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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 39, September 12, 2009

Renewed Threat from China

Saturday 12 September 2009, by Barun Das Gupta

The violation of the India-China border by the Chinese Army near the 22,000 feet high Mount Gya in Jammu and Kashmir at the trijunction of Ladakh, Spiti and Tibet in late July, painting the rocks there in red and writing “China” on them in Cantonese is the latest incident in a series of provocative acts by the Chinese Army against India. In fact, China has been adopting an ominously aggressive anti-India posture for quite some time now.

Even as Indian and Chinese officials met in New Delhi on August 7 to hold the thirteenth round of ritualistic and sterile talks on the border dispute—talks that have gone on for years and have not taken the two countries a millimetre nearer to a solution—a startling news emanated from China, declaring its intention to balkanise India into 20 to 30 separate countries.

The news was a re-issue of an article that first appeared in April this year on the website of a so-called semi-official body named China Institute of International Strategic Studies (CIISS). It accused India of going again “on the same old path of confrontation with China” as it allegedly did in 1962, when it “misjudged the situation” and initiated a “war with China”. Aptly titled “A warning to the Indian Government: Don’t be evil”, it stopped short of saying in so many words that the same fate would again befall India as did in 1962. That the April article was re-issued at the time of the talks in August carries its own message.

The dismemberment of India, the article says, is necessary for China’s security and in the greater interest of Asia. To attain this objective, the help of Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka will be necessary. Bangladesh will help secession of West Bengal and pave the way for a greater united Bengali state. It will also help the liberation of Arunachal. Rebel outfits like the ULFA will aid and abet in the secession of North-East India, while Sri Lanka will help free Tamil Nadu from Indian domination. This is the Chinese grand design.

The threat is of a piece with the recent hardening of Chinese attitude to India as shown by its minatory postures and repeated intrusions along our northern borders, and repeated Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh. In May, 2007, China refused to grant visa to Ganesh Koyu, an IAS officer from Arunachal, who was to be a member of a 107- member team of Indian IAS officers who were to visit Beijing and Shanghai to study China’s economic growth. The Chinese objected to issuing visa to a man from Arunachal Pradesh which they claim to be theirs.

This was followed in June this year by the Chinese attempt to block India’s application for an ADB loan of $ 2.9 billion which included a component of $ 60 million for a flood control project in Arunachal Pradesh. Initially, the Board of Directors of the ADB dithered but relented only after India made it clear that the Board either clear the entire loan or not at all. India would not accept a part-loan. The Board chose to ignore Chinese objections, much to the chagrin of Beijing.

Meanwhile, Chinese military activity along Arunachal borders was increasing. There were a record number of 270 cases of border violations by the Chinese in 2008 in the western, northern and eastern sectors. This year, over 60 violations have already taken place. At the same time Chinese logistic build-up along our borders had been going on apace.

The threat was increasing by the day. The latest report of our Ministry of Defence states that China has been systematically upgrading infrastructure, reconnaissance and surveillance, quick response and operational capabilies in border areas. Besides, China intended to develop space-based assets and rapidly enhance its blue-water Navy to engage in high-sea operations.

The situation was getting too serious to be ignored. The Centre responded by taking a series of measures. In mid-June, it announced it was raising two new divisions of fifty to sixty thousand soldiers for deploying in Arunachal. Simultlaneously, a squadron (18 aircraft) of India’s latest lethal acquisition, the Sukhoi MKI, was stationed at Tezpur in Assam, while another was going to be based shortly at Chabua, further north in Assam and two more in the western border—one at Halwara in Punjab and another at Jodhpur in Rajasthan. They will take care of both Pakistan and China. Sukhoi MKI is a deep penetration aicraft with a range of five thousand kms, which means it can strike deep into China, a ceiling of 56,800 feet, a climbing rate of seventy thousand feet per minute and can carry nuclear warheads.

July brought two heartening news for the country. The first was the announcement that the 5000-km range nuclear-tipped Agni V missile will be tested next year. It will bring almost the whole of China within the range of our second-strike retaliatory nuclear attack. The second was India’s first home-built nuclear submarine Arihant hitting the waters on July 26. Though it will take some time for Agni V to be fully weaponised and inducted into the Army, and Arihant will have to undergo trials and be fitted with various equipment and weapons before it is formally commissioned in the Navy in about two to three years’ time, the reaction from both China and Pakistan was swift and sharp.

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The fresh Chinese threat of war and of balkanisation of India has to be seen in this perspective. China hopes to replace the United States and emerge as the sole superpower dominating the world by the middle of this century. It can never reconcile itself to a militarily and economically strong India as its next-door neighbour. Hostility towards India will, therefore, be a permanent feature of its India policy. It is significant that ever since the controversy erupted, the Chinese Government has not disowned or dissociated itself from the views expressed in the article. And in India, the CPI-M has the dubious distinction of not joining the chrous of outrage and indignation expressed by the political parties.

In this connection, it is worth noting that a section of the media, known to be friendly to the CPI-M, has made a laboured exercise to “prove” that the article on balkanisation of India was the private view of an individual and did not reflect the official Chinese viewpoint. And as such it is nothing to be worried about. These self-appointed attorneys of China would have us believe that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is riven with factions and Chinese newspapers are more often used by different factions within the CPC in internal debates that has little impact on actual policy.

Let us not delude ourselves into believing that by pursuing a policy of peace and friendship towards China we shall be able to soften her hostility, remove her misgivings and win her over. This is not going to be. China will never give up her territorial claims on India nor her objective of weakening and balkanising India. The Chinese threat is real and permanent. The Chinese policy is a cold-blooded policy of realpolitik which they will pursue relentlessly, regardless of what others think about them.

With this end in view, China is pursuing a policy of encircling India and isolating her from her immediate neighbours, while seeking to increase Chinese influence in these countries by offering economic and other aid. The offer to Bangladesh to set up nuclear reactors for generating atomic energy has to be seen in this context. It is a public secret that establishing nuclear reactors for “peaceful use” of atomic energy is the first step towards making a clandestine bomb. If China can eventually flank India with two nuclear weapon states—one already on the west and the other on the east—it will be a great diplomatic and strategic victory for her. As long as Sheikh Hasina is in power, she will not let her country be used as a pawn in Chinese hands against India. But India has to take a long-range view of China’s intentions and factor in possible political developments in Bangladesh. Under no circumstances, can she afford to lower her guard.

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