China in Central Asia: Myth-making and Foreign Policy

China is deepening its ties with Central Asia through the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) initiative. Cooperation with the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that was already quite intense in the field of trade, especially in the energy sector, is broadening into infrastructure development with an eye on strengthening the region’s role as a transit hub for Chinese products moving to the more prosperous and bigger markets of Europe.

The primary objective for China is, of course, the maintenance of stability in Xinjiang, which is a key Chinese province and actor in the SREB. Despite all the troubles in Xinjiang, however, the province is today considerably better off economically than most of its eight neighbouring countries. Beginning in the 1990s China-CAR trade through Xinjiang has expanded and today, several companies from the province have a strong presence in Central Asia. For example, the Xinjiang-headquartered Chinese enterprise TBEA that has promoted connectivity in Central Asia by building power transmission lines in Kyrgyhzstan and Tajikistan. It is also noteworthy that there is a flight from Urumqi to every CAR capital and to many other cities besides. Indeed, many of these countries are connected to each other by air not directly but via the Xinjiang capital.Read More »

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1962: A Very Particular View

Book Review: Shiv Kunal Verma. 2016. 1962: The War That Wasn’t (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company).

This is a well-written book and goes into some considerable detail on each of the major battles of the 1962 conflict between India and China in both the Eastern and Western Sectors. The narrative is riveting and supported by maps particularly of battles in the Eastern Sector as well as reproductions of photographs of many important personalities and events associated with the conflict culled from multiple sources. These definitely add a heft and immediacy to the book often lacking in many historical texts. Without doubt, this is a labour of love, much effort, including by the author’s own family members has gone into it. To recreate the amount of detail there is in the accounts of battle the Verma certainly had access to some very personal reminiscences and he communicates the immediacy and tension of battle as well as the bitterness of defeat with verve and feeling. For these reasons alone, this book must belong to the shelves of any student of India’s wars.

And yet, this book is not without its flaws. Read More »

Infrastructure Development along India’s Borders with China

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Political Economy of Infrastructure Development in the Sino-Indian Border Areas’, China-India Brief #22, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 12–25 February 2014.

China occupies a growing space in the daily imagination of ordinary Indians. While they might be not be conscious of the presence of Chinese components in their mobile phones, Indians are increasingly aware of the wide gulf that exists with China in the provision of such essentials as good physical infrastructure. And nowhere perhaps, is this consciousness stronger than along India’s underdeveloped borders areas with China. From Ladakh in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east, border communities are aware of the stark differences in road, telecom and other forms of physical and social infrastructure between what is available on the Indian side and in Tibet.Read More »

The Ladakh Stand-off: What it Says (or Doesn’t) about China’s India Policy and India’s China Policy

Originally published as part of a debate at, ‘The China-India Border Issue in 2013: Point and Counter-Point’, Associate Paper, Future Directions International, 28 May 2013.

If there is just one lesson to be drawn from the recent stand-off between China and India, it is that the two sides have a long way to go to in establishing mutual trust. While the Ladakh incident was eventually resolved by a combination of military-to-military meetings and diplomatic interactions, three aspects stand out.

One, the Chinese incursion was of a qualitatively different nature from previous such incidents. Hitherto, such ‘incursions’ meant soldiers marking their presence in their claim areas by frequent patrols, painting on rocks, littering and so on. The recent escalation and the intruders’ willingness to stay put for a considerable length of time, despite the difficulties of terrain and logistics, very likely marks the beginning of a new trend along the LAC. It also puts pressure on existing bilateral mechanisms of diplomatic and military contact and procedure. There are several formal mechanisms for inter-military and inter-government interactions, including clear stipulations laid out by treaty, about the nature of military presence in the border areas and the kind of responses that the two sides are to employ if they run into each other in disputed territory. This time, however, there was clearly a degree of unwillingness to compromise or to follow those formal mechanisms and obligations. Indeed, it is possible that this has been the case for some time now.Read More »

The Ladakh ‘Incursion’: Chinese Actions and Indian Lessons

Originally published as जबिन टी. जैकब, “चीनी घुसपैठ के सबक,” दैनिक जागरण (Dainik Jagran, New Delhi), 29 April 2013, p. 6.

Original English text follows the Hindi text.

पश्चिम क्षेत्र के देपसांग पठार में विवादित चीन-भारत सीमा पर चीनी सैनिकों की घुसपैठ से कुछ गंभीर सवाल उठते हैं। दोनों देशों के बीच विवादित क्षेत्र के बारे में भारतीय व चीनी नीतियां क्या कहती हैं, यह जानना जरूरी है। भारत और चीन के बीच नियंत्रण रेखा की वास्तविक स्थिति बड़ी उलझी हुई है। इस क्षेत्र में चीनी और भारतीय सेना साझा नियंत्रण रेखा पर सहमत नहीं हैं और न ही उन्होंने नक्शों का आदान-प्रदान किया है। इस अस्पष्ट स्थिति में ‘घुसपैठ’ तो होगी ही। इस प्रकार की घुसपैठ आम तौर पर होती रहती है और यह केवल चीन की ओर से ही नहीं, भारत की ओर से भी होती है। कुछ साल पहले तत्कालीन सैन्य प्रमुख जनरल दीपक कपूर ने इस प्रकार की घुसपैठ की स्वीकारोक्ति भी की थी। चीनी अधिकारियों के इस बयान को इसी आलोक में देखा जाना चाहिए कि उन्होंने भारतीय क्षेत्र में घुसपैठ नहीं की है। जहां तक चीनी पक्ष का संबंध है वे यही मानते हैं कि वे चीनी भूभाग पर हैं।Read More »

Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Provinces/States as Ice-Breakers

Original Article: Jabin T. Jacob, “The Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Sub-National Units as Ice-Breakers,” Eurasia Border Review (Hokkaido University, Japan), Vol. 2, No. 1, Summer 2011, pp.35-45.

Abstract: Despite being among the fastest growing world economies, interactions between China and India remain limited owing to their unresolved boundary dispute. Tensions have grown over rapid military and infrastructure development by both countries along the disputed boundary but these developments can also be used as opportunities to encourage development in the relatively poor and underdeveloped provinces and countries along their disputed boundary. In this context, it is important to also understand domestic socioeconomic and political developments taking place in these border provinces how they might shape the future contours of the Sino-Indian boundary dispute and relations.

Given that in both China and India, years of prioritizing national security considerations over political accommodation and economic development in their provinces have not really led to the fulfillment of any national security objectives, the time has come to examine if prioritizing the latter set of considerations to the benefit of their border provinces can ensure peace and stability between China and India. The solution to both the political and economic discontent of Chinese and Indian provinces as well as the unresolved boundary dispute between the two countries could be to allow their provinces greater freedom to interact with each other in terms of people-to-people and economic contacts.

Read the full article here.

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.