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October - November 2007
The India-China Power Game
by Dr S. K. Das
Ever since India achieved Independence in 1947, there was fond hope of getting back the third of the country given to minority religion. However, on the first day of Independence, Nehru in his ‘tryst with destiny’ speech laid the foundation of the dream to make India one of the strongest countries in South East Asia. However, after being defeated in Aksai Chin by China in 1962, India’s ambitions had to be put on hold for some time.
Now in the twenty-first century, India’s ambition is slowly taking shape again. An example would be the 1999 Munich Conference, where Brajesh Misra, India’s Naional Security Adviser to Vajpai government unveiled Indian long term strategic plans, especially on the sea coast. Sometimes the country forgets that it is a peninsula and bounded by water on three sides. We ignore the fact that centuries ago, India had one of the world’s largest navies in South East Asia, created by the Cholas in the South, King Saliendra in Orissa and King Vijaya in Bengal. Due to their own incompetence, India was unable to fight off European pirates such as the Portuguese, Dutch, French and above all the British. They slowly destroyed India’s navies with superior tactics and weaponry, and from 1400 to 1700 AD, the British East India Company captured most of the East of India, through Calcutta in the state of Bengal.
It is important to remember that India has been divided into small kingdoms since 3120 BC, after the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandava and Kuru kingdoms, when India split into approximately 963 kingdoms and the refugees from this war spread throughout the world, from Asia Minor to the kingdoms of the Middle East, and even to the lands of Israel and Greece. It is due to this intermingling of cultures that from 346 BC onwards, India was subjected to many invasions from a multitude of people, including Alexander of Macedonia, all of whom ransacked the country and looted her wealth and knowledge, accumulated over thousands of years. Subsequently, from 610 A.D. Muslims started invading India, immediately followed in 1610 by the Portuguese followed by the French, Dutch and finally the British in 1757- 1947.
The minor countries around India may not accept the economic, social and military power of 1.2 billion people but I am sure that with the friendship of Israel, Soviet Russia and America, India’s dreams of becoming a world power will eventually come to fruition. She deserves to become a major world economic power. In the 21st Century, India suddenly find being cordoned by Pakistan in the West and China in the North and North-East.
Since 1990, Pakistan started aggressively developing its atomic weapons and distributing this newly found knowledge via Dr.A QKhan’s contribution to other countries such as Iran, Libya and North Korea. Apart from the atomic know-how, Pakistan also started developing long range ICBM and threatened that their weapons are only meant for India.
India has been trying to regularise its border with China since 1962, starting from Aksai-Chin through the Indo-Tibet border up to the MacMohan Line in the East, close to the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. China disregarded the MacMahon Line both in the East and the Aksai Chin border in the North, claiming that the agreement between the British Colonial power and the Tibetian Government in 1710 is not recognised by the Communist Government that came to power in 1948, especially now that China occupies Tibet. China also claims that a new agreement should be drafted through the boundary commission between India and China.
The Gwader port (in Pakistan)is situated on the straight of Hormuz in the Arabian Sea close to the Pakistani port in Karachi. The Port is strategically located close to Iran and through which most of the oil tankers from the Middle East pass to the World outside. China has agreed to develop this port with Pakistan at a cost of $200 million with the idea not only do trade through a warm water port but also to spy on the naval activities passing through the region. According to Pakistan’s road map, she is developing energy corridors with China connecting the Xinzing state of Tibet (now China), passing through the Karakoram highway to Gwadhar.
The border discontent started between India and China a long time before the Independence of India in 1947 and Mao’s takeover of China in 1948. It is also to be noted that before India’s Independence, the British took notice of the geographical landmark border issue between Tibet and China. At the end of WW2, the British colonial power did not have enough money to continue to guard the Indo-Chinese border with a military presence. It is known that the British Foreign office at that time wrote to China stating that in view of its diminished Post War military strength from a shortage of man power, she was withdrawing all the remnants of the border troops living in China that maintained the border protocol. Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist party did not maintain this protocol and started constructing a road from Beijing- Lahsa to Yangsinking via Aksai- Chin in India without India’s permission in 1959.
In 1962, when Indian border troops came to Aksai Chin, the Chinese soldiers guarding the area within Indian Territory attacked the Indian troops. After the loss of 200 soldiers, India lost the battle. Subsequently the Chinese left the area, but claimed that Aksai- Chin belongs to them and occupying 38.500 sq km of Indian terriotory. It is to be noted that it is not merely a boundary dispute between China and India but one which involves a deeper rift underlying Chinese policies in the region.
India and China shared 4056 km of contentious border which was not properly demarcated before Independence. She also claims about 90,000 sq km in the Eastern sector of Arunachal Pradesh of Assam, which includes the Tawang district. In 1962, China apart from having the war with India, also maintained continuous border skirmishes in 1967, 1969 and 1987. In September 1967, while China was in the throes of Cultural Revolution, she shelled Indian positions inside the MacMahon Line including the Indo- Sikkim Nathula pass area, where several Indian soldiers died. In April 1969, China had another border dispute with India at the Indo- Nepal border close to the Liphu-Lake pass. A more serious crisis developed in May 1987 in the Arunachal-Sumdorang valley and both countries blamed each other for the border incursion.
In recent years, during India and China reviews of the border issue, India has complained about China’s illegal occupation of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir, including 5180 sq km ceded to Beijing by the Islamabad Government under the Sino-Pak boundary agreement in 1963. Indian defence minister, Mr. Pronob Mukherjee, objected vehemently to China regarding the Chinese claim of Arunachal Pardesh and its 90,000 sq km of land.
According to our history, China’s claim of the Tawang valley in Assam is not valid because the area was inside the MacMahon Line in the Eastern sector and was drawn by the British Captain MacMahon, and the Tibetian King at that time agreed on principal and signed the document in 1870. If Chinese authorities wish to trace the history of Sikkim, Bhutan and the Tawang Valley, they should know that this area was ruled by the Tibetian King, Srong-Tsan Gumpo and before that King Asoka, the Mayurian King and the Kushan Emperor, between 0-18th Century A.D. China’s Hun dynasty in the North, the Ming and Tang dynasties in the Central region and the North Eastern part of China were considered as nomads and have had many Wars against the Tibetan King Gumpo and his relatives between the 5th, 6th and 7th Centuries during which his relatives pushed the Chinese nomads of the Tang dynasty away from the area.
The 6th and 7th Century Tang Emperor of China, lasted only 10 years or so. During that time, one military General of China called Hiuen-Tsung attacked this area many times, but Gumpo and after that the advancing Turks threw out all Chinese troops from Northern Kashmir, Western Tibet and North Eastern Tibet near the Indian border.
In the early 7th Century, King Gumpo of Tibet married 2 princesses - one from China and the other from Nepal, who was related to the Rajput Kings of India. His main idea to marry these princesses was only to keep peace between the Tang dynasty in China and the kings of Eastern India. The Gumpo Emperor also brought Buddhism from China to the Tawang valley and due to the fact that the Mahayana Buddhism of the Dalai Lama in the West of Tibet did not get on well with the Potla thinking, so Gumpo was given permission by Indian King Harsha to develop the Mohayana Lamasary in the Tawang valley. Hence, China’s Claim of the Tawang due to the Tibetan Buddhism being practised there, but forgets that the Lamasary was invited to have the second largest Tibetian Monastary with the help of Gumpo and Harsha in Arunachal Pradesh. Therefore, Indian officials have every right to reject the Chinese claim, and the Indian defence minister did not wish to discuss any point regarding the monastery in India.
The Chinese proposal in 1959 was seen as an attempt towards accepting the status quo and trying to hammer out a proposal where the Tawang district in Arunachal would be given up providing Indians claim on Aksai Chin was acceptable. Indian officials rejected this proposal outright, as the hidden policy of China that in the event of connections by road from Beijing to Lahsa in the North and having the warm water port through Sikkim, Bhutan and Bomdila pass to Haldia in West Bengal. If this road system is acceptable, then India should know that China’s hidden agenda would be to stay close to the Tawang district, which will be only 150 km from the Bomdila road ahead. Over and above this, the CPI(M) of West Bengal, agreed to have the main body of the Chinese emissary in Kolkata, resulting in the ultimate domination by China in that area. We hope the Indian Government would study the implications of such a move very closely and, hopefully, they will find that the handshake with President Hu of China may not be as warm as it looks.
The other point of interest regarding the Chinese proposal would be their relationship with Maymar. The military government there is suffering from financial crisis, hence would readily accept any agreement with China towards formation of a deep water port in Coco Island, a part of the Sitwe area, although China claims this will bring an economic component to the China-Maymar axis.
Coming down along the Burma coast, bypassing the Indian Eastern Command and the Naval headquarters in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, the island of Sri Lanka is not far away which is also suffering from cash crisis due to their low proxy war with the Tamil Tigers. The land of Sri Lanka has 2 deep water ports-Trincamolee in the south (used by India due to close proximity to the South Indian Tamil Naidu border) and in the East of Sri lanka lies Hambantota, mainly used by the local fishermen fleet of Sri Lanka.
Recently, China has agreed to spend $300 million in exchange for a development program of Hambantota and facilities for oil terminals, and as a by product of this arrangement, they are able to keep an eye on the Indian Air forceEastern command and Indian naval movement. I hope, the Indian defence minister is aware of this arrangement between China and Sri Lanka, and hopefully will remember that terrorist activities from the Coco islands of Maymar and Pirates from the Indonesian archipelago will have facilities to Hambantota. Thus, India will have further complications to deal with.
At this stage, may I also point out that in view of recent reports from International geo- archaeological photography available, that Ramsethu/Adams bridge, (the connecting link between India and Sri Lanka through the Pak-Straight). We wonder if Sri Lanka should continue as an Island or belong to the mainland of India in view of the Ramsetu umbilical connection.
The time has come for India to stand firm and officially consider Sri Lanka as a part of India, which has been acknowledged in religious texts such as the Ramayana, for more than 5000 years. India must take responsibility for the defence of its land and should therefore protest against Chinese development of the port of Hambantota in Eastern Sri Lanka.
Chinese influence has been slowly expanding in such a way as to effectively surround India from a strategic point of view. China has already achieved a foothold in Aksai Chin in the north, Arunachal in the east, the Coco Islands of Burma (close to the Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar islands, which serve as the Naval headquarters of Indian Eastern Command) and now they are seeking to check our southern border by developing the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka.
We should not forget that if Britain can go to war in defence of the Falkland Islands in 1982, which are islands off the coast of Argentina, and have no physical attachment to Britain at all, then India should rightly insist that China stop trying to encircle India by influencing our neighbours.
Indians should not forget the Aksai Chin incident in 1962 where China deceitfully invaded part of India whilst holding peace talks with Nehru (Hindi Chini-bhai bhai). India should take more responsibility for protecting its borders and stop allowing China a free hand to dominate our country.