Recently, Li Keqiang, Premier, People’s Republic of China visited India. He said, ‘Our two countries must shake hands and conduct exchanges so that together we can raise the standing of Asia in the world.’
In the wake of the recent border dispute, India and China are making efforts to rebuild ties, factoring in political and economical realities on the ground. But before we look further, let us peep at the past, with tension on the 3,488 km of the India-China Line of Actual Control from time to time.
Shaksgam valley – Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km to China in 1963.
Demchok – China claims that India has occupied 500 sq km in Demchok.
Finger area – In 2008, Chinese troops took down 3 Indian Army fibre glass huts on 7 Nov at Doka La.
Barahoti – In 2011, two Chinese choppers landed 4 km inside the LAC on the Indian side on 23 August. Troops took down 17 fortifications, Earlier there was a 21-day face-off here in August 2002.
Asaphila area – In 2011, around 44 Chinese troops set up tents 3km inside Indian territory in the Asaphila area on 15 August.
Depsang – In 2013, a platoon of PLA troops ventured 10 km into Indian territory on 15 April. They withdrew on 5 May after India took a tough stance. The Depsang incursion may have revived bitter memories of the 1962 Indo-China border war which many won’t forget in a hurry. India faced humiliation against the Chinese aggression. It had hurt the Indian sentiments very badly.
After promises of peace, China builds 5-km road crossing LAC. The intrusion took place on May 17, two days before Chinese PM Li Keqiang arrived in Delhi.
China claims 70,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh as under Indian occupation.
China can deploy 6.8 lakh troops to the border within a week. Can India match this given the poor infrastructure; though India now in earnest is developing roads, basic infrastructure and airbases for quick movements of troops and weapons.
Apart from India, China has disputes with many of its other neighbours too. India may have the longest disputed boundary with China, but many other countries have territorial issues with China:
Nepal & Bhutan – China has minor territorial issues with Bhutan. In Nepal, it interferes over Tibetan refugee problems. China is also eyeing hydroelectric schemes in Nepal.
Veitnam – The two communist states stare at one another due to China’s expansion of its South China Sea claim has led Veitnam to seek allies, weapons and more.
Philippines – With no navy or airforce, this country has been surprised to find itself on the frontline of China’s South China Sea claims and facing harsh economic sanctions by China.
Taiwan – China claims it to be a rebel province, not independent at all.
Japan – It is China’s enemy number one. Despite Japan’s huge trade and investment in China, Beijing has been unrelenting in it’s island dispute with Japan. Even a pro-China government in Tokyo made no difference.
South Korea – bombed and harassed by North Korea, it has come to believe China is tolerating this activity by its main Asian Ally.
Mongolia – Disputes over natural resources and ethnic minorities have led this otherwise mild-mannered nation to invite the Dalai Lama.
The present bilateral trade between India and China is $66 billion and is expected to touch $100 billion by 2015. Just as bilateral trade and investment will bring the two countries closer, but the political issues and border dispute is a reality, which needs a mature diplomacy with give and take. The recent Depsang incursion resulted in uproar in Parliament and rhetoric from opposition leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, announcing, ‘drive away the Chinese, if required, let’s go for another war with the Chinese’ ; without realizing the implications of this war. Mature leadership and smart diplomacy is the need of the hour.
If India and China, the two Asian giants are to come closer, they should engage on a equal footing with mutual respect for each other. Love thy neighbor will only be possible with engaging the dragon! And China should be sincere in its efforts to solve the remaining vestiges of history with India, with a new and modern outlook with a global role for both the Asian giants.