Event ReportsPublished on Jul 27, 2013
Settling territorial disputes and balancing multilateral relationships are the twin challenges before India and China, opined speakers at the ORF seminar on 'Issues in Sino-Indian Relations and Leadership Change in China' held in Kolkata on July 27, 2013.
Issues in Sino-Indian Relations and Leadership Change in China
Settling territorial disputes and balancing multilateral relationships are the twin challenges before India and China, opined speakers at the ORF seminar on ’Issues in Sino-Indian Relations and Leadership Change in China’ held in Kolkata on July 27, 2013. The seminar was chaired by His Excellency, the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Gen Nirbhay Sharma (Retd.) who set the tone for the seminar saying that keeping in mind India’s core interests, it is important to understand what China wants. Sharma also added that India’s policy towards China has been pragmatic and it is important to understand what is evolving and is likely to evolve between the two countries.

Dr. Raja Mohan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, began by historically contextualizing India’s relationship with China and by pointing out Kolkata’s special place in it during the British Raj. He pointed out how through the writings of Tagore for the first time the notion of an "Asia" as a territorial and spiritual entity was created. In modern times India’s political connections with China began in the pre-independence period and continued with a break post-1962 through the era of normalization during Rajiv Gandhi’s premiership when there was expansion of political dialogue. However, the relationship has reached a new dimension with the resurfacing of old issues like Tibet, Arunachal and ’stapled visas’.

Among the challenges that India faces with China are the questions of nationhood and territoriality because although both have arrived at the world stage, territorial issues and the problem of national unity are yet to be figured out. Second is the problem of shaping multilateral relations arising out of the association of India and China with other countries like Pakistan, Bhutan, Ceylon or Japan for instance. Third, China’s military modernization is taking place rapidly, widening the gap with India’s capability. Finally, China’s emergence in the Indian Ocean has generated an entirely new security situation for India that needs to be seriously thought about. Dr. Raja Mohan believes that our poor knowledge of China and our tendency to think in terms of binaries like good and bad constituents big impediments to a more appropriate r China policy... Given that China’s rise is the single most important development of our times, we need ’multiple China policies’ which would allow us to handle the regional dynamics as well as China.

While speaking on ’China-India Border Issues’ Dr. Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, said the border between India-China remains un-demarcated since no agreement has been reached even on the Line of Actual Control giving rise to claims and counter-claims of intrusion. Dr. Joshi cited two exercises undertaken by the British to demarcate the border between India and China- the Mccartney-Macdonald Line and the Mac Mohan Line and pointed out that both were left unimplemented for lack of agreement. At independence India started with an assumption that there could be no disagreement between two great Asian neighbours, India and China. Hence, the White Paper prepared by India in 1950s on the border left Aksai Chin un-demarcated. But by 1954, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru without any consultation with the Chinese took the view that Aksai Chin was a part of India for centuries.

Attempts to reach an agreement again failed when the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai came to India, with Nehru refusing to concede on Aksai Chin. In fact, Dr. Joshi pointed out India twice refused Chinese proposal for a swap between China’s claims on Aksai Chin and India’s claims on Arunachal (NEFA). Since the late 1980s the two countries that went to war in 1962 are negotiating a settlement. Till 2012 16 rounds of talks have taken place between them to settle the border issue. While several agreements have been made the mutual implementation is tardy, Joshi argued. He also said that the political will to implement the agreements is what would determine whether India-China border issues are settled.

Dr. Sobhanlal Dattagupta, S. N. Bannerjee Professor of Political Science (retd.) of Calcutta University, speaking on ’Leadership Change in China and its Implications’ at the outset mentioned the limitations of his paper due to his unfamiliarity with Chinese language (primary sources) and the question of credibility of personal opinion of experts. On the methodological question, he clarified his paper was based on analysis of insiders (Chinese Communist Party members) and not of experts/commentators. Dattagupta focussed his presentation on the 18th Party Congress Report released at end of 2012 and provided a comparative estimate with earlier two documents released in 2007 and 2002 respectively to specify the points of continuity and break. He designated Xi Jinping’s leadership as fifth generation leadership of China.

The elements of continuity are socialism with Chinese characteristics, socialist market economy, primary state of reform (modernization and opening-up) and the "thoughts of three" (Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Deng Xiaoping) The elements of change in the 18th Part Congress report include awareness about unbalanced, unsustainable, uncoordinated development, growing problems of inequality, social security, healthcare, law enforcement etc., emphasis on the war against corruption, ecological drive, safeguarding people’s rights and stress on intra-party democracy as well as coordinated party-government operations.

Dattagupta cautioned that it is too premature to assess the performance of newly installed leadership. He mentioned about rules adopted to shed off excess of formalism, pomp and splendour associated with public appearances of party members, Xi Jinping wielding greater power over party and the military, lifting the garb of secrecy over private lives of party member as rudimentary signs of change in China’s leadership.

(Prepared by Swagata Saha, Pratnashree Basu, Mihir Bhonsale, Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata)

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