India and China sealed $16 billion worth of trade deals during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi, but many of the sore points between the Asian giants were left to future diplomacy to sort out.
Perhaps most alarming to analysts are the two countries' longstanding border disputes, which have proven intractable and contributed to wider Asian nervousness about China.
While Mr. Wen and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to resolve such disputes "at an early date," and also agreed to set up an emergency hotline and hold more frequent high-level visits, some analysts are concerned that the continued failure to resolve the border standoff has created an atmosphere of mistrust and military wariness in the region.
"It's 29 years of negotiations on the border with nothing to show because the Chinese have been taking India around the mulberry tree, they commit to something and reinterpret it later," says Brahma Chellaney, a Sino-India expert at the Center for Policy Research, an independent think tank in New Delhi. "The talks are deadlocked now."
The two countries fought a brief border war in 1962. The ceasefire left China in control of a Switzerland-sized area known as Aksai Chin that India still claims, while the Indians have held on to Arunachal Pradesh, a territory the size of Austria claimed by the Chinese.
Arunachal Pradesh - this is the area mentioned in Part 5; from China/India Border Disputes: Arunachal Pradesh, India or South Tibet, April 14, 2009:
Apr. 14 – With yesterday's news that China has vetoed plans for an Asian Development Bank loan to India for development of the Arunachal Pradesh region, we take a look at why the region is disputed, where it is, and the commodities and economic benefits possession of the area brings.
The political problems with the region go back to the days of the British Raj, and predate the current government of China's authority. Indeed, Taiwan claims ownership also under its position as an alleged government of China. Historically, the region was a kingdom, with several mentions of it being made in a number of Vedic texts. It is also mentioned in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, although it is usually acknowledged that much of the region was a de facto vassal state of Tibet, and that tributes were paid to the Dalai Lama in Lhasa.
Parts of the region however are known to have been administered by Bhutan, and to the east, Burma, until the British annexed India completely in 1858. The region was an important trading route with Lhasa, and connected Tibet to the nearest port, at Calcutta. The sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang, in the northwest of the region.
Problems over sovereignty go back therefore to the Chinese claim over Tibet, which was enforced in 1949, and to the "Simla Accord", of 1914, when China was ruled as a republic, in which representatives of Britain, China, and Tibet were to define the borders. The purpose of the agreement was to designate borders of Inner and Outer Tibet, in addition to borders between Tibet and British India. An 890 kilometer-line was designated as the border. British and Tibetan officials agreed on the demarcation; however the Chinese had issues with the designation of “inner” and “outer” Tibet, and walked out of the discussions. Fast forward to the Chinese civil war, and the Nationalists fleeing to Taiwan, and the Communist Party’s moving into Tibet in 1951. Since then, the Chinese government has made it clear that its position has remained constant, and that it inherited the Nationalist position that the agreement over the borders in 1914 was never agreed to by China. It subsequently has refused to do so, and in 1962 fought a brief border war with India over the territory. China won, but subsequently withdrew from its territorial gains in the region and allowed India to repossess them.
China and Taiwan accordingly jointly claim Arunachal Pradesh as belonging to Tibet and being the province of "South Tibet" as neither signed off on the original border demarcation. India claimed the area as under its sovereignty in 1950, while the Tibetan government in exile continues to identify Arunachal Pradesh as belonging to India and recognizes the Simla Accord and border demarcation between Tibet and India.
Arunachal Pradesh is agriculturally rich, with rice, maize, millet, wheat, pulses, sugarcane, ginger and oil seeds all grown in the region and processed here. The region also has some 61,000 square kilometers of forests, and this represents an important sector of the local economy, however tree felling and saw mills are prohibited on conservation grounds. It is understood part of the disputed loan India was to obtain from the ADB was to deal with water management and ecological problems caused by deforestation on the Chinese side and impacting on Arunachal Pradesh. Limited trade with Tibet has commenced, with roads having been constructed by China up to various borders crossings up to the border, with routes leading back to Lhasa. However, the Indian side remains distrustful of Chinese intentions in the region, and similar infrastructure on the Indian side remains downgraded.
Returning now to India, China shake hands on trade, but border disputes prove intractable, December 16, 2010:
Indian history of the border dispute has tended to cast China as an aggressor, with Beijing launching a surprise military incursion.
A new book by Indian lawyer A.G. Noorani suggests that in the years running up to 1962, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru contributed to the eventual standoff. Mr. Nehru drew border lines unilaterally in areas with undefined borders, and then ordered old maps to be destroyed. In 1960, China offered to settle the borders but India did not see a deal through, claims Mr. Noorani.
Dr. Chellaney disputes that the Chinese were in the mood to settle in 1960 – or at any other point.
"The fact is the Chinese have never put forward a concrete proposal," says Chellaney. "You can’t talk about missed opportunities when nothing has been put on the table."
Indian and Chinese negotiators have met 15 times since 2003 and an additional 25 times since 1981, he says, arguing that it’s a deadlock that should concern the wider world.
I concur that this is a deadlock that should concern the wider world.
If Beijing can get what Beijing wants through diplomacy, why resort to war? But, the Communist Chinese are hardly pacifists, and neither do they tolerate a great deal of anti-government dissent; consequently, when they decide to hedge their diplomatic bet by preparing and positioning military capabilities, we can't expect this to be stopped by by some Chinese president elected on a platform of "change", nor can we expect a flood of protesters in Tiananmen Square to turn the tide.
"This border dispute has the potential of creating not only bilateral military conflict but a conflict that involves other military powers," says Chellaney. "This dispute includes not just land but water issues which is central to the future of Asia."
Specifically, should China fight a war with India, and win a decisive military victory, the ramifications for Taiwan are clear: settle the border dispute (in other words, submit to Beijing's authority) or else; and don't expect South Korea, Japan and the United States to save you.
From there, it would be easy to establish dominion over the rest of East Asia, and, that done, China's unruly neighbor to the south, Vietnam, would be in an awkward position to push any claims on the Spratly Islands, or do much else, for that matter.
I do not believe that the current regime in Beijing is actually planning to do this; again, why risk so much on such a roll of the military dice, when diplomacy works? But, the capability is being put into place, and who knows when the international situation - or a change in power in Beijing - will change China's foreign policy calculus?
It is not just Early Light that questions China's motives and the utility of China's Pakistan alliance to Islamabad.
From A convenient alliance?, by Nadir Hassan, December 20, 2010:
To invert Ayub Khan's phrasing, it is Pakistan's lot in life to have allies who are masters, not friends. Pakistan joined 17 other countries in refusing to attend the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony for jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobao last week. As expressions of solidarity go, this was purely a symbolic one; our absence was barely remarked on both here and abroad. Leaving aside the human rights question, a topic on which Pakistan can speak with as much moral authority as Bill Clinton can on fidelity, it may be time to ask if our alliance with (or servitude to) China is serving our national interest.
Hassan's frank assessment of Pakistan's human rights record, and his brutally accurate reference to Clinton's scandals, go a long way toward establishing Hassan's credibility! :)
The umbilical cord that chains Pakistan to China is a mutual suspicion of India. In guarding against real and imagined Indian designs, Pakistan even negotiated away part of Kashmir that it had earlier staked a claim to in the Sino-Pakistan Agreement of 1953. The China-Pakistan alliance made sense during the Cold War, when India had allied itself to China's Communist rival, the Soviet Union. China needed us to put a spanner in India's ambitions whenever possible while we sought an ally that would, unlike the US, reliably deliver military aid whenever we were at war with our eastern enemy. This was an alliance based on convenience not ideology, and out of it arose incidental benefits like the construction of the Karakoram Highway and bilateral trade.
There is evidence that the closeness of the alliance may now be an anachronism. As long as we hew to our traditional anti-India stance, we will always need China to keep Indian ambitions in check. China, though, may not need as close a relationship with Pakistan for much longer. Bilateral trade between China and India is now close to $50 billion, up from below $150 million just 25 years ago. The former – and likely future – rivals are also cooperating on energy and civilian nuclear projects. For the moment, China is concentrating on building its economic strength rather than projecting military might. In that situation, Pakistan is sure to lose out.
Certain elements in Islamabad - those who support militarized madrassas and an endless supply of jihadis along the Afghan border to provide strategic depth and proxies as a counterweight to India - would probably also view the China alliance as important to their interests.
But, beyond that, Pakistan's alliance with China is a bit anachronistic - to Pakistan, but not to China.
While we have significant trade activity with China ourselves, we also need to reconsider its value. Our manufacturing industry is unable to compete in terms of price and quality with China. Despite this, Chinese manufacturers are granted trade benefits, which is leading to the closure of similar small-scale industries in Pakistan. Add to that the massive trade deficit Pakistan has with China and it is reasonable to ask if we couldn’t find a more complementary trading partner – India perhaps, where we could export agricultural products while importing from them the same items we currently get from China.
I am sad for Pakistan to see that Pakistanis are suffering economically due to competition from Chinese manufactured goods. This is also an issue for the world, as more economic opportunity in Pakistan might mean fewer people with time and motivation to listen to extremist militant viewpoints being propagated in some of the madrassas.
It does, however, confirm what I know about the US economy - this "free trade" bill of goods that we have been sold is not in the best interests of the American people, any more than a similar policy is helping Pakistan; how can workers in either country compete with what has been described as slave labor in China, which is working with minimal (to say the least) environmental regulation?
The rise of Islamic militancy has also forced China, which has a restive population of Uighur Muslims who get training in Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, to seek out alliances with traditional foes like Russia. Even if Pakistan starts cracking down further on militancy, China is unlikely to give us the same importance as emerging countries like Russia.
Trouble in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has indeed been tied to general Islamic militancy in South Asia, and the heroin trade from Afghanistan plays a role, as well - the source of much of this just a drive down the new-and-improved Karakoram Highway!
A military situation that requires China to move troops into Pakistan would help gain control of the XUAR, as well as give China significant leverage and ability to deal with the source of some of the troubles there.
This is not to argue that Pakistan should abandon its partnership with China. We simply need to diversify our diplomacy. Our reliance on China right now is such that any diplomatic dust-ups will have profound effects on us. And the next time a jailed dissident is honoured, we may even show up.
Pakistan may find itself maneuvered into a war with India to support Chinese interests.
More to follow.