Much has been written about Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to China. While some said the trip was a landmark event in the bilateral ties between the two Asian giants, others said nothing concrete came out of the trip. And indeed, there wasn't much progress made on the contentious border issue or the India-United States nuclear agreement.
In a chat with rediff.com readers, Dr Srikanth Kondapalli, Associate Professor in Chinese Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, dissected and demystified the prime minister's trip and offered his opinion on whether it will help assuage the hostilities and suspicions on both sides.
For those of you who missed the chat, here is the complete transcript.
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli says, Hello folks. I am around. You could start shooting!
akbar asked, So, lets make our country strong in aspects and sit in the negotiation. As an NRI, this is what I have seen is our image abroad. Though we might have a good volume of Human Resource that is giving any benefit to our country rather used by other countries
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, at 2008-01-16 19:01:18Thank you. Negotiations through peaceful means is the best solution.
shripal jain asked, Dr Srikant, I am a former student of SIS, JNU & want to Know your phone no. so that I can utilise your views in my Newspaper- Hindustan, a sister publication of Hindustan Times. my email : firstname.lastname@example.org -SHRIPAL JAIN 9873999158
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I am @rediff.com.
akbar asked, Might is Right, this is the Policy of today's world, the stronger you are the more respect you get. Am I right Sir?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, In some aspects yes that's right. In others, for instance Japan, it is economically strong and influences each nook and corner of the world through soft diplomacy
Hate china asked, Can we trust China, as per my knowledge China has always been against India on most of the fronts.
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, In international relations, it is not trust but serving national interests that form the basis for interactions. With China as well, we need to be clear on our national interests and should doggedly pursue them. On trust, there is a famous saying by Ronald Reagon, "Trust, but verify"!
susan asked, What should be India's policy on Arunchal Pradesh? What should be given and what should be taken?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, On Arunachal, nothing should be given and nothing to be taken. In the last one decade, China has ratcheted up on the Arunachal Pradesh issue, while its position in 1957 by Premier Zhou Enlai and in 1981 Deng Xiaoping was their emphasis on Aksai Chin. In 1984, a China Institute of International Studies researcher Jing Hui started debating about Tawang and from then on this sector has become an "extended claim". Nehru suggests in the White Papers on the border issue that Zhou Enlai had accepted the territory south of McMahon Line as part of India, although his argument was that India should drop legally defining Mc Mahon Line.
naveen12sep asked, sir! what you think . this visit is fruitful to us.
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Indian PM's visit to China can be categorised as partly successful. Firstly, the expectations before the visit were less, viz., no major announcements on border dispute resolution; discussion about expanding trade, etc. During the visit (and as the Joint Declaration mentions), both sides mentioned that the border dispute is to be resolved at an early stage. No deadlines are mentioned in this regard. Secondly, the PM announced that India should engage China, which was relatively fulfilled. On the other hand, there were no major announcements or concessions from China on its role in South Asia, while India was compelled to announce that it 'opposes' any violation of One China principle, i.e presumably Taiwanese independence.
nikhiltuli asked, Sir, is India facing an identity crisis by being a member of India-Russia-China axis and on the other hand, being a member of the US-Japan-Australia-India "Democracy" naval alliance ?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I think India, by entering into multilateral arrangements as you mentioned with all, is appealing to every other country. India, unlike other countries such as China, then is uniquely placed and so it should engage with as many countries as possible and maximise its national benefits. Since China has territorial ambitions and several countries view its rise as posing challenges, India is uniquely poised.
liuqunli123 asked, Should we ask Britain? What's the viewpoint of Britain? Why don't they come out to say the Mac line and other line? If they don't help us, can we bring interest to them again?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, There is no role for Britain in this issue now. I think India and China have all the intellectual capabilities to resolve this issue.
Jay asked, What is your take on China's 'String of Pearls' strategy
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Currently, China's 'string of pearls' strategy comes in a defensive mould but could change to offensive high seas domination strategy in future. We have to monitor this aspect by the Chinese development of infrastructure in this area.
Jay asked, How will China's deepening defense co-operation with China example JF-17 affect the trust required to move forward India - China relation ship?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I think this poses concern to India, specifically JF-17 have Russian supplied turbofan engines and the machine has a combat range exceeding 1500 km- i.e. targeting deep inside the Indian territory. Besides, losing trust in Russian sales to Pakistan (through China), India is also concerned about Chinese continuing conventional and strategic arms transfers to Pakistan. As you are aware, Pakistan is going through a painful internal turmoil which could affect both India and China and let's hope that China desist from muddying waters in our backyard. In the 1980s, China supplied Red Arrow shoulder fired missiles to Mujahideen against the USSR. Now some of these are landing with Uighurs in Xinjiang against China! China also has been terming the spread of non-state actors in its western borders as a part of an 'arc of destabilisation'!
Jay asked, How much clout will China enjoy in USA considering huge Chinese government backed companies investing in US financial institutions like Merryl Lynch.
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, China's soft power has increased in the US.
user asked, Can we isolate Pakistan by developing common interests with China?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I think we should take along Pakistan and offer relief in a long-term perspective.
Pramod asked, Dear sir, Hi, With your vast experience, what areas do you see as potential areas of cooperation between India & China, specially from India to China? how would Indian Companies be more successful in China? - Pramod
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Chinese manufactured goods have been flooding the markets all over. This may pose challenges (purely business), to Indian producers. However, since Chinese market and industry is protected, it is difficult for Indian business to penetrate into the Chinese market. Specifically in telecom and other strategic sectors like energy
rahul asked, do u see India attaining military parity with China considering Indian forces are preoccupied with Pakistan, Bangladesh and insurgencies?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, India currently has conventional military superiority over China but lacks in strategic weapons superiority.
rahul asked, why does China bully us always (no. of infiltrations). Are we that weak?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Transgressions on the Line of Actual Control is by both sides. Indian and Chinese patrols move into these areas either inadvertently or by design. If this is done intentionally, then there could be trouble. So far, the flag meetings and border personnel meetings relatively rectified the problem but one is not sure about the future. Intentional transgressions could lead to war if these become uncontrolled. This is the reason why we should have clarity on the border dispute.
rahul asked, after Chinese nuke deliveries to Pakistan, how the hell can we trust them? Do u ever see normalisation of relations with China?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, One of the designs of the Chinese supply of nuclear and ballistic missiles is also to target the United States. So the problem is beyond India!
zama asked, Can we have a war against China?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, In the current circumstances, war between India and China is not possible. Consider that Operation Parakram did not lead to war between India and Pakistan, since both are nuclear. India and China also are nuclear armed and with the October Agni III success, it is difficult, if not impossible, for China to attack India with nuclear weapons.
sudheer asked, What would be the better stance of India with respect to the border problem?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, It appears that border dispute is unlikely to be resolved now due to China hardening its stance. Also, China resolved border disputes when the other state is either small (Nepal, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan in the 1960s) or when this state is weak (Russia after the disintegration of the USSR). What China is doing is strategically dominate the borders and contiguous regions.
Jay asked, Do you see China moving towards a more democratic framework any time in future?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Although China conducts elections at the village level, the Communist Party base and power is located at the County level. No elections are conducted at this level and they are unlikely to conduct elections at levels above this. So elections across China is a pipedream for some years to come.
Avishek asked, Sir, Do you think it is feasible to regain Aksai Chin and Nothern Kashmir especially Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan, which is strategically important for India? This is the region which connects China and Pakistan physically, and both are bitter enemies of India.
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Currently, it is not feasible for India to capture Aksai Chin as China has larger concentration of conventional and strategic weapons in this area. Also, as Google dished out space photos over three years ago, China had built simulation centres at Huangyangtan near the Great Wall in Nignxia province to target against Indian military installations in J&K
Parthi asked, Sir! Can we successfully create a manufacturing hub in India as a competitor to China ?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, This is possible. We have the third largest scientific (wo)manpower in the world. So we have to put our acts together to make India as a manufacturing hub of the world. Also, knowledge economy drives the 21st century. So we have to develop IT hardware as well, in addition to improving our software further.
Jay asked, How much leverage does China have in Pakistan's internal affairs? Will this cause any friction in future between USA & China?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Currently China does not have much leverage in Pakistan. In fact they are scared on how their "all-weather friend" is evolving. Nearly 3,000 Chinese work in Pakistan. Several of them do not travel in ordinary cars/buses but in armoured personnel carriers. Several Chinese were killed in Pakistan and so the tension.
Jay asked, Follow-up on String of Perals. Thanks for answering my question. What should be India's response to this? What is India doing at the moment?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, India is currently inviting all major navies for multilateral activities such as exercises, etc. Secondly, the Andaman Nicobar Joint Command has been instituted. Thirdly, it is likely that Agni III could be deployed in the area. Fourthly, South East Asian countries, Australia, etc see these developments positively and see India as contributing to stability
Jay asked, How useful was Sonia Gandhi's visit to China? What message does that visit convey from the Chinese viewpoint?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, See rediff.com
Parthi asked, Why is India always panicked (particularly fuelled by media) about China when there are no imminent dangers of a confrontation? Should we act silently and strengthen ourselves without revealing our fears towards China?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I agree
sesame asked, How long do you think the Sino-Russia entente will continue? I always thought you couldn't have a bear and a dragon in the same jungle
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, The Russian defence ministry thinks that China could pose a challenge in 2015
sesame asked, Do you think that the Americans are over-hyping China's lack of transparency with regard to its military build-up, or is there really cause for concern?
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Several aspects of the Chinese defence sector, as with other sectors, is opaque. The official defence budget of China is said to be $45 billion but some suggest that is above $103 billion. This means China has the second largest defence budget in the world. This should pose concern for all.
Dr Srikanth Kondapalli says, Folks, I need to leave. Thank you very much for the interaction