Chinese Chicanery

Issue: 09-2009By Air Marshal (Retd) B.K. PandeyIllustration(s): By 358.jpg

China has remained inflexible over claims on Indian territory and the Chinese leadership has carefully refrained from any statement indicating concession to Delhi in any form

Recent Chinese incursions into Indian Territory and violation of Indian airspace by its military helicopters have revived unpleasant memories and sent a wave of concern across the nation. Statements emanating from the highest levels of politico-military leadership, however, indicate that the incursions are not of serious nature and are attributable to lack of demarcation of the border between the two countries. The nation should, therefore, rest assured. Timed usually with major diplomatic events, the recent incursions were possibly triggered by the proposed visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, an area Beijing claims as its own and hence regards the visit as “deliberate provocation”.

There is, however, an imperative need to take stock of the evolving situation at the strategic level vis-à-vis China. As a legacy of the past, apart from claiming Arunachal Pradesh and territory extending to the plains of Assam up to the Brahmaputra River, some 30,000 square km in Ladakh was lost to the Chinese in the humiliating war of 1962. Besides, Pakistan has gifted to China over 5,000 square km from the part of Kashmir under their occupation. The border with Arunachal Pradesh, the McMahon Line, though agreed upon between the British and the Tibetan governments in 1914, has never been accepted by Beijing. To resolve border issues, so far there have been 13 rounds of talks between the two governments, all without any tangible result. China has remained inflexible over her claims on Indian territory and the Chinese leadership has carefully refrained from any statement indicative of concession to Delhi in any form. China does not appear to be under any compulsion to resolve border issues with India. This is reflected in the words of the late Deng Xiaoping: “Leave the problem to the next generation if current generation cannot solve it.” The fact is that China is embarked on a pursuit of a larger agenda and settlement of border issues with India is unlikely to figure on her list of priorities. In any event, China is unlikely to engage in war that could come in the way of economic development.

With the exception of India, China has successfully resolved border dispute with 13 other neighbours, negotiating from a position of strength wherever necessary. China is emerging as a major industrial nation, the second largest economy in the world clocking a GDP three times that of India. On the military front, China has already developed elaborate infrastructure in Tibet to support large scale and sustained military operations. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a formidable combat force capable of influencing the military balance in the region. It is complemented by a navy equipped with attack submarines and surface vessels both armed with supersonic cruise missiles. The PLA Navy may soon acquire indigenously built nuclear powered attack submarines and aircraft carriers. The PLA Air Force can field several hundred Su-27, Su-30 and the J-10 combat aircraft. China may also acquire the Su-33 aircraft that may also be carrier based in the future. China has a huge nuclear arsenal and in the regime of space exploration, is way ahead of India having developed the capability to knock out satellites with ground based weapons. The country has already undertaken manned missions into space and could well put a man on the moon in not too distant a future.