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Q. A Himalayan balancing act: Discuss the diplomatic relations between the India and China.
Jul 03, 2017 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

 Introduction-

The great Himalayan Divide between India and China was in evidence when China refused to support India's case for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. While non-entry into the Group is not the end of the world, for India lives to fight another day, of concern is what the Chinese stance implies for the bilateral relationship between the two Asian giants.

Diplomatic Relations:

  • In an age of 24/7 electronic media and social media platforms, one shudders to imagine what the consequences of the Sumdorong Chu confrontation may have been. 
  • Cut to summertime, the year being 1986. An Indian border patrol on its way to re-establish a post in the Sumdorong Chu area in the north-eastern corner of the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh found it had been pre-empted by a group of Chinese military personnel who had already set up camp at the same location. Tension between the two sides escalated in the period that followed, stretching through 1987, as each side accused the other of jockeying for positions, with virtual cheek-to-cheek confrontation ensuing. The grant of statehood to Arunachal Pradesh in early 1987 infuriated the Chinese and raised the temperature further.
  • The initiative that defused the problem came from India. It was no white flag, but an act of strategic boldness. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided to activate a channel that had lain dormant since the fateful April 1960 visit of Premier Zhou Enlai to New Delhi. Since the early eighties, the Chinese had expressed their keenness for a visit by the Indian Prime Minister to Beijing. The Indians demurred, the view being that such a high-level visit would expend critical political capital with no assurance of success, and that the consequential fallout would do further disadvantage to India.
  • Geopolitical rivalry and calibrated cooperation, seemingly antithetical, coexist within the framework of our relationship with China. The latter has pinned its colours to the Pakistani mast as recent developments have demonstrated. It is suspicious about our friendship with the United States, our closeness to Japan, and our naval cooperation in the East and South China Seas with these countries. It challenges us with its myriad dalliances in our neighbourhood.
  • However, an absence of friendship, and the prevalence of suspicion did not prevent the systematic development of a management regime in our relations with China. This regime has functioned efficiently in transacting dialogue, managing tensions on the border through confidence-building mechanisms, and maintaining high-level leadership contact. Given the agenda of national development and accelerated economic growth to meet popular aspirations, especially of our young demographic, the compass of bilateral relations with China needs to be carefully set by India. This is to enable time and space to grow comprehensive national strength and especially hone our economic and strategic capabilities. Mutual recrimination will only widen the geopolitical fissures that complicate the relationship. We must not assume that the advantage will necessarily be India’s.

Conclusion:

Without indulging in the national pastime of blame-mongering, we must ask ourselves the basic question on whether the time was ripe for a concerted campaign to enter the NSG. From the very outset of this foray, we should have been aware of the barometric depths of Chinese opposition and non-responsiveness to our case. There lay dragons. We chose valour instead of discretion, the whiff of grapeshot to the battle respite. The India-China relationship has been diminished by these latest developments and their impact on the construction of a stronger edifice of bilateral interaction. Independently of the latter, we need to carefully assess the pros and cons in pursuing entry into the NSG in this current phase. On both fronts, a season of reflection is called for.


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