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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
Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties Sub-nationalism

Provincial Interests and Foreign Policy

Original Article:  “Provincial Interests and Foreign Policy: Indian States’ Responses to the Malaysian and Kenyan Ethnic Crises,” in Amitabh Mattoo and Happymon Jacob (eds.), Shaping India’s Foreign Policy: People, Politics & Places (New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2010), pp. 141-171. (co-authored with Vibhanshu Shekhar).

Extract: It is now widely accepted that coalition politics in India is here to stay. While national parties such as the Congress (I) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will likely continue to be at the centre of any coalition for a while yet and there are parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that are beginning to advertise national ambitions by reaching out beyond their traditional provincial bastions, regional parties – parties that are primarily located and have their power bases in particular Indian provinces – will remain agenda-drivers in national governments at the centre. In addition, economic globalization and the processes it has set in motion have led to growing linkages between provincial and global entities, have provided actors at the subnational level further opportunities to involve themselves in global affairs. It is perhaps, natural therefore, to argue that regional parties will also increasingly, seek a say in the nation’s foreign policy.

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
Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism

China’s Olympic Hurdles: The Three ‘Evils’

Originally published: 4 April 2008

China appears to have had a pretty rough time in the month of March having to deal one after the other with what it calls the three ‘evils’ – extremism, terrorism and separatism. First, it was the attempted hijack of a domestic airliner by ‘terrorists’ of Uyghur ethnicity from Xinjiang, the site of China’s extremist problem. Next, came the problem of ‘splittism’ or separatism as exemplified by the protests by ethnic Tibetans not just in the Tibet Autonomous Region but also in its neighbouring provinces. Even as the protests raged, Taiwan, China’s ‘renegade province,’ held presidential elections and referendums on whether the island would seek UN membership.

 

The Olympics have been widely perceived as showcasing China’s arrival on the global stage. However, along with its Olympic preparations, Beijing must have, no doubt, been preparing also for eventualities related to each of the three ‘evils.’ What then, do China’s reactions to the events of March indicate about its level of preparedness? And, what do these reactions say about how China sees life after the Olympics?

 

Xinjiang’s ‘extremism’ is clearly the easiest of the three ‘evils’ China has to tackle. China has been quick to take advantage of 9/11 and the resulting increased global focus on Muslim-led terrorism. Xinjiang’s Uyghurs are Muslim and while they have become increasingly radicalized from the 1990s, post-9/11, it has been easier to categorize Uyghur movements as terrorist. The airplane hijack was the first real crisis in the Olympics year and from putting it down to the investigations and arrests that followed, as also the statements by Chinese leaders everything appears to have gone by the book. On view, was a China that was prepared for any threat and ready to host the largest spectacle on the planet, until Lhasa erupted, that is.

 

Meanwhile, Taiwan was, on paper, China’s biggest worry in the run-up to the Olympics, but Beijing must have known for sometime, that the island’s separatists were not likely to win either the presidential elections or the UN referendum. Nevertheless, it constantly kept up the pressure on the island and on its perceived supporters. China’s leaders, it seemed, had become comfortable focusing on a problem that was both familiar to them and which provided them the opportunity to affix the blame more easily on external actors such as the United States or the outgoing Taiwanese president, Chen Shui-bian. It was also an issue more amenable to being leveraged by Chinese leaders as a rallying point for the country. However, with international media attention remaining focused on Tibet, the KMT’s return to power in Taiwan did not allow Beijing much opportunity to feel relieved.

 

It is China’s reactions to the Tibetan protests that will have the most to say about the country, post-Olympics. While China might have expected Tibetan protests in other parts of the world in the run-up to the Olympics it clearly did not expect them to occur within its own territory, either so violently or so widely spread. Tibet has always been a sensitive issue internationally but Beijing too, has in recent years, wished to be seen as more open and accommodative of popular aspirations. As a result, it apparently did not crackdown on the protests immediately. Once they started getting out of hand, however, Chinese leaders were left with no choice but to put troops on the streets and blaming the “Dalai clique” for fomenting the unrest.

 

The protests in Tibet have garnered international attention more for emotive issues such as ‘cultural genocide’ or for issues of geopolitics rather than the increasingly economic content of Tibetan grievances. For China’s leaders, however, it will be the domestic implications of the latter that are the more serious long-term concerns than any international opprobrium. For long, the idea in China has been that economic development and prosperity would make up for constraints on political rights and for other political ills. However, despite several years of sustained economic attention, rising income inequalities and regional disparities are, evidently, providing additional fuel to political discontentment and cultural and ethnic grievances in China’s western periphery. It is doubtful that China will solve these domestic issues in the near future. However, Beijing is also unlikely to face a sustained challenge, as long as the Tibet issue remains caught in a time-warp of religious and cultural concerns and focused on the personality of the Dalai Lama, without consideration of the changing internal dynamics of Tibet, itself.

 

Meanwhile, even as it accused the international media of biased reporting, China appears to be crafting a far more confident response to the sustained attention on its domestic troubles. It has moderated its fire-and-brimstone approach and even slipped in the occasional feelers about being willing to enter into talks with the Dalai Lama. Further, despite the fiasco it turned out to be, opening up Lhasa to foreign journalists in quick time was still a bold stroke and indicative of Beijing’s willingness to deal with international attention head on. It is this confidence that is going to be China’s biggest achievement from hosting the Olympic Games.

Original Article: “China’s Olympic Hurdles: The Three ‘Evils’,” IPCS Article No. 2539, 4 April 2008.

 

 

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.

Categories
Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Nathu La

Originally published: January 2007

Abstract: July 2006 saw China make two major statements of intent in its huge western region. The first of these was the opening of the 1,142km section from Golmud to Lhasa completing the Qinghai-Tibet railway (QTR). The other, was the reopening of the 4,545m high Nathu La trading route on the Tibet-Sikkim border that had been closed following the 1962 border conflict between India and China. Besides a narrow perception of these and other Chinese infrastructure developments as creating a strategic threat, they might also be looked at in terms of creating long-term opportunities for India.

India must not view Chinese moves to gain greater access to South Asia only within a narrow strategic framework but as another opportunity for New Delhi to come to terms with the problems that bedevil its relations with the northeastern states of the country, to take better account of local aspirations and demands before deciding what is best for the region. It needs to be remembered that Chinese ties to South Asia cannot be enduring in any way without a decisive Indian influence. For several decades now, that Indian influence has played out in a negative sense where Chinese relations with Pakistan have been concerned. On India’s eastern front, strategic concerns and a defensive mindset meant that connectivity in the northeast remained limited. Today, however, if India were to accept the challenge and approach the Chinese moves more positively, Indian influence in the larger region too can play out positively. The vision is one of tying the development of India’s northeast with that of its South Asian neighbours, of China’s west and southwest and of the countries of Indochina. The closer the ties, the lesser incentive any player has to play spoilsport. This can be a situation where everyone is a winner.

 

Original Article: “The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Nathu La – Challenge and Opportunity for India,” China Report (New Delhi), Vol. 43, No. 1, January 2007, pp. 83-87.

Categories
Comparative Politics Sub-nationalism

European Integration and Lessons for China

Originally published: December 2006

Abstract: The European Union and the People’s Republic of China can be compared by viewing them primarily as conglomerates of smaller constituents, each with their own political and economic significance in relations with their respective political centres. While this is a perspective that is more easily applied to the EU given that each of its members enjoys sovereignty and also the Union’s rather short history, Chinese area studies have only recently begun viewing China as a sum of its parts. The present study while conscious of the huge differences in the historical development and present realities of both the EU and China, posits that the similarities in the centre-constituent as well inter-constituent relationships developing in both the EU and China allow for important lessons to be drawn. A key focus is the differentiated set of relationships developing between Brussels and the latest entrants to the EU and between the older and newer members of the EU. In China, too, the nature of relationships between the central government and the better-developed coastal provinces is different from those that Beijing has with the central or western provinces, with implications also for the relationships among these different sets of provinces themselves. The tensions and charges of unfair treatment seen in the accessions of the Central and Eastern European nations to the EU, have an echo in the similar complaints that have been coming from the interior provinces of China since the beginning of economic reforms in that country, and perhaps, provide pointers to the future direction of the development of centre-province and inter-provincial relationships in China.

Original Article: “European Integration and Lessons for China,” Asia Europe Journal (Heidelberg), Vol. 4, No. 4, December 2006, pp. 511-21.