Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to China this month will take place amid a climate of improved relations between the two countries. It will come in the wake of an important interview to the South China Morning Post last month by India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale.
The ambassador put forward a defense of India’s June 2016 intervention in the Doklam region at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction. The area is disputed between Bhutan and China and is the subject of long-running negotiations between them.
In intervening to block the Chinese from building a small road to a ridge that overlooks the narrow Siliguri Corridor connecting India’s northeast to the rest of the country, New Delhi had said in a press note dated June 30 that it had acted in coordination with the Royal Government of Bhutan, but that the issue was not just about Bhutanese interests but the fact that the Chinese action “would represent a significant change of status quo with security implications for India.”
In his interview, Bambawale repeatedly said India had acted in reaction to “the change of status quo by the Chinese military.” He sidestepped the uncomfortable reality that India itself has no legal claims on that area. But he repeated that in order to maintain peace and tranquility, “there are certain areas, certain sectors which are very sensitive, where we must not change the status quo.”
But his observation – and this is what makes the upcoming Sitharaman visit important – that the two sides had a deficit of strategic communication at a higher military level is significant. Sitharaman will, no doubt, meet her counterpart, the newly appointed minister of defense, General Wei Fenghe, who has been a long-standing member of the top decision-making body of the military in China, the Central Military Commission.
Bambawale’s remarks indicate that what India is seeking is a modus vivendi over the Doklam issue. Given the way Chinese policy on the border is made, it is seeking to target the decision-making authorities in the People’s Liberation Army, rather than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not surprisingly, for example, the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement, the last major pact signed by the two sides on building border confidence, was made between PLA Lieutenant-General Sun Jianguo and India’s defense secretary at the time, R K Mathur.
What India is looking for is some understanding on the part of the PLA not to press on with its Doklam project, which in essence seems to involve developing a permanent position on the Jampheri ridge that overlooks the strategic Siliguri Corridor.
The Sitharaman visit could provide a larger opening for a greater thaw in the Sino-Indian relationship that could see confirmation through a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China
The Chinese had built a road in the early 2000s to a point 100 meters or so below the Doka La Pass, where there is a strong Indian military post. They would park their vehicles and walk up and chat with Indian soldiers in Doka La and then patrol the last 4-5 kilometers to the ridge on foot. The Indian side would like the PLA to revert to this pattern because it does not essentially question the Chinese claim on Doklam, but at the same time does not immediately pose a danger to Indian security.
The Sitharaman visit could provide a larger opening for a greater thaw in the Sino-Indian relationship that could see confirmation through a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China. He is scheduled to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao in June, but there could be an official visit either earlier or linked to the summit where issues that have been clouding the relationship between the two countries could be thrashed out.
Economic ties between the two countries are already doing well. Trade was at a historic high of US$84.4 billion in 2017, despite the Doklam standoff. Chinese foreign direct investment into India is growing by leaps and bounds, though it is still small compared with Chinese investments elsewhere. India welcomes this because it also helps address the problem of the $52 billion trade deficit that India has with China.
With the return of the diplomatic discourse, the two sides could quietly work out their other issues, such as India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or the proscription of Masood Azhar. India has already taken steps to address Beijing’s sensitivities with regard to the Dalai Lama, but it could go further and soften its stand on the Belt and Road Initiative. Perhaps the first move could be to press on with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor that India has already signed up to.
If India had the gumption, it could actually join the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) initiative and demand road access from the Indian side to Pakistan-administered Kashmir or, for that matter, to Pakistan proper, Afghanistan and Iran. Beyond that, there is a larger agenda of cross-border trade, in itself not important, but something that could signal a changed relationship.
With a trade war looming between the US and China, Beijing would be interested in ensuring that New Delhi does not throw all its weight behind Washington at this juncture. The Donald Trump administration’s National Security Strategy has designated China as a rival of sorts and embraced the categorization of the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean as a single “Indo-Pacific” strategic region. The first meeting of a naval quadrilateral that includes India has also taken place, in 2017, a prospect that would be discomfiting for China.
Article Opinion courtesy of sh!t-skin Indian opportunist realizing "Empire of war and chaos" is about to have a very, very dirty fall. Lun in Shiva, Gay Hind.
The reason given by the Indian ambassador to china is very crude. If by building road to Doklam affects India’s security, then India should not have joined with Japan to contain China. Anyway China is not building it on Indian soil or area in dispute with India. It is just India trying to flex its new found imaginative power in front of new found western friends. Unfortunately India is all on its own when push comes to shove. Hopefully India has learned its lesson.
India does not need to buy from China. It can buy from Japan. China does not need india in CPECor BRI.
Its China’s provocations made India to react and no more complacency vis a vis China. We will ensure China is at the receiving end from now onwards. If China can’t dictate what India can or can’t within its border. In reality China is building inside the disputed areas closer to India Bhutan, India Myanmar, India Pakistan and India Nepal Border. China has also started to get port facilities in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Maldives and Pakistan all aroung India. So! India will now reciprocate adequately to all these provocations and ensure China’s idea of encircling India is defeated.
What’s the point of earning when yourself by your standard and mindset,are still a slave locked within your standards…
In reality,hope China has learned It’s. But looking at the way China is exercising it’s self,under a false and fabricated beliefs by Mao, it’s on the path to learn a very powerful lesson on international relation.
Źeŗo Fëņŗïr come to my house and I will employ your entire family.also treat you better than your Chinese masters….also remember cows are bigger and more expensive than goats andget you more respect
You are some taxi driver/ waiter and an illegal alien somewhere.your jihadi outlook reveals your mentality.
india will buy from wherever and whosoever but unless PoK is resolved we will not join CPEC and continue to raise objections to it .
every thing as per aasmani kitab …in the guise of Allah ki marzee you can do anything that suits your purpose…..minorities can just wait for their end or seek shelter elsewhere ….
Always enjoy a good laught when u guys go at each other in colourful terms. However the gist is correct. Both China and India are develping. They dont need to waste money and attention on beefing up military or any military conflict. Despite the chest beating, no one will ever really know what will be the end result. Sufficient to say it will leave more scars on both sides that will require decades to fade away.
keep dreaming. At your awakening you will see the reality.
Rohit Pandeya You are welcome to it…
India & China fight and the West laughs! What are we, stupid? Trump just wants the US domination & Putin wants to gain old Russian Superpower status. Asia needs to look after its own backyard. Both countries are great ancient civilizations, with people mutually respecting each other.
Beto Perez LOL! You too! BTW! How much you know about China or for that matter India? You may want to recheck your perceptions as the China is a master in propaganda and fake news such as record time rollout of incapable 5th Gen J-20 / Aircraft Carrier Liaoning. Any way! you as well as I will see the reality in another decade.
Sorry, but so far China is winning economically and that encirclement you mention is progressing too.
Russia is a superpower, which is why both India and China buy Russian weapons and build their own based on Russian blueprints. They also have the most nukes.
Thiru Ravi I think I know about China very much so. Look around my friend and you see China is all about business, not about wars. Her ways to connect with other countries have been very exemplary. She does not get involved in other country´s business like some others. Furthermore, when she engages you on busineess proyects she helps you out financially, if it is appropriate. Look at the BRI, she had the visionary dream to interconnet half of world which bynow it is becoming a reality. BRI will help many countries whose infrastructure is still vey basic and benefit tremendously.
On the other hand I have read many times some of the Indian newspapers and what I read is a lot innuendoes, conspirations and I don´t know what about China. It feels like hell is going to break up-like China is going to attack you and blah blah blah.
I think India and China need to unite rather than becoming adversaries.India needs to stop feeeling victimized. Both are developing countries with a lot of potential but more powerful ones will try to divide you for their own diabolical intentions. Wake up
Beto Perez I’ve lived and worked in both China as well as India. Please don’t go with what you read in news paper especially about China as well as India, China being an authoritarian country you’ll get only gold plated propagandas and in India being a free society you’ll get mostly negative news and complaints. Visit both places especially the interiors of China & India such as a small town and then you comment with your first hand information rather than second hand or third hand information. I rest my case.
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