How India Deals with its China Challenge

Book Review: Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab. 2017. Dragon on our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company).

Dragons sell. Especially on book jackets and in book titles. Red dragons, baldly hinting at China, sell even better, perhaps. The title of this book is however, somewhat misleading for it is in the main, actually a very good overview of the structural problems that hold India back from its ambition of becoming a regional and global power. China is merely the counterpoint against which these problems are magnified and shown as requiring urgent resolution.

The authors start off with a cutting Introduction that blames various levels of India’s political and military leadership for mistakes in multiple conflicts and crises – the 1962 conflict with China, the 1965 war with Pakistan, ‘the wily Bhutto outsmart[ing] Gandhi’ in 1971 on a Kashmir resolution, the ‘panic reaction’ of Operation Meghdoot to hold Siachen, the ‘Pyrrhic victory’ of Kargil and the ‘total disappointment’ of Operation Parakram. China makes an appearance only on and off here but most notably in the concluding assertion that ‘the problem with Pakistan is inextricably linked with the China problem’. 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

Arunachal Pradesh in the Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Constant Claims, Changing Politics

Published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Arunachal Pradesh in the Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Constant Claims, Changing Politics’, in Gurudas Das, C. Joshua Thomas and Nani Bath (eds), Voices from the Border: Response to Chinese Claim over Arunachal Pradesh (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2015), 48-62.

Abstract

The main point of contention in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute was originally the Aksai Chin area in the Indian northwest. In the mid-1980s, however, the core of the dispute shifted eastward to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This essay makes the argument that while Arunachal Pradesh remains central to the boundary dispute its significance for the two parties to the dispute has varied over time. For China, the shift in emphasis to Arunachal was in large measure tied to the Tibet question, and this emphasis has, if anything, become more important in recent years as instability and protests in Tibet have increased. For India too, Arunachal’s significance has grown, owing mostly due to the increased Chinese attention. But India also appears to be moving from defending Arunachal militarily within a purely bilateral context to defending Arunachal and strengthening Indian claims in the international context.

This essay also argues that Arunachal ought to be seen in the Sino-Indian relationship not only within the context of the boundary dispute but also within the framework of centre-periphery relations in China and India and in the larger context of the differences between the Chinese and Indian political systems. The nature of Arunachal Pradesh’s relations with the rest of India, including the Indian central government, is important not just for the Indian body politic but also for Sino-Indian relations and for Beijing’s relations with Tibet. If in India, this centre-periphery relationship is a just and equitable one, maintaining a fair and necessary balance between local aspirations for peaceful and sustainable development alongside national security considerations, then India and Arunachal can become the model to follow for China and Tibet – it is in this way that Arunachal will best fulfill its role as the ‘first line of defence for India.’

This essay is divided into four sections including a conclusion. The first section looks at how Arunachal Pradesh is currently involved in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute, the second, looks at how China’s stress on Arunachal is a part of its inability to stabilize Tibet; and the third section looks at India’s own relationship with Arunachal.

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What the Henderson Brooks Report Really Says

Originally published as जबिन टी. जैकब, ‘नाकामी पर नई निगाह’, Dainik Jagran (Delhi), 23 March 2014, p. 10.

Large sections of the Henderson Brooks-Prem Bhagat Report of the inquiry into the Indian army’s 1962 defeat were recently released online by Neville Maxwell, a former India correspondent of a British newspaper. The release affords us an opportunity to reconsider some questions about both the Indian conduct of the conflict and the nature of policymaking in this country.

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Sino-Indian Relations: Beyond Symbolism and Beyond Belligerence

Published as जैबिन टी जैकब, ‘युद्धोन्माद से परे देखें भारत-चीन रिश्ते को’, Business Bhaskar, 13 November 2013.

Original text in English follows below

भारतीय प्रधानमंत्री मनमोहन सिंह की अक्टूबर मध्य में चीन की यात्रा और चीनी प्रधानमंत्री ली केक्यांग की मई में भारत की यात्रा पर गौर करें तो यह पहली बार हुआ है कि दोनों देशों के शीर्ष नेता एक ही साल में एक-दूसरे के यहां गए हैं। ली की यात्रा के समय देपसांग में करीब तीन हफ्ते तक जारी घुसपैठ का मामला सामने आया था,

तो सिंह के दौरे के समय दो अरुणाचली तीरंदाजों तीरंदाजों (खिलाडिय़ों) को चीन में एक प्रतिस्पर्धा में हिस्सा लेने के लिए जाते समय नत्थी वीजा दिए जाने का मामला सामने आया। लेकिन सच तो यह है कि भारत-चीन रिश्ते को न तो इस तरह के प्रतीकवाद और न ही युद्धोन्माद सही मायने में पेश करते हैं।

उदाहरण के लिए यह याद रखना महत्वपूर्ण है कि चीन में कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी के महासचिव और चीन जनवादी गणतंत्र के राष्ट्रपति के रूप में शी जिनपिंग का ओहदा ली केक्यांग से ऊंचा है। इसी प्रकार यह तथ्य भी ध्यान रखना चाहिए कि चीनियों ने मनमोहन सिंह का अच्छा स्वागत किया है जिनकी शायद प्रधानमंत्री के रूप में यह अंतिम चीन यात्रा साबित हो।

यह तथ्य किसी से छुपा नहीं है कि सिंह ऐसी सरकार का प्रतिनिधित्व कर रहे हैं जो अपने घर में विश्वसनीयता के संकट का सामना कर रही है, इसे देखते हुए भारत एवं चीन के बीच किसी तरह की सौदेबाजी कठिन और दुष्प्राप्य थी।

दोनों महाशक्तियों के बीच रिश्ते को स्थानीय घटनाओं, क्षेत्रीय पर्यावरण और वैश्विक परिस्थितियों, इन सबका एक साथ असर होता है। Read more

China Policy in India: For a Revolution in Mindsets

Grand strategy on China requires political attention, bureaucratic competence, military capability and academic expertise. If any one of these is missing, strategy is hobbled, and one can forget about grand strategy altogether.

With the Indian political leadership reeling from corruption scandals and already in preparation for general elections, foreign policy has suffered from lack of political attention. In fact, the impression has gained ground that policies related to defence and external affairs have of late been outsourced to the bureaucrats. While most criticize the government’s China policy, calling it pusillanimous and ineffective, the more serious issue is missed – no matter how competent the bureaucrats, policy in a democracy must be seen as being initiated and guided by elected political leaders. Read more

Military CBMs, Bilateral Agreements and the Sino-Indian Relationship

Abstract

It is a fact that New Delhi and Beijing have concluded some major bilateral agreements—here used to refer to treaties, statements and declarations—with implications for the boundary dispute since the end of the Cold War. Given that these agreements have been reached between two former belligerents that continue to have many reasons to be suspicious of each other, it must be surmised that they were concluded after tough negotiations and with great deliberation from both sides. While Indian foreign policy is often accused of lacking a grand strategy, these agreements suggest if not a vision for the direction of Sino-Indian relations, at least a desire to keep these stable and peaceful. This chapter is a brief examination of key agreements concluded between India and China in the post-Cold War era with implications for their boundary dispute, including the development and progression of military CBMs between the two countries.

Kibithu, in  Anjaw District, Arunachal Pradesh that lies close to the LAC
Kibithu in Anjaw District, Arunachal Pradesh, that lies close to the LAC

Published as ‘Bilateral Agreements and Sino-Indian Confidence-Building Measures’, in Dipankar Banerjee and Jabin T. Jacob, Military Confidence-Building and India-China Relations: Fighting Distrust (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2013), pp. 151-161.

Sino-Indian Military CBMs: Efficacy and Influences

Abstract

India and China have yet to resolve their long-standing boundary dispute. But in recent years they have built a carefully crafted architecture of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to prevent possibilities of any adverse developments along the disputed border. What is the state of current CBMs as perceived by leading experts from India and China? How have these held up to the pressures of recent years? Where do national perceptions merge or contend? What additional measures might be needed to strengthen those CBMs that already exist?

Mil CBMs-Banerjee-Jacob

Published as co-author with Dipankar Banerjee, ‘Sino-Indian Military CBMs: Efficacy and Influences’, in Dipankar Banerjee and Jabin T. Jacob, Military Confidence-Building and India-China Relations: Fighting Distrust (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2013), pp. 1-11.

China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir

Presentation: Jabin T. Jacob, “Interpreting China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir,” Conference on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Internal Dynamics and Externalities, Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, 28 March 2011.

Summary: While Pakistan remains a vital cog of China’s South Asia policy it is important to note that the superlative is not applicable in Sino-Pak relations; rather, a range of factors influence Chinese policy including India, the United States and now the progress and consequences of the American drawdown in Afghanistan. Kashmir is but one factor in the larger Chinese calculus.

Further, as important as China’s geopolitical interests in the region are, it has other wider interests globally on which India, more than Pakistan, is an important actor. Thus, whether on climate change or global trade negotiations and in a variety of multilateral organizations ranging from the Kunming Initiative to the Russia-India-China trilateral and the BRICS grouping, India is a key player that China has to engage with. Against such a backdrop, China tries both to prevent India from truly rising to challenge China as well as to ensure that it can work together with India when necessary. Given Indian sensitivities over Kashmir, China’s Kashmir policy forms a useful leverage with India. But there is a fine balance that China needs to achieve which will be increasingly difficult as India grows more powerful on the world stage and if Pakistan continues to remain unstable. China will therefore, have to make some important choices in this regard, in the future.

Meanwhile, India too can contribute to modifying China’s Kashmir policy in its interests. On the positive side of things, showing greater interest in border trade across the LAC with both Tibet and Xinjiang and through them with the rest of China is one way. But most measures will have to be non-Kashmir-specific in nature including greater openness of the Indian economy as a whole to Chinese investments and trade with China. In the more negative set of actions are of course, classic geopolitical games such as balancing with the US or a host of China’s smaller, neighbours fearful of its rise.

What methods China or India will adopt, however, remain to be seen.