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'Trust levels between India and China are low'

November 20, 2006 23:53 IST
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As part of our special series on the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India, Dr Srikanth Kondapalli, Associate Professor in Chinese Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and also an Honorary Fellow at Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi, and Research Associate at Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, chatted with readers on various issues related to Indo-China politics and economics.

Dr Kondapalli served at Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses for nearly 12 years. He is educated in Chinese studies in India and China.

For those of you who missed the chat, here is the transcript:

Srikanth Kondapalli says, 
Hello, I have finally reached, and look forward to your questions

MDS asked, What is the realistic possibility of swapping aksai chin with mansarowar
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I think it is possible. In fact it is Chinese driven idea. In 1957, the Chinese side had suggested the same and it was not acceptable to Nehru. In a way, it lead to the 1962 war. And then in 1988 we almost agreed to the Chinese suggestion during Mr Rajiv Gandhi's visit when he accepted give and take principle in solving the border problem.
MDS asked, What is the realistic possibility of swapping aksai chin with mansarowar
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, PS: Aksai Chin for Arunachal Pradesh swap, not Mansoravar. Although in the mid 1950s, Chinese leader Mao Zedong has accepted that several villages in the vicinity of mansarovar were collecting taxes and remitting back to India. This issue was raised in Parliament at that time.
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Not possible. Because the current effort is to clarify the line of actual control and not border dispute resolutions. In any border dispute resolution, the preliminary step is first to exchange maps to clarify each others claimed area, and then if the minds meet, then delimit and demarcate. And then finally, put markers on the ground to indentify the border, and then the respective parliaments have to ratify this preliminary agreement, so that's a long way. In this context, this may take 10 to 15 years.
gultan asked, Why do resolutions between India and China, despite peace since 1967, have taken a long time and we still have not done anything yet to solve it.
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, The main problem why this has not being resolved is the mindset on both sides. Both have unilateral positions on the border and want the other to accept one's position. You are right that it took 25 years from 1981 talks to come even to this level of border talks between the special representatives and still no solution in sight..
ankur asked, good evening sir! do you see the statement of chinese ambessedor about arunanchal pradesh a mere pressure tactic, or is it an indication of a definite hardening of chinese positions vis-a- india. the statement surely came as a rude shock after recent bomhomy as flashed across media at boom -la thank you
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I think the Chinese ambassador's statement is a routine one and reiterates his country's position. An Indian high commissioner in Islamabad would have said similar things just before the Indian Prime Minister's visit. On the other aspect of your query, there is a definite hardening of Chinese position on Arunachal Pradesh issue.
ankur asked, sir what is your take on the lhasa-beijing rail link and simillar activities near indian border. does it not put india at a stretegic disadvantage? the indian government appears to be doing precious little towards this..are we having too sound a sleep?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, China started the Lhasa railway line as a part of the western development campaign in its 10th five year plan. This is also a brainchild of the visitng President Hu. It definitely puts India at a strategic disadvantage in the sense of possibility of Chinese military deployments from Golmud to areas near to the borders of India. In other words, Chinese military logistics would improve phenomenally to the detriment of Indian preparations. Also the Chinese have plans to build railway lines from Kunming to Lhasa and Chengdu to Lhasa. Most of these lines are just a few km short of the line of actual control in Arunachal Pradesh. Besides the Chinese can move their missiles quickly on these railways. This Republic Day, the Indian government has announced building railway line into Thimpu, Bhutan.
rohit asked, Dr Srikanth how can we negate the powerful Chinese buildup and its string of pearls strategy?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, China has started the string of pearls strategy a few years ago to protect its energy security. As you know, the chinese have been importing about 130 million tonnes of oil of which 80 per cent passes thru the Strait of Malaccas. So currently it is a defensive strategy. In future it can turn out to be offensive in nature. Currently the Indian Navy has more capabilities in the Indian Ocean region. The Andaman Nicobar Joint Command is tasked to counter any challenges that may erupt in regions closer to it. The Indian Navy is also conducting excercises in South China Sea and the Pacific with like minded countries in Southeast and East Asia. India has also conducted joint operations with China in November 2003 at Shanghai and in December 2005 at Cochin. The idea is to invite China into the mainstream.
ramananda asked, Do good economic relations usually make for improved political relations?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Liberal economists argue that economic integration provides for stakes for the countries involved to "behave" in an acceptable political manner. China's trade with several countries including with the US Japan South Korea Taiwan, Southeast Asian countries, have tempered the Chinese behaviour in several ways. However, on core sovereignty issues China has not shown much compromise. This is reflected in Chinese lobbing missiles in 1995-96 against Taiwan. And the protests against Japan in the last two to three years on issues related to the Senkaku islands.
pradeep samal asked, suppossing in view of the Chinese hardening their position vis-avis Arunachal pradesh there are a border skirmishes which escalates to a small scale war do you think India will be able to defend it's land adequately? do we have the capability?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, I think 2006 is not 1962 in the sense that the Indian military is now more capable. The army has about 11 mountain divisions countering China although most of them are not on the border areas. Besides, the Indian Air Force has plans to expand their airfields near to the border areas. Cumulatively, the Indian armed forces are more professional in the recent times, and can ward off any challenge in the region.
Srikanth Kondapalli says, brb

Srikanth Kondapalli says, we will resume this chat in five minutes..

VIKI SHAH asked, Can India trust China? Or should I say can India trust Hu??
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Generally states consider their national interests as supreme and no one state trusts the other. This is a realist position. As developing countries India and China have initiated the five principles of peaceful coexistence in 1954 with the expectation that this political CBM can elevate trust levels. 1962 followed the 1954 events and so there is a lesson that India should learn from this experience. Currently the trust levels between the two countries are low despite the initiation of several CBMs from 1978 but more specifically from 1996 when the Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited India. SO the current low level of trust between the two is detrimental to the interest of both the countries. China is to be blamed for this, also India.
shailesh asked, What is the possibility of China launching a quick surgical operation and take over Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh? The Indian army is thinly spread in that area and suffer massive logistical problems, whereas on the Chinese side, the railway is within a few kms of the Line of Actual Control? How prepared are we to deal with this eventuality?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, It is not possible for China to launch a quick surgical operation over Tawang. Its current defence strategy is not aimed at Tawang, but securing strategic frontiers and power, not land. China has about 4 lakh troops facing India, Central Asia and Vietnam. It needs to cater to all these theatres. Currently India is a nuclear weapons state with Agni II capable of hitting interior China. Agni III which failed in July this year, can hit Beijing and Dalian or Shanghai. It's a matter of time before Agni III is tested successfuly and deployed. So in these circumstances, China would be foolish to launch any operation on Tawang.
srini asked, Is India going to do something about China's ambitious plans to dam the Tsangpo & Sindhu that will bring catastrophe to Indian Subcontinent.
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, India doesn't have watersharing agreement with China like the Indus water treaty with Pakistan. Roughly about 28 per cent of water that flows outside Tibet enters India. This includes the Bramhaputra, Indus and others. Damming these rivers could pose a catastrophe to the Indian subcontinent, and some actually argue that this could be a water bomb. In their modernisation efforts, China needs water resources to raise its dwindling water table across the country. So they have started these river diversion projects. Likewise, India also has plans to link its rivers. The whole issue is about development and environmental concerns. We have Medha Patkar and the Chinese also have Dai Qing, who is under house arrest now for agitating against the rehabilitation due to the Three Gorges dam.
Irfan asked, Why does China has soft corner to Pakistan
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, This is a Cold War policy and reflects to the mentality in Zhongnanhai, the compound where the Chinese leaders live. In the Chinese decision making process, three actors are important, including the 1) private entreprenuers who are on the upswing now; 2) Communist party cadres, and 3) the Chinese military. During the cold war, the Chinese military called the shots in Beijing because they were controlling areas bordering India and most of the western region. The Chinese military had three positions on South Asia. One, India dreams to become a major power in the world; two, India is hegemon in South Asia and intends to dismember other South Asian countries and three, the Indian Navy wants to occupy the Indian Ocean. For all these 3 positions, they have policy options like for the first, confine India to the South Asia box by supporting Pakistan. For the second, they have argued for supporting all other South Asian countries with military and other aid. On the third position, China started the string of pearls to counter the Indian Navy. It appears that the Chinese military is still an articulate corporate group in the Chinese decision making process. President Hu is going to sign several defence agreements during his Pakistan visit.
van asked, Hello, Dr.Srikanth, Im a Chinese university student happening to be viewing the website here, and actually I ve flick through the Times of India this morning to get to know how Indian media cover Chinese leader's visit and my perception is that most comments by readers of Times of India are rather negative towards Chinese, I ve to say so, what they talked about mostly is the indo-sino war in 1961, and apprently that people in india still live in the shadow of the failture of that war while in china we sledom talked about it anoymore. now i ve a question, do u think the historic factor is the main factor that bedeviling the indo-sino relations
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Thank you for taking interest in reading the Indian press. I hope you enjoyed the variety of news and views in the Indian press. It is true that a section of the Indian press takes a negative view of developments in China. This is partly historical, and partly ideological. Related to the Indian press, in the normalisation drive betweeen the two countries, the Chinese government has reportedly imposed three conditions on India after the Indian nuclear tests in 1998. The three are: India should drop the word threat from its lexicon of relations with China, second, India should not develop relations with Taiwan, and third, the Indian government should curb negative reportage on China. It appears that India has accepted the first two, but the third being not in its control, it cannot do much in this regard. As you know, the Indian press is free.
pinak asked, should india support tibet's demand for freedom?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, India's Tibet policy evolved from the 1950s, when Nehru accepted Tibet as part of China in 1954. He was going away from the British suzerainty principle. In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi added another dimension by including the word autonomy in India's Tibet policy partly because India had by that time about 1.5 lakh Tibetan refugees living in India, and the Indian exchequer was looking after the social welfare of these refugees. Unless and until there is religious and cultural autonomy in Tibet, these refugees cannot return to Tibet. That was the understanding. In June 2003, Vajpayee visited China and in the joint statement recognised Tibet autonomous region as a part of China. It appears that he resisted Chinese pressure to include the word 'inalienable' in the final statement. Tibetan freedom depends on its own people and the Chinese responses.
pramod nair asked, sir,China's ambitions is just like those of colonial powers druring the industrial rev and renaissance period.Its just looking to seucre cheap raw materials to fuel its industrial m/c.and its trying to making india its source for cheap raw materials cos all indian exports to china is cheap raw materials while chinese imports to india is hi quality finished goods.And the trade balnce is in their favour
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, yes, you are right. In the early 1990s, the then Chinese trade minister Wu Yi iniated a strategy of considering the developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America as sources of raw materials, as markets for Chinese goods and for investments in exporting raw material. This is ditto the Industrial revolution with 'Chinese characteristics.' currently, out of a trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves that China has, it has invested nearly 45 billion dollars abroad mostly in the energy prospecting sectors in Africa and Latin America. asked, sir, in the era of globalisation why India is still sceptical and apprehensive about allowing FDIs from the chinese companies in some of the strategic sectors? Is not India playing double standards vis-s-vis its trade ties with China?
Srikanth Kondapalli answers, Any country is concerned with its security aspects. The recent controversy about Chinese investments in the security related areas like Mumbai port trust, hydrolectric projects in the border areas in Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal and in the telecom sector are of concern to India. Even China will not allow any foreign investments in its security related areas.
Srikanth Kondapalli says, It was a pleasure to chat with you all, thank you , I have to go...

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