti (some of whom are integral part of SH-1, and some are part of SH-2) and support of the general public, which is its bounded duty to its ultimate masters and to whom it is accountable.
26) The Indian Armed Forces in particular will benefit considerably from such openness. It is imperative that they have to know where they stand (literally too), what they need to prepare and equip for, strategize, etc.
27) In the conduct of bilateral relations with China, GH-1 appears to be constantly falling short of abiding by the dictum “there is no free lunch in international relations”, by giving away too easily. It began from the 1954 Agreement on Border trade, where it surrendered inherited political rights and physical assets in Tibet unilaterally, without getting any reciprocal advantage. Analysts have made a convincing case that a hardnosed, determined attitude and approach in those negotiations could have gone a long way in the settlement of the Border alignment and attendant territorial disputes, in return to acknowledging China’s sovereignty over Tibet.
28) There seems to be a dire need to develop our resources to acquire expert knowledge on China with a wide base and a long continuity. An essential pre-requisite being a reasonably large segment of Indian population conversant with the Chinese language. Rest of the world seems to have taken up this in a very big way and we are not showing sufficient motivation and interest (for more please see Para-54)
29) We probably have the longest experience in carrying out negotiations with the Chinese on very complex issues. Still one cannot be sure that we have developed sufficient body of knowledge and HR base of experts who are familiar and thorough with the Chinese negotiating tactics, so as to equal, if not better them.
30) Chairman Mao, constantly advised his countrymen, in dealing with “enemies”, like Imperialists, Revisionists and other types, to abide by the dictum, “Strategic Despisal and Tactical Appraisal” of the opponent. This will be a very useful guide to adopt by GH-1 in the conduct of relations with China.
31) Throughout history, PRC has a defied conventional norms, ethics, accepted practices and principles in the conduct of its relations with the rest of the world, accepting in the process severe negative fall outs. Its actions in developing relations with “rogue” states to achieve narrow goals of even short term self-interest have been blatant. This ugly and harsh reality has to be kept in view to avoid going overboard with effusive ‘bon homie’ in signing official Agreements, Declarations, Documents, etc., as if they are of no cost or consequence. Some of these make troubling reading even beyond the Nihang Syndrome.
32) The following two extracts from the Document “A Shared Vision for the 21st Century” signed by the two PMs on 14 January, 2008 helps to make the point.
“The Indian side recalls that India was among the first countries to recognize that there is one China and that its one China policy has remained unaltered. The Indian side states that it would continue to abide by its one China policy and oppose any activity that is against the one China principle. The Chinese side expresses its appreciation for the Indian position.”
“ …………….. The Indian side reiterates its aspirations for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The Chinese side attaches great importance to India’s position as a major developing country in international affairs. The Chinese side understands and supports ** India’s aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations, including in the Security Council…………..…”
** Comment: No doubt the Chinese, presciently, had in mind the then anticipated election of India to the two year tenure to UNSC non-permanent membership in 2011-2012 !
33) To some perception, the gratuitousness and condescension in the foregoing are worse than Sharm el Shaik, since the co-signatory is China and not Pakistan.
34) Compare this with extracts from the note on “The relations between China and India” taken from the website of the Chinese Embassy in Delhi earlier this month at Appendix. This is “realpolitik” and by no means “friendly”. Have these “unkind cuts” been noticed and taken up by GH-1? Prima-facie these fly in the face of provisions of the Agreements and Declarations bindingly entered in to by the two countries to refrain from negative/offensive propaganda.
35) The Chinese Ambassador in Delhi seems to be clear and consistent. He was quoted on 13th December, 2010 on NDTV as describing the India-China bilateral relations as “fragile”.
36) Developments in China’s relationship with Pakistan since their 1962 Border Agreement, starkly highlighted by China’s original sin of clandestine assistance to Pakistan to acquire nuclear capability and delivery means, which are continuing in various ways, harming India’s vital national security and other interests, directly and indirectly have to be the litmus test in evaluating India’s “friendly ties” with China.
37) A case can easily be made out that China has really no need to carry out physical aggression against India across the India-China border on the lines of 1962, as its objectives are being achieved on a continuing basis by staunchly facilitating Pakistan to carry out its double-distilled proxy-war against India, under the supposedly reprisal-proof shield of its “nuclear deterrent”, fathered and fostered by China.
ANOTHER LOOMING THREAT ?
38) The trans-border rivers issue seems to be another worth-noting murky (muddy?) example of Chinese tactics. Repeated media coverage indicates that all is not well and the Chinese may be up to a lot of mischief, pulling a veil over GoI’s eyes, ‘a la’ the Border Dispute.
39) Both Governments have constituted the “India-China Expert Level Mechanism on Trans-Border Rivers”. The MEA Annual Report 2009-2010 has noted the holding of periodic meetings, the (then) latest being in Beijing in April 2009. Probably, there has been one subsequently in November 2010. Has GH-1 put out factual reports on the deliberations and outcome of these meetings? Have they issued transparent, satisfactory, authoritative clarifications addressing media speculations and concerns of international Ecology experts on reported China’s plans to alter the flow of rivers on the Tibetan plateau?
40) A recent report of C3S, No.665 dated 18.11.2010, quotes from Chinese media about the “Brahmaputra” being dammed for the first time on 12.11.10 for the construction of a power station at Zhangmu, Gyatsa County, Lokha Province, Tibet. This also quotes from an article in the Guardian (UK?) dated 24.05.10 about plans for a series of 24 dams planned. One Tashi Tsering, a scholar on Environmental Policy in the University of British Columbia (Canada) has reportedly published maps of all the 24 power stations on a web site called “Hydro-China”.
41) What did the Indian experts on the “Mechanism” ask of their Chinese counter-parts at the joint meetings about such reports? What replies did they receive? Where there prior consultations, and concurrence obtained about these Projects.
42) Independently of these media speculation and official disclosure on Zhangmu, reliable evidence on Chinese activities in damming the rivers should be available from even commercial Satellite imagery. More precise, military level imagery should also have been available from “friendly” countries. Where these obtained and issue confronted at the Joint Mechanism? So far as is known, GH-1 has not clarified on this subject, if at all, to any degree of satisfaction of GH-2.
43) In this perspective, the following passage in the Document, “A Shared Vision for the 21st Century”, signed by the two Prime Ministers of 14th January 2008 needs critical appraisal.
“The two sides also welcome their efforts to set an example on Trans-Border Rivers by commencing co-operation since 2002. The Indian side highly appreciates the assistance extended by China on the provision of flood season hydrological data which has assisted India in ensuring the safety and security of its population in the regions along these rivers. The two sides agree that this has contributed positively to building mutual understanding and trust” (emphasis added).
44) Ignoring the somewhat Nihang-like claim “to set an example on Trans-Border Rivers” (and the bad syntax), each of the material references to “assistance” extended by China, provision of hydrological data and its derivative benefits to India calls for factual, detailed, substantiation, in the light of the “dam(n)” reports.
45) It is only hoped that it does not turn out to be another example of
“Suffer us NOT to mock ourselves in falsehood”,
like the Border/Boundary issue.
46) (i) A recent Pentagon report has noted that nuclear-tipped missiles, CSS-5 (DF-21) has been deployed by PLA Second Artillery along Indo-Tibet Border.
(ii) A C3S report, quoting from Chinese Publications like “Global Times” gave details of deployment of Air Defense Units with sophisticated missiles (in turn quoting from western news papers) to claim that an intruding Indian Falcon (sic) fighter plane was shot down by these missile units, demonstrating their prowess and mocking the Indian claim that it was a AN-32 transport plane crash in the relevant border area.
(iii) Any number of Chinese land and air intrusions have been protested against by the India-Tibet border formations.
47) In all these cases, the working and implementation of the 1993 and 1996 Agreements on maintaining Peace and Tranquility and the CBMs along the LAC (probably still undefined), which spell out very specific and concrete ways of dealing with each instance/event, should have kicked into operation. Has GH-1 gone through the full gamut of post-mortem to establish the facts and the truth in each case? In case this has been done, the results have not been shared with GH-2, in any meaningful manner.
48) If each of these events had been taken up with the Chinese then and there and pursued to logical end, it would have indirectly helped to mark the LAC too on the ground, by extrapolation of the Chinese answers, which could have been sent back to them for confirmation.
49) All these bring into focus the need for GH-2 to be advised about the “Process” in the conduct of bilateral relations, in general with China, and more specifically how the five or six main Agreements were formulated, prepared and finalized, what are the systems evolved to regularly watch their implementation, mechanism for taking up and resolving defaults, how effectively their functioning is monitored independently.
50) On a more macro level, the methodology of formulation of India’s China policy, who formulates, who decides, what are the nature of consultations, brainstorming preceding, role of the Cabinet, particularly Ministers of Defense, Home & Finance, overall direction, guidance from political level, details of day-to-day navigation, systems worked out to deal with problems and crisis as and when they arise, like the still festering case of ‘stapled visas’, violent change of stance/direction by China in its treatment of J&K as a Dispute between India and Pakistan, etc., have to be better made known to GH-2.
51) To do the needed justice to and properly handle the complex gamut that is India’s relations with China, the Country needs to build up a vast array of Human Resources, (besides the well known investments in Defense), which currently seems to be woefully inadequate.
52) To take one small example, it is elementary that we should have a huge reservoir of “China-Experts”, whose basic qualification will be Chinese language proficiency. What is the existing availability of this precious resource for the nation as a whole? Has GH-1 the necessary data on Chinese language experts in the country as a whole, including the dispersal of this resource? What are the plans to mobilize them as needed, in an Emergency? What are the plans to augment this resource on a long term basis and making this a worthwhile career prospect for capable youth?
53) The following information on importance given to Chinese language study elsewhere, recently put out by the magazine “Economist”, will be an eye-opener.
54) (i)Per Chinese government estimate, people studying Mandarin outside China grew to 40 million (perhaps in 2010), up from 30 million in 2005.
(ii) Outside of China, South Korea is the biggest customer to buy Chinese text books from the Beijing Language and Culture Academy with Japan in the second place.
(iii) Number of Indonesians studying Chinese language increased by 42% between 2007 and 2009.
(iv) The number of Corporate customers’ personnel signing on to study Mandarin in various Institutions in US increased by 1800% between 2008-2010.
(v) One Mr.Fred Rao, is the founder of “Chinese Learning” (probably UK based) which offers one-on-one Mandarin instructions on Skype.
(vi) 4% of schools in US teach Chinese language. The Chinese government apparently pays $30,000 per annum to schools teaching Mandarin. This is inferred from a report that one school in California turned down this offer (on moral grounds?).
(vii) In September 2010, Indian Education Minister proposed starting Mandarin classes in Government schools!
55) GH-1 and GH-2 should draw appropriate conclusions and respond suitably, hopefully on emergent basis.
56) In fulfilling this responsibility, GH-1 can appreciate and be thankful for the unique and enviable situation it is blessed to be in, in its task of conducting India-China relations, namely that this onerous task is EXTRINSIC to the pulls and pressures of India’s domestic Polity, unlike relations with almost any other important country, as well as neighbours like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and, of course, the “mother of all,” Pakistan.
57) In each of these, domestic vote bank politics plays a significant, distorting, hampering role, requiring to be factored in, in the conduct of external relations. In comparison, by and large, currently relations with China are exogenous to this complexity. GH-1 should appreciate that it is, in fact, on a very strong wicket on all counts in dealing with China.
58) Will the foregoing allow one to describe GH-1’s China policy and handling of it as:-
“an enigma of indecisive, guileless mindset, wrapped in confused ambivalence (in asserting vital self-interests), inside a perplexing gullibility, facilitating a foxy opponent to take it by the nose up the garden path to certain disaster” – if urgent remedial measures are not taken.
59) Paradoxically, one has to invoke an oft quoted Sun-tsu aphorism to warn in conclusion.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourselves and not the enemy, for every victory you came you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
60) Seminar participants may please decide which one of the three categories is applicable to our situation, what further needs to be done, how and get it going.
61) Congratulations reader for your stamina ! Thanks for your patience in coming up to this point – having survived this far, please don’t miss the Appendix !
(Presentation made by Mr N Narasimhan, former Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi at a National Seminar on China organised by the Center for Asia Studies, Chennai Centre for China Studies and Indian Centre for South Asian Studies at Chennai on 17 December 2010. This will be a part of the edited volume on the Seminar being brought out soon by the convenors of the seminar mentioned above. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chennai Seminar on China, 17, December 2010
Appendix to paper : Roles of Different Stakeholders
(Some Thoughts – Indian perspective)
EMBASSY OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA IN INDIA
The Relations between China and India (from Embassy web site, extracted December 2010)
I. Political Relations:
3) ………….. In 1959, India supported and took in the Tibetan rebels and created bloodshed in the border areas between the two countries. In 1960, Premier Zhou went to New Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Nehru to discuss the boundary dispute. In 1962, India launched an all-out offensive armed attack against China along the Sino-Indian border areas, China was forced to fight back for self defense. This led to a cold period of bilateral relations.
9) ……………. In May 1998, India carried out nuclear tests and made unwarranted accusations against China under the pretext of the “China threat” that seriously frustrated the Sino-Indian relations.
III. The Sino-Indian Boundary Question.
3) …………. In February 1987, India established the so-called Arunachal Pradesh in its illegally occupied Chinese territories south of the McMahon line. The Chinese side made solemn statements on many occasions that China never recognizes the illegal McMahon line and the so-called Arunachal Pradesh.
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