Categories
Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

The States in Indian Foreign Policy

Original Presentation: “The States in India and Foreign Policy: Interests, Influence and Implications,” L’équipe  Politiques comparées et études européennes, SPIRIT, Sciences Po, Bordeaux, 9 April 2010.

Summary: This presentation focuses on an important political dynamic that while in play for some time now, has begun to have visible impact only in recent years. I am referring to the growing power and influence of the provinces/states in India with respect to national decisions, including foreign policy. The presentation actually begins with a short examination of the same phenomenon in China because it has in a sense been going on in that country for much longer.

And I hope that what I say will sort of ring a bell or remind you of some experiences that you know of in your own countries, while remembering the differences in context and historical development, when things sound either very obvious or very different. In India, meanwhile, there is increasing work being carried out on centre-province relations in India in the post-1990 or post-liberalization/economic reforms phase but a lot of this work is related to fiscal transfers and the like and much of the attention is also focused on matters such as countering terrorism and left-wing extremism (because law and order is actually, a provincial or state subject) and more recently on education (Right to Education legislation; education too, is a state subject).

This presentation however, focuses on only one aspect of the centre-province relations in India and that is the nature of influence that provinces exercise on national foreign policymaking.

See the full presentation at:

JabinJacob-2010Apr9-ScPoBordeaux-States in India-FP

Categories
Borders Political Parties War and Conflict

China and Taiwan in 2030: Conflict not Inevitable

Originally published: 12 October 2009

Prediction is an inherently hazardous business but by virtue of the fact that history is so often key to understanding China and its actions, prediction is also perhaps a lot easier in the case of matters related to China.

The China-Taiwan issue at its very basic, is still a matter between two sets of Chinese, an ‘internal’ affair. This is all the more true with the return of the Guomindang (KMT) to power in Taiwan in 2008. However, the eight-year rule of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) before that did reflect the reality that certain new aspirations had emerged among the people of Taiwan. Indeed, the KMT has itself been transformed by such aspirations and can no longer talk glibly about ‘reunification.’ That said however, the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese also do not want to engage in a military conflict with China over the issue. This too, the KMT understands, and it is the acknowledgement of these twin realities that brought the KMT back to power – Taiwan is different from China but Taiwan is also closely linked to and dependant on China. There is evidence that the DPP, too, is beginning to understand the need to acknowledge the latter fact. As the island’s two major political formations veer around to occupying the same centre on relations with China, the possibility of conflict – with causes originating in Taiwan – is reduced and the matter becomes essentially a political one. Meanwhile, given its rise in the international system and the consequent expectations of it in the world order, China too, is unlikely to engage in armed action, even if it is unwilling to discount the possibility in official statements.

As a political issue, the Sino-Taiwanese question takes on a different pace. Both Beijing and Taipei, have the opportunity to discuss each issue at length, to look for breakthroughs where possible, and to postpone resolution or prolong discussions on contentious issues. Both sides can avoid resorting to armed conflict and each side can believe that the situation might turn to its advantage over time.

This waiting game is, however, premised differently for each of the parties involved. For China, the belief is that it is too big and too crucial to Taiwan’s fortunes, for the latter to ignore it. Taiwan must eventually come around to rejoining the ‘motherland,’ given the size of its economy, armed forces and population and the steady loss of its diplomatic allies. From Taiwan’s perspective, it is not as if these realities were not evident before, but the waiting game has suited the island just as much and can only further improve the terms of ‘reunification’ – if that is indeed, the future. As far as the Taiwanese are concerned, communist China has certainly ‘progressed’ from its original avatar in 1949, to the extent that today the economic systems of the two entities are increasingly in sync with each other. It only remains for China to move into greater political sync with Taiwan, and of this too, there is increasing evidence, as communist China tries to separate the functions of the Party from those of the state and to increase accountability and transparency within the political system by resort to the rule of law, rather than to rule by diktat.

The military/security complications that arise from the China-Taiwan question may have international repercussions, but this aspect while at the forefront of Western understandings of the dispute, is by no means considered central by the affected parties themselves. In other words and to put it bluntly, the possibility of war or armed conflict of any kind between China and Taiwan in the future can be ruled out because that is not what either party desires. Even if American arms sales to Taiwan were to carry on and Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan were to increase in number, these are essentially tactics to improve the respective bargaining positions at the negotiating table.

This does not however, rule out the possibility of conflict arising out of a mistake or because one side overplays its hand. An accidental conflict is always possible simply because of the huge numbers of weaponry involved or lack of proper oversight but this is true of countries anywhere in the world that are in a state of cold peace. If anything, the fact that the two sides are talking to each other, only reduces the chances of such accidental conflict.

There is also the possibility of one side overplaying its hand because of a political miscalculation or overt external influence. In the case of Taiwan, it is unlikely that it could overplay its hand, knowing full well that it does not have the capacity to outlast China in a military conflict. One possibility is that Taipei is egged on by the United States or possibly even Japan, and that it believes it can rely on sustained support from these external actors. However, this is an extremely unlikely scenario.

From the Chinese point of view, meanwhile, its growing military prowess and a rising nationalist tone in its politics could move it in the direction of precipitate action vis-à-vis Taiwan. This action could conceivably originate at the level of the political leadership but is more likely to originate from the Chinese military itself. The evolution of the nature and influence of the PLA in the Chinese political system, therefore, bears close watching for the future.

Meanwhile, ‘reunification’ or some similar future reality is very likely, even if it might not come to fruition by 2030. However, ‘reunification’ in the future, might not necessarily mean the same thing as it does today. Certainly, it will not hold as much fear for the Taiwanese as it once did, if China continues down its present path of greater economic liberalization and if the signs are to be believed that political reforms and opening up of some sort on the mainland too, are slowly but surely underway. In this understated Taiwanese confidence, also lies the way forward for the rest of the world to deal with China-Taiwan relations.

Original Article: “China and Taiwan in 2030: Conflict not Inevitable,” IDSA Opinion, Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (New Delhi) 12 October 2009.

Categories
Borders Comparative Politics Political Parties War and Conflict

Referendums in Taiwan

Originally published: 2009

Extract: Competing for significance with the Taiwanese presidential elections held on 22 March 2008, were two referendums on Taiwan’s entry to the UN, one each sponsored by the rival Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT). In the election for president, the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou emerged victorious by a huge margin winning 58.45 per cent of the total vote compared to the DPP candidate, Frank Hsieh’s 35.82 per cent. However, both the referendums failed to win enough votes – falling short of the 50 per cent turnout required – for their results to be considered valid. The DPP referendum had sought to win support for entering the UN under the name, “Taiwan” while the KMT sought to achieve the same goal using the country’s official title, “Republic of China” (ROC), or any other title that would assure Taiwan’s “dignity.”

Focusing on the UN referendums, this essay looks at the meaning and significance of referendums generally, in the Taiwanese context, despite their repeated failures. Earlier in the year, too, during the Legislative Yuan elections in January, the Taiwanese public had failed to turn up in sufficient numbers for the results of two rival referendums on anti-corruption to be treated as valid. The previous instance of a referendum being held during the presidential elections was in 2004 when the DPP-sponsored ‘defensive referendums’ on how Taiwan should pursue its relations with China in the face of the Chinese missiles aimed against the island, also failed due to insufficient voter turnout.

Referendums in the East Asian/Chinese context have a particular relevance, not so much because they are happening in Taiwan but because they involve China and this, at multiple levels. First, of course, the threat posed by Chinese actions to Taiwanese ‘sovereignty’ form the primary causes for the referendums held during the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008; second, as a rising global power, China’s responses are a matter of interest to the rest of the world; and finally – and this is related to the second – China is a large civilizational state that is finding its way once more to the forefront of innovation in a host of fields. To explain the last point a little further, China is presently engaged in a gigantic task not just of economic development and military modernization – these and their corollaries such as the energy resources-related mercantilism that China is engaged in are the most obviously visible characteristics of a rising China. But also, China is a country that is engaged in a massive rethink, a reformulation of not just Marxist thought but also traditional Chinese thinking as well as Western political philosophy. ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ is of course now well-known, but there are several ideas that China is giving Chinese characteristics to and democracy is one of them. It is in this context that Taiwan’s democratic experience is important. Without doubt, China has learned and is learning from Taiwan as it is from other parts of the world.

Original Article: “The Politics of Referendums in Taiwan,” in Ger Yeong-kuang, Vinod Joseph and Surendra Kumar (eds.), Taiwan in the 21st Century (New Delhi: Viva International, 2009), pp. 12-36.

Categories
Borders Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

Chinese Strategic Interests in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

Originally published: 2008

Extract: 

When the Northern Frontier of Kashmir was partitioned in 1947, the two routes connecting India with Xinjiang in China were distributed between the successors to British India. The Ladakh route connecting Leh via the Karakoram Pass and via routes east of it to Kashgar (Kashi), Yarkand (Shache) and Khotan (Hotan) went to India while the western route from Gilgit to Kashgar via Hunza, the Mintaka Pass and the Khunjerab Pass went to Pakistan. India’s portion is now a part of its dispute with China, while the Pakistani portion is now part of a cooperative arrangement with China in the form of the Karakoram Highway (KKH). Other than the events preceding the conflict with India in 1962 and the consequent occupation of Aksai Chin, the Chinese are only in the news on the Indian side for occasional border intrusions and clashes along the LAC. In Pakistan, meanwhile the Chinese have managed to engage in a substantial military and strategic partnership as well as a small but significant economic relationship.

 

The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is today a strategic and commercial asset for both China and Pakistan but it has also been responsible for transporting terrorism, drugs and disease. Indeed, for Pakistan, the resultant Chinese concerns are no small matter. Its policy towards the Northern Areas invariably invokes the link that the region provides with China and the importance of the trade with that country. Pakistani Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz for example, did precisely this while speaking to newly elected members of Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) in late 2004 saying that their region was significant for the KKH that provided a vital link to China and asking them, therefore, to promote unity and maintain sectarian harmony to ensure the development of the area.[1] Another important detail in the Sino-Pakistan relationship that is embodied by the KKH is the fact that there have been extensive historical contacts between the Northern Areas and Xinjiang, formerly known as Eastern Turkestan and that while Xinjiang is increasingly coming into its own as a substantial economic entity, the same cannot be said of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).


[1] “Government paying attention to Northern Areas uplift: PM,” Business Recorder, 1 November 2004, accessed at http://www.northernareas.org.pk/ndetail.cfm?ID=374.

 

China’s Strategic Interests in POK

 

The shift in the strategic nature of POK that the construction of a highway between China and Pakistan through the Northern Areas would entail was apparent to India which in June 1969 accused Pakistan of making it easier for Chinese troops to access occupied territory in Aksai Chin and from Tibet to the Gilgit area which lay immediately to the north of the ceasefire line in Kashmir. It stated that the road posed a threat to the peace and tranquility in the region.[1] Years later, on the completion of the KKH, China’s deputy Premier Li Xiannian would publicly declare that the Highway “allows us to give military aid to Pakistan.”[2] The KKH has also increased China and Pakistan’s control over their frontiers and ability to deal with security threats emanating from India and elsewhere.

 

The KKH, it is believed has been used for the transfer of nuclear and missile equipment to Pakistan.[3] Meanwhile, Chinese and Pakistani plans to link the KKH to the southern port of Gwadar in Balochistan through the Chinese-aided Gwadar-Dalbandin railway, which extends up to Rawalpindi are being carried out with the intention would be that in the case of hostilities between India and China, the PLA Navy would find Gwadar the most convenient logistic location on the Indian Ocean. Prior to hostilities actually breaking out, it would be supported by material transported over the 1300km long Highway and stockpiled at the port. Once conflict had started however, the highway would in many stretches, especially in Gilgit and Hunza be vulnerable to disruption by air attacks.[4] In addition, no traffic occurs from January to June because of the winter snowfall.

 

The link between the KKH and Gwadar however, has constantly been reinforced. In August 2004, a message on the renaming of a bridge on the KKH in honour of the Pakistani and Chinese workers involved in the construction of the highway, Pakistani Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain referred to Gwadar and in particular the killing of three Chinese engineers engaged in that project.[5]

 

It also needs to be noted that there were reports that China was upset with Pakistan for allowing the US to establish listening posts in Pakistan’s Northern Areas and was unwilling to provide financing for the Gwadar port as a result.[6] Among China’s overall strategic aims could be access to the air base in Gilgit and listening posts for itself. In a competitive game of acquiring bases and listening posts that has been underway between the major powers in Central Asia, Gilgit and Skardu airfields provide ideal locations for expansion and upgradation and China must fancy its chances. Indian strategic thinkers have long worried about China’s string of pearls in the Indian Ocean. An arch of land bases from Pakistan through Tibet to Myanmar should be just as big a worry.

 

From this brief outline of Chinese strategic interests in POK, three implications might be considered. One, while the Chinese claims to Hunza appear to have been settled by the treaty of 1963, the region is of increasing importance to China for the reasons stated above. Here, considering the Indian experience vis-à-vis the Sino-Indian boundary dispute might be instructive. The Chinese position on the issue has changed over the years with the mid-1980s witnessing a hardening of the Chinese position on the eastern sector. The western sector is no longer considered as the main area of dispute owing perhaps to the fact that the road through Aksai Chin is no longer as critical to China as it had been in the 1950s. The eastern sector meanwhile with its rich natural resources is now considered too valuable to give away in addition to significant political and strategic reasons. Given, the fact that the 1963 treaty is subject to revision depending on the eventual resolution of the dispute over Kashmir and given the recent improvement in Indo-Pak relations, the possibility of Chinese revising their position or strengthening their interests in POK must be considered. Moreover, the current status or the lack thereof, of the Northern Areas within the Pakistani constitutional framework could complicate the situation still further.

 

Two, access to the Northern Areas also provides another route by which the Chinese might approach Afghanistan. Besides military goals, western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq also has nation-building goals military operations, and it is therefore, not unrealistic to expect that China will have an interest in getting its own say in such projects where possible. And, in the case of Afghanistan, POK is as close as it gets. As mentioned above it has already once used the KKH to supply arms against the Soviets. Today, perhaps it is taking a longer-term perspective combining strategic aims, historical links and modern infrastructure.

 

Three, China is also discovering that expansion beyond its boundaries is a two-way street. China not only exports influence, but is influenced in turn and not always for the best – Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and separatism are problems that China has begun to contend with increasingly following the opening of its overland links to Pakistan and other Central Asian countries. China will, therefore, be increasingly interested in how Pakistan and by extension, Afghanistan deal with rising Islamic sectarianism and fundamentalism, in order to safeguard its own domestic interests.

 


[1] Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, 1846-1990 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 275 and John Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 207.

[2] Ziad Haider, “Clearing clouds over Karakoram,” Daily Times, 4 April 2004, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_4-4-2004_pg3_3.

[3] B. Raman, “Gilgit & Baltistan, China & North Korea,” SAAG Paper, No. 289, South Asia Analysis Group , 7 August 2001, http://www.saag.org/papers3/paper289.html.

[4] John Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 289-91.

[5] “Bridge on Karakoram Highway renamed,” Dawn, 18 August 2004, http://www.dawn.com/2004/08/18/nat18.htm.

[6] Tarique Niazi, “Gwadar: China’s Naval Outpost on the Indian Ocean,” China Brief, The Jamestown Foundation, Volume 5, Issue 4, 15 February 2005, http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=408&issue_id=3232&article_id=2369262.

Original Article:  “Chinese Strategic Interests in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir,” in P Stobdan and D Suba Chandran (eds.), The Last Colony: Muzaffarabad-Gilgit-Baltistan (Jammu: Center for Strategic and Regional Studies (CSRS), University of Jammu, 2008), pp. 125-56.

Categories
Borders Foreign Policy War and Conflict

Manmohan Singh’s Visit to China

Originally published: January-March 2008

Extract: Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit to China from 13-15 January 2008 was the first of the year by a foreign dignitary to the country, and in a land where symbolism counts for a great deal, it may be seen as notable for just this reason. Earlier, the Indian ruling coalition chairperson, Sonia Gandhi’s trip to China in November 2007 was also considered significant for being the first visit by a foreign political leader, following the conclusion of the important 17th Congress of the Communist Party of China. The Singh visit saw the additional highlight of the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao hosting his Indian counterpart to a private dinner testifying to both the significance of bilateral ties as well as to the excellent rapport between the two leaders.

However, symbolism apart, and despite the booming trade that continues to exceed all targets, Sino-Indian relations have seen some major political incidents beginning around the time of Chinese President, Hu Jintao’s visit to India in November 2006. These include then Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi’s statement on the eve of Hu Jintao’s visit reiterating China’s claim over Arunachal, the denial of a Chinese visa to an Indian civil servant of Arunachali origin and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi’s statement that the “mere” fact of populated areas was insufficient reason for China to give up its territorial claims. While the first two incidents are not surprising, given that they reflect the official Chinese position – Arunachalis have been denied Chinese visas in the past as well – it was the last one that provided the real jolt as it was in apparent contradiction of the Article VII of the 2005 Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question, which statedsthat “the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.”

Taken together, the Hu Jintao visit to India and the Manmohan Singh visit to China mark perhaps the beginning of a new stage in Sino-Indian ties. For one, both sides seem to have reconciled themselves to the fact that every visit will not produce a “great leap forward” in ties but that progress can only be incremental. Two, it appears now that the economic relationship is also beginning to witness increasing problems and given that the actors involved are more than governmental ones, these are likely to crop more often and more visibly in the future. While the boundary talks continue with no end in sight, the relationship is likely to be tested further by these and other newer issues.

Original Article: “Manmohan Singh’s Visit to China: New Challenges Ahead,” China Report, Vol. 44, No. 1, January-March 2008, pp. 63-70.

Categories
Borders Foreign Policy War and Conflict

The Future of Kashmir: China and Kashmir

Originally published: Winter 2007-08

Extract: Perceptions about the People’s Republic of China’s position on Kashmir have long been associated with its “all-weather” friendship with Pakistan. However, the PRC’s positions on Kashmir have never been consistently pro-Pakistan, changing instead from disinterest in the 1950s to open support for the Pakistani position in the subsequent decades to greater neutrality in the 1980s and since. While China has continued military support to Pakistan even during military conflicts and near-conflicts between India and Pakistan, its stance on Kashmir has shifted gradually in response to the prevailing domestic, regional, and international situations.

Original Article: “The Future of Kashmir: China and Kashmir,” Swords and Ploughshares, ACDIS (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), Vol. XVI, No. 1, Winter 2007-8, pp. 19-21.

Categories
Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties War and Conflict

Direct Flights between Taiwan and China

Originally published: 2007

 

Extract:

Is a direct flight from Taipei to Shanghai an international flight or a domestic flight? It is both. It is international by the International Civil Aviation Agreement of 1944. It is domestic in the sense that it probably won’t be operated by any foreign airline, but by airlines in Taiwan and in the mainland. So what is it then? It is a special flight. What should we call it? Say, Cross-strait Flight.

Ma Ying-jeou

 The above statement by Guomindang (KMT) chairman Ma captures the nature of the problem of cross-straits flights. The ambiguity involved allows the respective government to interpret to its own advantage the nature of the flights. However, the issue at hand has always been more than one of a simple renewal of contacts between Taiwan and the mainland. Direct transport, trade and postal links – known as the “three links” – with the mainland were snapped by the Republic of China government that had fled to Taiwan following its defeat. Today, in an era of deepening economic ties, the lack of direct and convenient links between the two political entities remains something of an anachronism. What has complicated matters however, is the fact that the strengthening of Sino-Taiwanese economic ties has also been accompanied by the rise of Taiwanese nationalism.

Original Article: “The Implications of Direct Flights: Beijing in Taiwanese Politics,” in Anita Sharma and Sreemati Chakrabarti (eds.), Taiwan Today (New Delhi: Anthem Press, 2007), pp. 22-41.

Categories
Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

Beyond the McMahon Line

Abstract: The development of the North East hinges on a range of factors. One of the aspects that could play an important role in the matter is the improvement of infrastructure along the India-China boundary in the sector. While both India and China have legitimate security interests to consider along their common, disputed frontiers, renewed focus on developing border relations between the two Asian giants, especially in the light of recent infrastructure developments in the North East, could have a salutary effect. If security is defined also as the maintenance of peace and harmony along borders, New Delhi and Beijing might find that the current phase of infrastructure development by both the countries along the common frontier could provide for such security in a number of ways. In this context, it is my contention that the pursuit of cross-border economic initiatives by both countries must focus on letting sub-national actors such as the states (on the Indian side) and the provinces (on the Chinese side) take the lead. The time has come to stop thinking of borders as being static or unchanging and to abandon the belief that achieving fixed boundaries or the defence of those lines as defined on a map is a guarantee of national security.

For the North East, this is a position that could possibly contribute to the reordering of priorities accorded to it by New Delhi. Moreover, such an approach could offer ‘mainstream’ India a way out of the dilemma it has often been caught in: whether to consider the North East as a part of India that has genuine developmental aspirations or only as a region for which security should be the sole concern—the latter, either because of the several ethnopolitical problems that beleaguer the region, or because it as a buffer zone against external pressure.

Original Article: “Beyond the McMahon Line: Infrastructure Development in the North Eastern Sector,” in Jaideep Saikia (ed.), Frontier in Flames: North East India in Turmoil (New Delhi: Penguin, 2007), pp. 170-85.