Friday, November 5, 2010



The Government of India has sought to play down the worrisome implications of China’s new policy on Kashmir favouring Pakistan, its growing strategic presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan-Occupies Kashmir (POK), its disinclination to give up its claims to the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh and its strengthening of its military-related capabilities in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

2. The strengthening of its military-related capabilities in the TAR has been in the form of a further upgradation of its highway network, the construction of more airports ostensibly to meet civilian needs, the extension of the railway line from Lhasa towards the border with Nepal and Arunachal Pradesh with plans for the ultimate construction of a railway link-up with Nepal and military exercises involving various units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including the Air Force and strategic artillery units. Among the objectives of these exercises are to fine-tune their capability to fight jointly against an adversary at high altitudes, strategic operations of the Air Force involving long-distance flights with mid-air refueling and the reliability of its strategic missiles at high altitudes.

3. The PLA has been handling the implementation of the projects and exercises for strengthening the military-related capabilities in the TAR and the strategic presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area by taking advantage of Pakistani needs in the wake of landslides and severe floods in the region twice this year. These projects and exercises will enable the PLA to pose a threat to the Indian Armed Forces from two directions----from the North and the West.

4. Even while thus enhancing the PLA’s military capabilities, the Chinese political leadership has sought to maintain a reassuring profile during its interactions with its Indian counterpart. This reassuring profile was evident in the recent cordial meeting on October 30,2010,between Dr.Manmohan Singh and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in the margins of the ASEAN-sponsored East Asia summit at Hanoi, the announcement made after the meeting of the plans of Wen to visit New Delhi in December as part of the year-long celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the visit this week to New Delhi by Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, to attend a seminar on Sino-Indian relations, co-organized by the CPC and the ruling Indian National Congress as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations.

5. Commenting on the visit of Zhou, the “Global Times”, the daily of the CPC, wrote on November 1,2010, as follows: “China-India relations have maintained good momentum recently, despite some heated discussions on their relations as rivals. "The argument of the two countries' rivalry is inappropriate," said Miao Hongni, a professor from the International Relations Institute at Communication University of China. "Beijing and New Delhi are in the process of learning from each other. India excels at IT and outsourcing areas, while China is better at the manufacturing industry.As two responsible countries, they will cooperate to improve the development of Asia,"

6.It quoted Dr.Manmohan Singh as saying that India and China would look for "practical and pragmatic" measures to solve border issues, calling on the two sides to ensure "peace and tranquillity" in the region.

7. The impression sought to be created by the political leaderships of the two countries is that the bilateral relations are developing satisfactorily and that there is nothing to worry about. The reality is otherwise. India has many reasons to worry about the Chinese policies and capabilities, but by playing them down and avoiding highlighting them the Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh is repeating the mistake of Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s when he tried to play down Chinese intrusions into Indian territory in the Ladakh sector and their construction of the Aksai Chin Road. By the time he realized the seriousness of the Chinese activities and sought to draw international attention to the malign intention and activities of the Chinese, it was too late. When the Sino-Indian military conflict of 1962 broke out, we were caught unprepared and without the support----not even the moral support---- of the international community.

8.The Chinese leaders are quite happy with the reluctance shown by the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh to inform the Indian public opinion and the international community about the nature of the activities of the PLA under the cover of friendship. It suits their designs that the international community is given the impression that everything is normal in Sino-Indian relations and that the Government of India is not unduly worried over the Chinese activities.

9. The Chinese assertiveness across the Sino-Indian border and their determination to enforce their territorial claims in Arunachal Pradesh have been evident for about two years now. Their virtual military alliance with Pakistan has been a new worrisome factor. It was during the same period that similar Chinese assertiveness was directed against some ASEAN countries with which China has disputes over island territories in the South China Sea and against Japan with which China has disputes in the East China Sea. Instead of playing down their concerns over the Chinese assertiveness, those countries made their concerns evident to the international community thereby inviting statements of support for them from the US. The Chinese are particularly angry with the present Government in Japan because it actively highlighted the Chinese activities which threatened peace and security in the East China Sea area and invoked the support of the US under its security commitments to Japan.

10. As against its anger against Japan and irritation against Vietnam, the Chinese leadership is happy with the lack of an energetic response from the Government of India. This has enabled the Chinese to go ahead with their activities detrimental to India without having to face adverse attention from the international community.

11. While the keenness of the Manmohan Singh Government to maintain the seeming cordiality and momentum in the relations with China is understandable, its soft response to Chinese activities which could prove detrimental to Indian interests and security could prove counter-productive and could ultimately lead us to a military confrontation, however much we may want to avoid it. Softness in response has been the defining characteristic of our policies towards Pakistan and China. They are both taking advantage of our reluctance to respond energetically to undermine our security. An energetic response need not necessarily be in the form of a slanging match with Beijing. It ought to be in the form of a crash programme to strengthen our defence capabilities against China and building up a network of strategic relationships with countries such as Japan and Vietnam. The hopes entertained by many of us that Dr.Manmohan Singh would avail of his recent visits to Japan and Vietnam for this purpose in a manner that would convey an unmistakable message to Beijing have been belied. ( 5-11-10)

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



President Bill Clinton and President George Bush had suffered electoral set-backs in the mid-term elections to the US Congress before they visited India. But, they came a few months after their electoral set-back. By the time they came, public opinion in India had forgotten their set-back, which did not have any impact on their visits.

2. President Barack Obama will be reaching India two days after the elections in which his party has lost control of the House of Representatives and managed to retain control of the Senate by only a narrow margin. This has become an important subject of discussion everywhere. As much time is spent in discussing his electoral set-back as in discussing his policies towards India. Would the set-back weaken him politically? Would it come in the way of substantial changes in Indo-US relations, which would be to the benefit of the two countries?

3. It must be remembered that the elections were fought largely on domestic issues. Foreign policy hardly figured during the election campaign. The election results represented a rejection of his domestic agenda.His powers to make and implement foreign policy will remain undiminished.That is the conventional wisdom. But one has to remember that the Congress controls the federal funds. A hostile Congress can make his foreign policy initiatives non-starters by denying funds for implementing them.

4. This is not a rosy picture for Obama, but the return of the Republicans to the Congress could still have some bright spots for India. India can hopefully expect the Republican members of the Congress to insist on a strict implementation by Pakistan of the conditionalities imposed under the Kerry-Lugar Act of 2009 laying down the conditions under which the economic aid of US $ 7.5 billion over a five-year period voted last year will be disbursed. It can also hopefully expect that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will subject to intense scrutiny the President's proposal for a new allocation of US $ 2.29 billion towards military assistance for Pakistan. India should lose no time in briefing the elected Republican members about its serious objections to these allocations.

5. Obama's Af-Pak strategy relating to Afghanistan cannot hope to get easy approval from the House. Questions will be asked about his exit strategy and about the talk of a dialogue with the so-called good Taliban in the hope of bringing them into the political mainstream. The House of Representatives is likely at act as a speed-breaker on his so-called Afghan exit strategy. This ought to suit India.

6. Even in the case of China, Obama has been avoiding declaring it a currency manipulator and diluting the focus on human rights issues. The newly-elected House is likely to step up pressure for the declaratiion of China as a currency manipulator and highlight the violation of human rights in China. Concerns arising from China's newly-acquired cyber warfare capability are likely to be taken up with a greater vigour by the new House. These are issues which enjoy considerable public support in the US. Obama will no longer be able to push them under the carpet.

7. There are interesting opportunities for India as a result of the thinking of the Republicans on these issues.It should not fail to take advantage of these opportunities to have the foreign policy distortions of the Obama administration corrected in a manner that could be beneficial to India. (5-11-10)

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