Saturday, November 12, 2005

China needs watching

Indian Express B. RAMESH BABU

The inexplicable Indian habit of giving the benefit of doubt to China emerges every now and then despite hard evidence to the contrary. Recently, when Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee referred to the ’62 border conflict as a war with China, a lowly vice-consul in the Chinese Embassy pounced on him. The vice-consul changed tack the next day and declared that his admonition was a remark from a friendly country. Amazingly, he got away with it!

That the ongoing negotiations between India and China provide the most propitious opportunity in decades to move forward on the border dispute is true. India should do all that is possible—and a bit more—to end quickly this lurking threat. But things are not exactly in our hands. China effectively occupies almost all of the difficult terrain in dispute.

Relations between two countries of continental dimensions that go back in centuries are bound to be complex. China has been going back and forth on Sikkim. During the two years, its posture has been hardening all along the border. Compared to 2003, incidents of Chinese Frontier Guards violating the LoC have doubled in 2004, according to China expert, Srikanth Kondapalli. China is once again relapsing to its age-old stance of India’s “illegal” occupation of Arunachal Pradesh. Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that in settling the borders, populated areas would not be disturbed—implying non-negotiability of the Tawang tact—China has started fishing in the troubled waters of the Tawang and Bomdila districts.

Since ’87, when the current round of negotiations began, China has been throwing up differing but nice sounding “concepts” for settling the border dispute. The most frequent among them are “just”, “fair”, “reasonable and mutually acceptable”, and—the latest—”on the basis of mutual understanding”. However, the intent behind the parade of phrases seems to be to lull India while it carries on with its “cartographic aggression”, quickly followed by by effective occupation on the sly—an established Chinese trademark.

Furthermore, we should not forget even for a moment the fact of China’s collusion with Pakistan on all fronts — political, military, strategic and, above all, in the nuclear/missile fields. It is good to remind ourselves that Pakistan gave away thousands of square kilometres of “Indian” territory to the then acknowledged enemy state of China, which enabled the latter to build the Aksai Chin highway connecting Tibet and its own territory to the north and east of Ladakh. This has facilitated China’s reign of repression in Tibet. As a quid pro quo, Pakistan was accorded a special place in the Chinese scheme of fishing in the troubled waters of South Asia.

Then there were the clandestine Chinese military exports to Iran started in 1981 and were nurtured throughout the latter’s war with Iraq in the ’90s. As the weapons relationship gathered steam, China made the controversial sale of HY-2 Silkworm missiles to Iran. The US retaliated by freezing liberalisation of technology sales to China. In January ’88, China gave private assurances to the US that it would stop the export of Silkworm missiles to Iran. However in ’96 Iran tested an advanced Chinese C-802 anti-ship cruise missile. The US once again pressured China to stop the shipments. In September 1997, the Clinton administration received a pledge from the Chinese to stop further sales of the missiles to Iran.

Pledge or no pledge China’s charade continued—and continues till today. Export of nuclear and missile related assistance is in harness now. Richard L. Russell, in his recent book, Strategic Contest: Weapons Proliferation and War in the Greater Middle East, says that China plays “the cat and mouse game” of strategic security with the US in West Asia and East Asia. China’s policy and tactics regarding the export of WMDs and nuclear proliferation on the sly to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, are best characterised as “cheat, retreat, and cheat again,” Russell asserts.

Be that as it may, what is of immediate concern to us is that Pakistan and Dr A.Q Khan were the clandestine conduits for this nefarious enterprise dating back to the 1980s. The global intelligence community is well acquainted with the sordid details of the secret linkages in the multibillion dollar fraudulent arms smuggling enterprise. India periodically protests to the US and “the international community”. But I have yet to across a single statement of criticism, disapproval or even a pro-forma protest for the record by any prominent Left leader on this!

The writer is an adjunct professor, School of Public Policy, ICFAI University, Hyderabad


Blogger F-16 said...

Excellent article. China always hides what it does...a well-known communist trait. It is a bigger threat to all democratic countries than Iran.No wonder Indian Communists are keeing mum. After all, these people once said China's Chairman is our chairman.

April 29, 2006  

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