Indian PM’s China trip
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]here India’s international politics are concerned, like almost all other nations, so many considerations have to be factored in. The top priority is of course, security in every sense of the term followed by economic trade plus bilateral even trilateral accords/agreements. And so on. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has an unenviable task ahead in his four days visit to the Land of the Dragon.India is about one-third the size of the United States in geographical terms but has over four times the population. Unlike the USA which comparatively is what used to be described as “isolated” India is eternal neighbour to major potential foes like China and Pakistan.
The equation with the latter is of unpredictable dimensions because both India and Pakistan are mainly divided by two major religions, namely, Hindu and Muslim. The major communities of the two nations are basically of the same ethnic stock. In fact, India has more Muslim population than that of entire Pakistan. The two countries also share a common history. Over centuries of invasions primarily from the West, the invaders had to pass through Afghanistan and then what is now Pakistan before they reached the borders of India.
There is an adage that there is no greater hatred than differences between brothers of the same roots or sects of the same religion. This is also true of the Arabs and Jews who originated from the same Hebraic roots.
However, in today’s age, leaders of every nation exercise caution because we are all on the world stage. In case of any infiltration or war with Pakistan, it would pose no problem for India militarily. No less a personage than the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had stated in the US Congress that India could deal with Pakistan in any manner whatsoever.
Because of India’s long international border with China and Myanmar as also its long ocean-rounded peninsula, its security forces are very widely spread. In this sense, Pakistan has an advantage because of its comparatively limited border with India. The two countries will regularly share cultural exchanges, cricket matches while at the same time, in Jammu and Kashmir particularly, infiltrations backed by Pakistan continue. These infiltrators comprise mainly those who wish to liberate India’s Kashmir.
On the other hand, India, as the elder entity tries to be patient but then, how long can such nature continue? That is why, one of the agendas of the recently elected Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is to at least normalize relations. Sharif’s one problem might be his Army which he could not motivate when he invited then Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee on a good will tour to Pakistan. At that time General Pervez Musharaf was the Army Chief before he became (dictator) President of Pakistan.
Generally, Pakistan does not want two enemies, Afghanistan and India, on its borders. By choice it is India which is regarded as the enemy. However, things still do not look too bad as of now. India’s concern is Pakistan’s equation with China which has provided much aid to Islamabad although the latter receives much more aid from the USA also.
Frankly, India has much grouse against China considering what had been happening since the 1962 war in Ladakh and then NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh). Like most Orientals whose minds one cannot perceive by their facial expressions, China—still a Communist country more so than Russia—is gradually and even stealthily penetrating India’s economy especially in the North-East Region where so many of its goods are available at much cheaper rates through Moreh in Manipur to Dimapur via Kohima and so on westwards. This trade appears not to be burdened with official taxation. This is in addition to the continuous smuggling of drugs and other contraband goods the region being at the corner of the “Golden Triangle.”
Officially, despite political differences, China has become India’s biggest trading partner in goods reaching 70 billion US Dollars as of last year. In the process India’s manufacturing sector has been damaged. Besides this, China occasionally has the habit of still claiming parts of Ladakh and all of Arunachal Pradesh as rightfully belonging to it. Other security concerns include China’s deep penetration of India’s power and telecom sectors.
China further concentrates on the sports sector at all fora including the Olympics and its sportspersons have indeed been doing well, much better than India. Sports having been described as war without guns, this truly describes what has come to be known as China’s “Ping Pong Policy.”
Militarily, China has the largest population in the world as of now despite its “one child, one family” policy. India is likely to surpass its population within a decade primarily because while our country advocates family planning it is not as rigid as the neighbour to the North across the Himalayas. So, theoretically, a potential all out war would be a stand off between the two nations. As it is, India has the fourth largest Army in the world.
China also keeps tracks of how India procures arms and other defence equipments from Russia, but especially the US because such might impact America’s strategy by creating a security ring around it. China too has its share of ethnic insurgents notably the Quighars (pronounced Weegahs) who dominate Xinjiang Province adjoining Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as also the Tibetan people. In fact, China is also surrounded by 14 countries its majority Han community notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, India’s concerns just might include the ethnic groups particularly in the N-E region and Ladakh who have closer origins with China and other Oriental nations. Nagas, Mizos etc are such instances. The Mizos at least wanted a State of their own and when they got it, they settled down to peace and developing prosperity. Nagas, however, remain a question mark in the minds of many members of the powers that be in New Delhi and rest of the country. That of course requires a separate dealing. Suffice it for now to say, that the diehard Naga only wants India to vacate his land.
India’s present concern is mainly what is described as “Border Defence Cooperation Agreement” which would avoid incidents but not necessarily solve the problem fully. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had stated clearly that the border issue with China would take time to resolve. His attempt in working with China’s leadership is to create a “forward looking agenda in our bilateral relations.” He has based his ongoing relations with Chinese President Xi and Premier Li due to useful meetings with them earlier this year.
Nevertheless, the Opposition BJP strongly feels that the ruling Congress-led UPA Government is weak where China and Pakistan are concerned and has advocated that it should “re-devise” its foreign policy. Its spokesperson Meenakshi Lakhi said India should “befriend” China’s neighbours to check the dragon so that it does not become uncontrollable.
However, if Dr Manmohan Singh can pull off some of his agendas in India’s interests, then all said and done, something is always better than nothing.