Sunday, September 13, 2009



While speaking at a meeting organised by the Indo-Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Chennai on August 17,2009, I had called for an India-China-Japan trialogue on maritime security----initially at the non-Governmental level to be upgraded subsequently to the Governmental level. The text of my talk may be seen at

2. On September 8,2009, worried by the likely consequences of the mounting anti-China demonisation campaign indulged in by some members of our community of strategic analysts, I wrote an article titled " India-China: Dangerous Hysteria", which is available at .

3.I was amazed and disturbed by the kind of vituperative mail I got from many Indian readers of my article. All sorts of abuses were hurled at me---- "senile", "confused", " a dunce", " bought over by the Chinese" etc etc. The comments of the strategic analysts, which triggered off my article, and the vituperative mail, which I received in response to my article, only confirmed my fears that large sections of our civil society and strategic analysts' community continue to be caught in the mental quagmire of 1962 and are unable to rid themselves of the frozen vision of 1962. They are not prepared to look at China through glasses of 2009.

4. After I wrote my controversial article, I happened to attend an interesting interaction with a distinguished Taiwanese, who was educated in a prestigious US university and who is a good friend of India.One of the members of the audience asked him for his assessment of Sino-Indian relations. He almost expressed identical thoughts when he said that he was worried to note that Indian thinking and reflexes on China continue to be governed by the memories of the 1962 experience and that Indian analysts, when writing on China, continued to look behind rather than forward. He pointed out how millions of Taiwanese had died at the hands of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) and how millions of Chinese had died at the hands of the Japanese . Despite this, instead of continuing to nurse suspicions and fears arising from the past, Taiwan had considerably improved its relations with China and Beijing and Tokyo are in the process of improving their bilateral relations despite their continuing dispute over the East China Sea islands. He felt it was time for India to rid itself of the bitter memories of the past and start looking to the future in its relations with China.

5. When he asked me for my views on Sino-Indian relations, I replied that there are three components in India----the political leadership and the serving bureaucracy, the business class and the civil society, including the community of strategic analysts and retired bureaucrats.While the political leadership, the serving bureaucracy and the business class want to be forward-looking, large sections of the civil society and strategic analysts continue to be chained to the past and tend to discourage any forward movement. As a result, the relations are moving at variable speeds---- a little faster in the case of the political leadership,the serving bureaucracy and the business class and much slower in the case of the civil society and the non-governmental strategic analysts' community.

6. In the context of this, I was pleasantly surprised to read in "The Hindu" of September 13, the views on China of two recently retired Foreign Secretaries of the Government of India---- Shyam Saran and Shiv Shankar Menon. Their views as reported by "The Hindu" were restricted to the sphere of maritime security, but indicate a desire to look for ways of working with China instead of treating China all the
time with suspicion.

7. To cite from the remarks of Saran while addressing a seminar on Security and Development at Port Blair in the Andamans on September 5: India should actively participate in shaping an emerging economic and security architecture in the region in close collaboration with all stakeholders, including China. This arrangement should be open, inclusive and loosely structured.... India needs a nuanced policy (towards China) that builds upon possible areas of congruence and deals firmly, though prudently, with situations where interests are threatened.There is no inevitability of conflict with China. There is enough space in the region and beyond for both China and India to be ascendant.

8. To cite from the remarks of Menon during a lecture at the National Maritime Foundation of New Delhi on September 11: China and other States can choose to be part of the solution rather than that of the problem. "My question is, therefore, if energy and trade flows and security are the issues, why not begin discussing collective security arrangements among the major powers concerned? "

9. The refreshing views expressed by the two recently-retired Foreign Secretaries, which are unlikely to be shared by the brigade of compulsive demonisers of China in the strategic analysts' community and in our media, have come in the wake of changing perceptions of China in countries such as Australia, the US and Japan, which were as paranoiac about China till recently as we are even now. There is a
growing realisation in recent months that the cause of international and regional peace and security might be served better by treating China as a possible security partner than as a security threat.

10. One noticed this change of attitude first in Australia after Kevin Rudd became the Prime Minister after defeating John Howard and his party. He has made Australia distance itself from multilateral security mechanisms such as the five-power naval exercise of 2007 by the navies of the US, Australia, India, Japan and Singapore on the ground that such mechanisms cause unnecessary concerns to China. One could also see a change --- from compulsive suspicion to looking for areas of better understanding--- in the attitude of the administration of President Barack Obama towards China. This change was recently reflected in a proposal for a joint naval exercise involving the navies of the US, Australia and China. Some reputed Australian non-Governmental analysts have also been saying in the margins of international seminars on maritime security that though China might not be an Indian Ocean power, it has legitimate interests and concerns relating to the Indian Ocean and hence it should be associated in any dialogue mechanism pertaining to the Indian Ocean. In a seminar attended by me, I even heard an Australian non-governmental analyst arguing that, as a confidence-building measure, India should take the initiative in proposing the inclusion of China in dialogues regarding security in the Indian Ocean.

11.Yukio Hatoyama, the new Prime Minister of Japan, also thinks differently from his predecessors in respect of China and is likely to initiate moves to improve Japan's relations with China.He believes that China should be made part of the solution to the security problems of the region instead of being suspected as an important cause of the problems.

12. At a time when attitudes are thus changing, India should not remain like an old Japanese soldier of the Second World War, who was discovered some years ago living in an uninhabited and isolated island, thinking that the war was still on and without realising that the war ended years ago and that the world had changed beyond recognition.

13. It has to be admitted that no other country in the world has the kind of problems that India has with China----- arising from its adamant attitude in claiming Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh, its nuclear and missile supply relationship with Pakistan, its opposition to India being associated with the UN Security Council as a permanent member and with all the dialogue and security mechanisms in the ASEAN and East Asian regions etc. Its attitudes naturally create a suspicion in the minds of large sections of our civil society that there continues to be a certain malevolence in China's attitude to India.

14. A positive change in the attitude of the Indian civil society to China can come about only if this Indian perception of Chinese malevolence is lessened. How to bring about positive perceptional changes on both sides is a question which should engage the attention of analysts in both countries. Any campaign of hysteria and mutual demonisation in India as well as in China will come in the way of efforts
to bring about changes in attitude on both sides.( 13-9-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


Shaan said...

Mr.Raman, You are right in thinking that unnecessary conflicts should be avoided. But you need to keep in mind that it is China that is the root cause for all the problems with China. Was Tibet a part of China? If they argue that Tibet was under China's rule for some time in the distant past, then even Indian kings ruled Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and many places in South East Asia. Can we claim them now?

After occupying Tibet China further occupied Indian territory in J&K and Northeast. We trusted the Chinese once and they stabbed us in the back. India was one of the first countries to recognize China and establish full diplomatic relations with them, we considered them as a partner, and even when China illegally occupied Tibet we kept quiet. The gift we got in return was invasion and secret arming of Pakistan and northeast militants. You may argue that even we support Tibetan dissidents but you must understand that Tibet is under illegal occupation by China unlike India's northeast which has been part of India always.

All Western countries support China because they all depend on China economically. Australia's Kevin Rudd supported China and in return China arm twisted Australian steel companies and arrested their employees.

China may have legitimate interests in Indian ocean because its ships pass through the Indian ocean, but they cannot claim to be an Indian ocean power. There is no need for India to advocate the inclusion of China in Indian ocean groups.

You are saying that India's civil society is the main impediment to relations with China. You must understand that India stays together as a nation only because of India's patriotic civil society. India got independence not because of bureaucrats who were willing to serve under the British but because of India's civil society.

If India's political and bureaucratic leadership had prevented China from becoming our neighbor or at least forced them to agree on the Indo-Tibetan border, we would not have been in a position of confrontation with China today. India's civil society is a civil society, we are not warmongering barbarians. But we still believe in something called self-respect.

Gandaragolaka said...

Govindaa.. Gooovinda!

I understand that some sort of strategic thinking is needed (I am not an expert, not even a follower of foreign affairs, just a common man) in dealing with China, not just blind hatred that doesnt profit us.

But, here is a country that
a)constantly claims part of our territory as its,
b)that constantly supplies arms to our sworn enemy who lives only to destroy us,
c)destabilises our neighbour Nepal to set up dummy Prime Minister who listens only to them,
d)supplies arms and money to separatists in the North-East and naxalites in our country
e)makes deals with rogue nations and supplies huge quantities of arms to them that result in vaste genocides
f)doesnt censure its own people when they publicly make plans to virtually split our nation into 30 small countries.

To claim it as part of a solution is, as I said before,
Govindaa.. Gooovinda!

Vijainder K Thakur said...

India should change its attitude to China just as China should change its attitude to India.

The reason why a lot of Indians are reminded of 1962 is because a lot of recent Chinese actions are reminiscent of 1962, not because those Indians are old and retired :-)

When you repeatedly get struck in the back that is where you tend to look.

As you yourself conclude, the nature of China's problem with India differ from those it has with other regional powers like Japan and Australia.

Chinese attitudes towards India are governed by a desire to suppress or slow India's emergence as a strong regional power. There is nothing demonic about that. Its a understandable desire.

If a lot of analysts are urging the Indian government to stand up to the Chinese they are not 'demonizing' the Chinese. I know the word 'demonizing' is in vogue but it is totally out of context here. Indeed, I could well turn around and say you are 'demonizing' the analysts because they are urging the Indian government to maintain the territorial integrity of the country.

The analysts are urging the government to do what they think will maintain peace - which is a readiness to go to war!

India and China may or may not be able to solve their border dispute peacefully but war is NOT an option. That is the message we need to send to the Chinese, not in words but through our actions.

The politicians and bureaucrats need to go figure out how to do that.

walter said...

We are not mired in any time warp Mr. Raman.

The same electorate which is praised for its vision during the elections finds itself criticized when it comes to a neighbour that has attacked us and continues to indulge in shenanigans as listed by the readers above me.

How is China's civil society related to China's unsuccessful yet brief endeavour to prevent the banning of Jamaat Ud Dawa? How is their society related to providing Pakistan with missile technology thereby escalating an arms race in a region already besotted with the paranoia of a nuclear war? How is their civil society related to them providing a safe haven for insurgent militia leaders from the North-East? How is it related to the venom that is constantly spewed in Global Times editorials with respect to India? (You did mention that the political and bureaucratic structure is positive on relations. Well, Global Times as you yourself pointed out is a sister publication of the party's official mouthpiece). What does the civil society have to do with China's displeasure over our media reportage? This question is perhaps the more befuddling one. Mr. Raman, India, is a democracy with a vibrant free press. The press will report what it sees. It's all the more surprising that the Chinese civil society is angered by our media reportage. After all, how would they know what a free press contributes to civil society? And if they don't, then why should WE make up for their lack of familiarity with what is an essential tenet of most democracies across the world.

Comparing Taiwan to Indian is NAIVE. Firstly, it were the KMT cadres who were killed as a part of an squabble with the CCP in what was an INTERNAL power struggle for control of Mainland China; secondly, Taiwan is not in the same position as India due to factors that you had delineated earlier(each of which on their own merit should be sufficient to turn your argument on its head); thirdly, their dispute is premised on the China's hasty application of the 'One China' policy; fourthly, China and Taiwan are similar culturally, and do not have the cultural barrier which marks our relations with much of east and south-east asia. Asking the Indian citizens to overlook/ignore/overcome these barriers without any positive overtures from the other side is the sme thinking that created the 1962 imbroglio.

As far as Japan goes, the comparison is almost ludicrous. The regime which carried out the reprehensible acts of genocide that were the primary cause of Chinese hostility is NO LONGER THERE. It has been purged to say the least and it took a new Japanese constitution to ensure a pacifist Japan.

Is the CCP a relic of the past? Has it been purged of jingoistic sentiments? Has China been 'reconstructed' like Japan? The answer to these questions is in the negative.

Disappointing analysis from a blog that usually provides enriching insights into strategic security issues.

China said...

Mr Raman, I have always admired your analyses, which are rooted in your intimate association with shaping and writing on matters of India's strategic interest. Like you, I too am concerned about the shrill jingoism in the Indian media (and the Chinese media) on the border dispute.

But I read your earlier post just now - where you argue that one way for India and China to break the impasse would be to explore "the possibility of a 'status quo plus' solution under which China will recognise the status quo in Arunachal Pradesh in return for India accommodating some of the Chinese interests in Tawang."

You recommend this because "China wants a face-saving formula by India handing over at least Tawang to it". In other words, for China to 'save face' (even though it does not have a representative governement, and is not answerable to its people), India should "accommodate" some Chinese interest in Tawant - even though you yourself acknowledge that no Indian government will be able to sell to the Indian people and the parliament any concession that would involve population transfer.

It sounds to me that your recommendation amounts to a wholesale surrender of the Indian position - ostensibly so that the Chinese government can "save face".

I'm a reasonable man, Mr Raman, but this strikes me as wholly unreasonable. I don't agree that sending you vituperative mails is justifiable response, but I respectfully disagree with your proposition. I trust that being a well-informed man with superior analytical skills, you will do a bit of self-reflection to understand why your earlier post was not well-received.