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India and China Eye Each Other Warily

India and China Eye Each Other Warily

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Published by Venkat Ananth
The IISS on Wen's visit and how India and China might approach it.
The IISS on Wen's visit and how India and China might approach it.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Venkat Ananth on Dec 15, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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India and China eye each other warily
Editor:Alexander NicollAssistant Editor:Jessica Delaney
Recent StrategicComments
More on China andIndia from
Strategic Comments: 
We report on China'sambitious navalstrategy which seeks tosecure China's accessto energy resourcesand to give it morediplomatic leverage interritorial disputes withits neighbours.Read more 
 We analyse the USDepartment ofDefense's annualreview of China'smilitarycapabilities. TheWhen Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits New Delhi on 15
17 December he will find the political moodquite different from when he was last there nearly five years ago. While it is often claimed that Asia is largeenough to accommodate the simultaneous emergence of both China and India as rising powers, India isvisibly concerned over Beijing's growing attention to South Asia, and especially over China's moreassertive approach to a longstanding border dispute. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Septemberthat 'China
would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality… It's important
to be prepared.'
Rising neighbours
India and China, which account for nearly 40% of the world's population and boast the fastest-growingmajor economies, have long competed with each other for influence in Asia. China refused to accept theMcMahon Line drawn in 1914 during British rule of India as the boundary separating India's farnortheastern territory from Tibet. A brief flirtation between the two countries in the 1950s quickly souredover the border dispute, resulting in a three-week war in the high Himalayas in 1962 in which India suffered a humiliating defeat. This left a legacy of mutual mistrust and suspicion, even though diplomatic relationswere re-established in 1976.Following Rajiv Gandhi's visit to Beijing in 1988, the first by an Indian prime minister in 34 years, thecountries decided to bolster economic and trade relations, and keep political tensions and border disputesin the background. The Indian military reluctantly downgraded its perception of China from being a 'threat'to a 'challenge'. As economic reform has taken hold in both countries bilateral trade has risen dramatically, from $1 billion in 1994 to an expected $60bn this year
China was India's largest trading partner in 2008.The two governments work together on multilateral issues, for example during the Copenhagen climate-change summit in December 2009 and at meetings of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) emerging economies. Under American pressure, China allowed a critical exemption for nuclear exports to India to be granted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in September 2008, paving the way for the landmark India
UScivil-nuclear deal the following month. China also backed India's successful
candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council from January 2011.
Mutual wariness
Yet New Delhi's perspective towards Beijing is hardening. Although India continues to view the rise ofChina as essentially peaceful, it has begun to perceive it as a key security 'challenge and priority'. India isconcerned over what it sees as China's recent assertiveness towards the border dispute and a change inBeijing's policy towards India's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. It is also suspicious of China'sbolstered military presence in Tibet and its involvement in infrastructural projects, such as ports in SouthAsian countries.
India is apprehensive that these developments amount to an attempt to contain andencircle it strategically, while enabling China to gain permanent access to the Indian Ocean for the firsttime.In the past, China's perceived failure to pay attention to India had provoked deep resentment among theIndian strategic elite. But more recently, China has begun to look warily at India. It is suspicious of theactivities of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist
spiritual leader who is normally resident in India, inrelation to protests against Chinese rule in Tibet. At the same time, China is concerned over India'sdeveloping strategic partnership with the US. Beijing sees the landmark India
US civil-nuclear deal as anAmerican attempt to promote a counterweight to China, especially in the Indian Ocean.
Border dispute
The specific argument between the two countries concerns the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de factoborder between the two countries. For India, the boundary separating Arunachal Pradesh state andChina's Tibet Autonomous Region is demarcated by the LAC. However, China claims that most ofArunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory as an extension of southern Tibet. There have been regular borderincursions across the LAC by both sides, with occasional clashes, although no shots have been fired since the late 1960s. Fourteen rounds of negotiations between two high-level special representatives havemoved slowly, with the last meeting taking place in November 2010 after a hiatus of more than a year. On6 July 2006, the two countries re-opened border trade through the 4,300m-high Himalayan pass of NathuLa after 44 years.India was enraged by Beijing's criticism of Prime Minister Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh in October2009, which it perceived as a personal attack on Singh. The Chinese government was in turn infuriated
when, perhaps not coincidentally, the Dalai Lama visited Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh the followingmonth.India is concerned over the build-up of Chinese military capabilities and stepped-up construction ofinfrastructure such as roads and railway lines near the LAC, providing China's armed forces with greatercommunication and access to the region. The world's highest railway line from Xining, Qinghai Province, toLhasa, Tibet, was opened in 2006 and is now being extended to Xigaze and Nyingchi in southwestern andsoutheastern Tibet respectively. In July 2010, the highest civilian airport in the world was opened at Gunsain Tibet's Ngari Prefecture, and an airport in Xigaze is scheduled to open soon.India is also concerned over unexplained Chinese constructions on the Yarlung Tsangpo River, which laterbecomes the Brahmaputra. In late 2009 it emerged that China had begun to build a dam at Zangmu, but ithas reassured India that it will have no impact on the downstream flow of the river through ArunachalPradesh. Meanwhile, China unsuccessfully attempted
to block a $2.9bn Asian Development Bank loan toIndia last year, because it included $60 million funding for a watershed project in Arunachal Pradesh.
China and South Asia
China and Pakistan have a longstanding and close relationship, but Beijing has maintained a policy ofneutrality on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. However, there are indications of a shift. ToNew Delhi's annoyance, China has for the past few months been refusing to grant normal visas to Indiannationals of Kashmiri origin travelling to China, insisting that their visas be stapled, not stamped, on theirpassports. The implication is that Beijing is treating Indian-held Kashmir as disputed territory. Indiasuspended high-level defence exchanges with China in August, following China's denial of a visa to athree-star Indian general responsible for troops in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.Also in August, it was reported that over 7,000 People's Liberation Army soldiers had been deployed inGilgit-Baltistan, the mountainous territory in the far north of Pakistan, to assist ongoing work on road andrail access between China and Pakistan. Although the Chinese and Pakistani governments denied thesereports, India countered by publicly stating that Gilgit-Baltistan was part of India, occupied by Pakistansince 1948.At the same time, India is concerned over Chinese involvement in construction of deep-water ports inSouth Asia that could potentially have military uses. Projects include providing funding for the constructionof Gwadar port in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, the development of ports, as well as oil and gaspipelines in Myanmar, and the financing of Sri Lanka's Hambantota port and development zone. China hasalso shown an interest in investing in Bangladesh's largest port of Chittagong.
India's response
In an attempt to counter China's assertiveness and growing influence in South Asia, India has respondedwith a mix of rhetorical, diplomatic, infrastructural and defence-led initiatives while still pursuing efforts atbilateral confidence-building.On the diplomatic front, India is seeking to build key strategic relations with countries in Southeast andEast Asia, especially Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore. In November, the first military-to-military talks between India and Japan took place, building on a security-cooperation agreement signed in2009. Indian defence exchanges and cooperation with Singapore and Vietnam take place regularly. Thefirst visit of an Indian defence minister to South Korea took place two months ago, and agreements on jointmilitary training and development of defence equipment were signed. At the same time, India disregarded
Beijing’s démarches not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for ja
iled Chinese dissident Liu Xiaoboin Oslo.India is also responding to China's infrastructural development in Tibet by stepping up the building of roadsin Arunachal Pradesh. In August 2009, Defence Minister A.K. Antony announced that nearly $200m hadbeen allocated in 2009
10 to build roads near the LAC, twice what had been spent the previous year. TheIndian Supreme Court recently gave clearance for the construction of two strategic roads near the tri- junction of Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim, due for completion in 2012.India's military chiefs have begun to voice concerns over China's rising military proficiency. In August2009, then-Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta
stated that India had neither the military capabilitynor the intention 'to match China force for force' and advocated the use of maritime-domain awarenessand network-centric operations 'along with a reliable stand-off deterrent' as a means of coping with China'smilitary rise. Three months later, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik warned thatIndia's aircraft strength was inadequate and was only a third of China's. In December 2009, then-Chief ofArmy Staff General Deepak Kapoor went further and reportedly stated that the army was revising itsdoctrine so as to be able to fight a two-front war with both Pakistan and China. His successor, Generaldevelopments reportedin thereview suggest that
China remains aregional military forcewith a focus on itsnear-abroad
 especially on Taiwan
 and is not yet an extra-regional power.Read more 
Described by PrimeMinister ManmohanSingh as 'India'sgravest security
in earlySeptember we lookedat the reasons why thelong-running Maoistinsurgency hadescalated over thecourse of 2010.Read more 
In April 2010 the JapanMaritime Self DefenseForce monitored tenChinese warshipspassing 140km southof Okinawa through theMiyako Strait. Thedeployment was of
unprecedented sizeand scope for theChinese navy - weexamine this newstage in China's navaldevelopment.

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