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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 38, New Delhi, September 5, 2020

Five Important Questions About India-China Conflict | Bharat Dogra

Friday 4 September 2020, by Bharat Dogra

One of the most worrying aspects of the international situation is the growing conflict between India and China. All possible efforts should be made by these two important countries as well as the international community to resolve this conflict at the earliest and in any case to prevent this from escalating into a full-blown war. In this context five important questions need to be considered each of which has a wider implication as well.

Firstly we need to ask what exactly has the UNO contributed to resolving this conflict escalation this year? Without doubt India and China are two of the most important countries in the worlds. In terms of their population these are two largest countries of the world and will remain so. Both are imported military powers. Both have nuclear weapons. Both have an important role in world economy. Both face important development challenges.

 All this combined should be cause enough to initiate very high-level continuing activity in the UNO and the international community to de-escalate the tension and if possible to resolve the conflict. But the UNO does not appear to have any important role in this. Other most powerful and influential countries are also not active. At best their attitude appears to be one of non-involvement. At worst it may be—higher prolonged India-China may be good for us in getting more military orders and in getting India close to our side.

 This raises disturbing questions about the peace processes in the world and the wider role of world leadership. On all the most critical issues of the world—climate change and related survival-threatening environmental problems, elimination of weapons of mass destruction—the world leadership, the UNO and world leadership seem unable to go beyond issuing statements and holding conferences, and even the quality of this is in decline. This is a matter of very deep concern at a time when life-protecting role of the UNO and world leadership is needed more than ever before in survival times.

Secondly a question which goes beyond India-China tensions is that increasingly the world cannot afford war, any war, least of all a war between two major military powers of the world. This is stated in terms of the existing survival crisis. Several problems including very serious environmental problems, accumulation of WMDs , misuse of powerful new technologies, possibilities of extension of weapons and war to space have combined to create a situation in which the basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet are badly threatened. This survival crisis can only be resolved if all the nations devote themselves with the greatest mutual co-operation to this task, and this is not possible in conditions of continuing wars and the accompanying weapons race and the race for military superiority. It is in this wider context that a war between two major military powers, two densely populated countries, two nuclear weapon powers should be seen and the conclusion is that in the wider world situation described above war there is absolutely no room for an India-China war and indeed for any war. This is the wider world context.

The third question is from the perspective of China, which has ambitions of emerging as the leading superpower or at least sharing this highly dubious honor with the USA. In the pursuit of this very narrow-minded objective China has become extremely arrogant and aggressive towards several countries , particularly India. China seems to have forgotten that friendship of an important country like India can be very useful in difficult times. It can still be a victim of the superior military power of the USA and NATO. Actually it can be very helpful for China if India plays a leadership role for non-alignment adjusted to present circumstances. Instead of going in for far-sighted policies which serve China as well as world peace, China in its arrogance is gunning for outdated territory gains . Will Chinese leadership have the wisdom to correct mistakes in time?

The fourth question is regarding the policy options for India. The populist and nationalist thing is to say we won’t give an inch of our territory. But we also need someone who is prepared to say unpopular things which will be beneficial in the longer term and for wider world peace. I will like to stick my neck out and say that we should be prepared to make some limited territory concessions without sacrificing our interests in a major way. The entire nation should of course be one in protecting our borders and in improving our defense, while at the same not becoming the aggressor. India should be prepared for defending borders while at the same time making continuing efforts to improve relations with all neighbors and resolving conflicts in a spirit of give and take. India should not join any narrow grouping, the American camp or the Chinese camp or any other such grouping. It should not sacrifice economic interests of people to get military support. India should pursue an independent foreign policy based on world peace and justice and seek a leadership role in non-alignment type of movement and in all peace efforts.

Last but not the least, there is the important but almost neglected question of protecting Himalayan ecology and sustainable livelihoods from damage related to war and war-preparations . Earlier so many livelihoods of nomads were disrupted by border disputes. Himalayan ecology is very fragile and this aspect needs to be given due consideration by India and China.

Bharat Dogra has written on peace-related issues extensively. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.

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