What underlies the reasonable new China? - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Tuesday 14 May 2013

What underlies the reasonable new China?

A view of the McMahon Line, courtesy Ajai Shukla

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th May 13

Is China’s apparent willingness to take meaningful steps towards resolving the Sino-Indian boundary dispute merely a ploy to ensure the success of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit on 19-20th May? Or is there new recognition in Beijing, reinforced perhaps by the recent border incident at Daulat Beg Oldi in Ladakh, that an unsettled border with many potential flashpoints is a recipe for serial tensions with New Delhi.

Or is Beijing dangling the carrot of an early boundary settlement to entice New Delhi to accept the “border defence cooperation agreement” that China has proposed? That proposal would effectively freeze troop levels and border infrastructure at current levels, making China’s current advantage permanent.

On Monday, Qin Gang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Information Department chief briefed Indian journalists in Delhi. He indicated that --- with China and India having agreed in April 2005 on the “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question” --- the two countries now needed to take the next step.

“We need to redouble efforts to push ‘Framework’ negotiations so that we can reach a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution at an early date,” said Qin.

 The “Framework” that Qin refers to is the second stage of a boundary settlement, envisioned in the ongoing dialogue between Special Representatives of the two countries. This “Framework” will form the basis for the third and final stage of actually delineating a new Sino-Indian boundary.

India has consistently pushed for a “Framework” agreement to be finalized and the border delineated. But China has stonewalled for years, declaring that the border agreement was a “complicated issue” that was “left over from history” and best left for “future generations to resolve.”

Since President Xi Jinping’s election, however, Beijing has sent subtle signals of change. In March, Xi carefully said, “The boundary question is a complex issue left from history, and solving the issue won’t be easy.” Given Beijing’s careful semantics, China-watchers consider this a significant step forward from the earlier Chinese position that the boundary question, “will take time to resolve.”

And a gushing commentary in Xinhua on May 10, entitled “China, India capable of achieving win-win results, resolving disputes”, presented an unusually glowing summary of two friendly neighbours marching in lockstep towards a rosy future.

Why, analysts wonder, have Beijing --- and New Delhi --- changed their tune so dramatically just days after the resolution of a three-week-long mini-crisis over the occupation of Indian territory near Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) by an armed Chinese patrol? At an off-the-record media briefing last week, a senior Indian official termed the Chinese incursion at DBO a “political signal,” apparently indicating that Beijing was signalling the need to move towards a settlement.

Sceptics hold that Beijing hardly needs a border incident to send such a signal. New Delhi has been keen to resolve the boundary issue, while Beijing has dragged its feet. Through 15 rounds of the Joint Working Group and Experts Group meetings, China has refused to exchange maps with India in which both sides mark their perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh borders.

This has allowed China to extend its writ deeper and deeper into India. Since the 1962 war, China has extended its control over the entire Galwan River and Chip Chap River valleys in Ladakh.

Any Chinese offer to agree on a “Framework” for resolving the boundary dispute is to be welcomed, though it would still leave the contentious and painstaking task of actually defining --- sector by sector --- where the boundary runs. This would involve specifying each boundary landmark, marking those on a mutually agreed map, and then constructing hundreds of boundary markers on the ground, all along the border.

Only after completing this process should New Delhi accept Beijing’s proposal for a “border defence cooperation agreement.” India can accept constraints on its border build up only after the reason for such a build up is removed. With the border settled, it would suit New Delhi to freeze troop levels and border infrastructure at their current levels, or even to reduce deployment on the difficult Himalayan border. But a freeze on India’s military capability must follow a boundary settlement, not precede it.


  1. Is Dragon trustworthy for Indians to decide on freezing the force level... in spite of an agreement. Freeze has to be at equal levels including equal infrastructures

    Increase in India's force level is China's own doing..

    Or else many Shuklas have been existing in India to gleefully reject increase in force levels and block such moves

  2. Well we don't know... let we... take part... in the stretching... all sides... russia/mangolia... cetral asia... tibet... south china... south china sea... south east asia... phillipines... nippon... siberia... and see... whether its fabric... strechable...

  3. China is confident, while India dithers in insecurity. Know this, China will not cede any territory it has captured or overrun. While the Chinese brandish the Dragon spirit all the way, every way, it is time for India to unleash the menacing Tiger! Yes, it is Dragon vs. Tiger. Lets not kid ourselves anymore.

  4. @Ajai sir

    its all happening bcoz India has never asserted its points and put its foot down. had India been proactive in intelligence 1959 or 1962 wouldnt have happened. Even being assertive would have not resulted in loss of grasslands since then.

    What has happened is gone what can be recovered is the concern. Its known that the 'neela kitaab' of chinese says good words but problem is words dont matter much until written.

    As per the diplomacy language something written in main text has one meaning, same thing written in sub text has different meaning, same thing written in note/subnotes has different meaning, and written in annexure has entirely different meaning.

    The Chinese are very good at that, however India has said settlememt of boundary dispute must serve strategic issues.

    India giving away the entire Aksai Chin in return for China giving up claim for AP doesnt help India strategically as it has to meet public aspiration. Also it must be known that catchment area around Indus are believed to hold lot of minerals & oil that remain unexplored.

    China claims AP but doesnt hold it but holds Aksai Chin. so if it want to solve boundary issue it has to give up area in that part. That is why China must give up area till west of Aksai Chin road they built in 1959 to settle the dispute.

    As the area to east of road doesnt mean anything to India but holding on to areas to its west will help India vis a vis Pak and exploring & using natural resources as well. It doesnt serve China to hold area west of that road.

    What is more important that India urgently put its claim to the west of Aksai Chin road bcoz if it doesnt then China which has a habit of grabbing land from its neighboring nations will claim the entire Aksai Chin & Ladakh rendering Siachen undefensable. If that happens it will allow Pakistan to declare Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan, which will be a great loss for India.

    Agreed undefined border gives any one chance but China has already taken land from Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Nepal and not to mention islands on the east only giving up land to Russia. China believes in a funda that what land it holds is its no talks can be on that and talks can be held on what else it can grab more. India needs to grind China further like a test batsman and make it bowl according to its needs.


    Joydeep Ghosh

  5. Interesting is the fact that this displayed seriousness is coming when India in her humble style is trying to catch up with china slowly still meaningfully.

    The questions that lingers more however is, is the same PRC which is playing hard to encroach over entire south china sea --which is highly competed by more than one and some very powerful nations which have US interests-- is actually interested in give & take with India?

    Whatever might be the actual answer what that i feal most after this DBO incident PRC might be living with impression than it's all take, take and take only?

  6. Hi,

    I think this is just a ploy. China territorial ambitions will be intact. The border skirmishes will continue until the devil of complacency on the part of Indians goes away and we do some infrastructure build up enough to mobilize arms forces at a scale similar to china now.

    China believes that friendship is diffidently among equals. And it also assumes that India currently is not a friend (bcus it is not a n equal as it sees it)but COULD potential be one.

    Close to her heart, is the fact any tensions like the one in Ladakh will propel China to be perceived as an aggressor. Which will affect her trade. If the trade falls, the money shrinks..people get into protest,, chaos and the communist regime might get shaky... it knows that pretty well. Then there is USA and other European countries which are watching China closely, by closely, I mean there are doing their part to sabotage the growth of China in every way. So, once China becomes an aggressor or is perceived as one, USA and European countries will do their bit to slow China growth and influence, China knows that pretty well in other words.

    So, India is like a 'hot butter in a mouth' as far as China is concerned. Neither can it relinquish its territorial ambitions neither can it go all in all conquer mode w.r.t India.

    This gesture on the part of china is all fake! If India wants to learn something from the recent event. BUILD infrastructure quickly along the borders with CHINA. Roads are not enough, some isolated airfields are not enough. We need railroads, infrastructure that can move troops quickly and in a large scale.

    I think, we should also enforce military cooperation with Bangladesh, Maldives, Burma and Srilanka to move the China activity away from the Motherland,

    The above mentioned cannot happen diplomatically alone. Intelligence cannot sleep now. Build stronger relationships with Vietnam, and Cambodia, Japan, Phillipines.

    Sell some weaponry to them, defense cooperation is the cornerstone of any relationship. we make some reasonable good weapons now, sell them to these countries.

    Bottom line is, China will keep this little episodes of invasion to both test and conquer no matter who becomes the leader in China. So, India needs better relationship management with the neighbors to thwart the growing influence of china and enforce better relationships with eastern countries at the same time build infrastructure. RAW needs to play an active role to converting the little influence we got in Burma to a level of India - Russia. First of all, we need a foreign policy where we are seen and welcomed as helpers rather than aggressor as we now are perceived in Nepal, Bangladesh and Srilanka. Mere Donations will not suffice, (Bangladesh), we must will the hearts of the people!


  7. There have been a lot of weaknesses on the India political side, but in overall perspective the Red Dragon China is completely unreliable and ever eager to take the advantages of our whatsoever drawbacks either of the past or of the present.

    So diplomatically China should be treated with a sugar coated tongue, but on all other fronts our stern preparations shall be continued. If BTW Nehruji has done some errors, it does not mean that the whole eternal future is to be decided based only on those gruesome errors. Those errors shall be corrected now or if not possible now, we can wait for the temporary changes being brought about by the correlation of the various forces involved or even for the changes brought naturally by the change of the eons. I mean whatever is our land is our land and it is not meant to be donated to anyone on the pretext of some so-called agreements.

  8. Anonymous: "Know this, China will not cede any territory it has captured or overrun."
    China withdrew from territory it had captured/overrun in 1962.

    "Yes, it is Dragon vs. Tiger. Lets not kid ourselves anymore. "
    Prepare the kindergarten war...

  9. Joydeep Ghosh: "India giving away the entire Aksai Chin in return for China giving up claim for AP doesnt help India strategically as it has to meet public aspiration"
    'Public aspirations' (i.e. bullshit) are hardly related to achieving ACTUAL strategic goals, that is the point of enunciating specifically strategic goals as opposed to whatever national fantasies may prevail.

    " Also it must be known that catchment area around Indus are believed to hold lot of minerals & oil that remain unexplored. "
    And mineral exploitation can hardly be done in conditions of contention between China, India, and Pakistan. Do you have an idea of the relative costs to remove any resources gained, i.e. transport corridor, especially for India?

    "What is more important that India urgently put its claim to the west of Aksai Chin road bcoz if it doesnt then China which has a habit of grabbing land from its neighboring nations will claim the entire Aksai Chin & Ladakh rendering Siachen undefensable. If that happens it will allow Pakistan to declare Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan, which will be a great loss for India."
    India ALREADY claims Laksai Chin and Ladakh.
    Pakistan already has declared, and administers, Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan.

  10. Coming to a definitive agreement on definition of borders, not just LoC, does seem the productive course of action at this point.

    That inevitably involves a political decision on both sides... The observation that the Chinese have never wished to specify details of LoC in Joint Working Groups can be seen exactly as these groups were not in a position to make political decisions of borders, and specifying LoC could have been seen as prejudicing final determination of border.

    Clearly, along with determination of borders, agreements on status of forces plays an important part, and parity seems the reasonable goal here, including infrastructure on Indian side which continues to lack. But in the context of an agreement on final borders, all issues should be resolvable.

  11. The geographically isolated population density of Tibbat in overall terms is so far away from China and so nearer to India, that if it is not a part of India, then Tibbat can not be a part of China as well. If it is still with China, then it is unfortunately a colony. As such contemporarily no more relations than a temporary détente can be maintained with the Red Dragon China.



  12. @Kana

    Everybody has a head and a opinion , so what is my opinion cant match your opinion.

    Its a pity you chose to respond to a few selective points raised by me.

    Dear friend please read the entire text by me and try to figure what i wanted to opine.

    May be your never heard of the horse show tunnel under the rohtang pass that will provide a 8 lane all weather full year road access to ladakh or the 2nd Jawahar tunnel that will allow more vehicular traffic into valley.

    As for GB it was only in 2009 a act was passed by Pak that allowed people of GB to vote and elect representative for GB autonomous region (remember from 1947 to 2009 they never got chance to vote) they still cant elect representatives for Pak lower or upper house. so can you still say GB is part of Pak when Shias of GB are crying aloud of oppression and demographic changes imposed on them by Sunni Pubjabi rulers of Pak.

    You & I can both have opinion and counter each other but it wont help anything as people sitting in power dont listen to us.


    Joydeep Ghosh

  13. No two countries in the world have ever fought a mechanized war on a plain above 5000 meters. That is why I am so curious about what kind of imagery of war that people have in mind when they speak of the ability of the Chinese to bring in mechanized coplumns and armor. Mind you I am not saying they cannot do it - it is obvious that they can, but its the little details I am after.

    Altitude sickness is areal problem over 5000 meters so let me put that out of the way by simply deeming that China will have acclimatized its soldiers beforehand. But that precludes rapid expansion of forces beyond a point if push comes to shove. But still it cannot be dismissed that easily. Let alone fighting, even living at those heights leads to regular attrition from altitude sickness. That means that there have to be fixed medical installations and helipads for a return to lower altitudes. How far away is "low altitude" from Aksai Chin.

    The other thing that has always intrigued me and I have no answers yet is fuel consumption of vehicles at 5000 meters. I am not speaking of aircraft - they are different. I am sure diesel vehicles will be superchaarged - but ids teh cost of running a diesel vehicle at 5000 meters the same? What would the fuel requirements of a significantly large armoured column be at 5000 meters. Maintenance crews would need to set up camp and they would need acclimatization too.

    When we speak of war in Aksai Chin and a Chinese ability to move in machines we need to ask these questions and I have never seen/heard anyone do anything more than dismiss the questions as irrelevant.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last