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1. The Chinese leadership believes that conflict is due largely to the rapacious role of the adversary, and that in this zero-sum context the application of violence is highly efficacious for dealing with the enemy. These assumptions generally translate into preference for offensive strategies followed by progressively less coercive ones, where accommodation is ranked last. This makes conflict over territory and other core interests of the Chinese regime and the PLA highly likely if the other state refuses to accommodate to Chinese goals.1
2. The Chinese defence white paper for the year 2008 critically analyses the world security situation and clearly brings out China’s willingness to play a major role in international affairs. China also gives out its military policy as that of active defence, which means that China can launch a pre emptive if the need be so. The white paper also gives out probable reasons as to why would China go on war with any nation. The white paper states “World peace and development are faced with multiple difficulties and challenges. Struggles for strategic resources, strategic locations and strategic dominance have intensified. Meanwhile, hegemonism and power politics still exist, regional turmoil keeps spilling over, hotspot issues are increasing, and local conflicts and wars keep emerging.” 2 The reasons for likely struggle (conflicts) as given in the white paper in context of India are being analysed below: –
(a) Strategic Resources. Strategic resources in Indian context which could affect Sino-Indian relations could be water, natural gas, oil, exploration rights over sea and in other continents/ nations. The Chinese ambitious plan to divert river Brahmaputra before it enters India could be potential cause of conflict. Moreover, China views water of the yarlem Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) as an important natural resource, especially for its North Western provinces. China’s dependence on imported oil will continue to rise and it is assessed that by 2010, it will be importing 61% of its oil requirements and by 2020, the figure will rise to 76.9%. India’s oil imports by 2020 are likely to be 91.6%. 3 majority of China’s oil (about 54% ) 4 is imported from the African continent whereas majority of Indian oil imports are from the middle east countries. China’s oil imports will have to cross the Indian ocean, where Indian Navy has the potential and capability to interdict these strategic supplies. China views this as a major weakness and is trying to counter balance the Indian Navy by its string of pearl policy. Especially the port that China is developing at Gwadar in Pakistan could provide China a base from where Indian oil supplies could be threatened. Chinese participation in anti piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, could provide the PLAN experience of conducting operations far away from the mainland. This could come in handy especially in keeping the threats from Indian Navy at bay in case of a conflict.
(b) Strategic Locations. China’s perceived strategic frontiers can be said to include the Indian Ocean and the Malacca straits to the South West, South China Sea, the East China sea, in addition to the current territorial boundaries and claimed justification over the aforementioned territories. 5 As interests between India and China clash in these regions, conflicts cannot be ruled out. China also views Central Asian Republics as important and strategic locations due to the enormous amount of gas reserves there. China has also made efforts to establish its presence in a manner so as to secure its sea lanes of communications, import gas through pipelines avoiding shipment through Indian Ocean where India can influence Chinese shipping, and also to acquire strategic bases such as Gwadar in Pakistan, Coco islands to be able to establish strategic naval capabilities. The reaons for conflict with India will keep increasing wherever interests clash.
(c) Strategic Dominance. China views itself as one of the major powers in the world and the leading power in Asia. Mr Barak Obama termed it as the leader amongst Asian countries during his maiden visit to China. China also aspires to be a powerful nation second to none. In the Chinese quest for greatness Chinese analysts feel that two nations, Japan and India could be hindrances in its road to greatness. Japan because of the overbearing legacy from history and India due to its differences with China.
The Tibet Issue
3. China invaded and captured Tibet in 1956. Indian opinion about Chinese occupation of Tibet has changed over a period of time and India now recognises Tibet as a part of China. However, Chinese still feel that India through the Dalai Lama tries to bring to fore the Tibet issue. Notwithstanding, India’s support to China during the anti China protests by Tibetans in the run up to the previous Olympics, China’s mistrust of India has never diminished and could be used as an ostensible cause for conflict against India by China.
4. Today the line of actual control by both sides in the in the eastern sector conforms to the McMahon Line. The disputed area between the pre-1914 outer line and the McMahon Line covers a total area of 90,000 square kilometers. According to China this area comprises Tibet’s three districts of Monyul, Loyul and Lower Zayul; and according to India, this area is its Arunachal Pradesh. In the western sector, the line of actual control runs roughly along the Karakoram Range, conforming to the Chinese claim. The Indian Government however, claims that the boundary runs along the Kunlun range from the Karakoram pass. The disputed area is the Aksai Chin region between the two ranges, covering a total area of about 33,000 square Kilometers. This area falls mainly in China’s Xinjiang and Part of it belongs to the Ari district of Tibet. The Indian government claims that it is part of its Ladakh area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This area is sparsely inhabited, serving only as the traffic artery linking Xinjiang with Tibet. The unresolved border dispute has been an irritant in Indo China relations and can be a potential cause of conflict in future.
Recent Diplomatic Struggles
5. China’s recent reactions over Indian prime minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Dalai Lama’s visit to the same place and issuing visa to Indian Kashmiris on a separate paper have been seen has diplomatic offensives by China to contain India. Analysts feel that China could be looking for reasons to launch a swift political offensive against India in future to resolve the border issues in its favour. China has resolved its border disputes with those counties which are relatively weaker. 6 It could be deduced that China wants to resolve its disputes with other nations from a strong position so as to gain an advantageous deal. Moreover, normalisation of relations with Taiwan offers China the flexibility to switch forces from its Eastern borders to the borders neighbouring India.
China Pakistan Nexus
6. China has been helping Pakistan militarily and in nuclear technology to develop a foil for India and to contain India in South Asian region. Export of military technology and hardware and clandestine support to Pakistan in for developing strategic weapons such as missiles and nuclear weapons flouting all international norms is seen as an effort to dilute India’s military potential. China does not at present wish to see any tensions on its borders with India. But at the same time, its approach to our sub-continental neighbours and our friends in ASEAN indicates that it will spare no effort to contain India strategically. Its actions like continuing assistance for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes are quite evidently a part of this policy. 7
Insecurity of the Chinese Leadership
7. China is an economic success story but its leadership is highly insecure. The Chinese government under the communist party has every reason to feel confident. Yet, a Chinese professor, Liu Xiabao, was recently jailed for eleven years, just because he publicly advocated freedom of expression and an end to one-party rule in China. 8 Such incidents, human rights conditions, lack of freedom to press, media and internet in China, the Tiananmen incident etc indicate that Chinese communist leadership does feel highly insecure of any uprising against it. Further, India is the country that is spoken of most often as an enemy in China. 9 The leadership may resort to drastic acts such as annexation of Taiwan or an attack on India to divert public attention, if it is cornered by a popular movement in China against the Communist party.
1. Sujit Dutta, China’s emerging Power and Military role: Implications for South Asia p 94
2. Chinese White Paper on National Defence; Year 2008, downloaded from www.china.org on 24 Sep 09 at 1500 h
3. Commander PK Ghosh, The Maritime Dimensions of India’s Energy Security calculus, p 33
4. Vice Admiral Raja Menon in his speech at DSSC on Dec 09
5. Ashok Kapur, China and Proliferation: Implications for India p 405
6. Kondanpalli Sreekanth in his lecture at DSSC Wellington on Nov 09
7. Kondanpalli Sreekanth in his lecture at DSSC Wellington on Nov 09
8. Ian Burma, The Times of India, Bangalore, 16 Jan 10
9. Downloaded from yahoo.com on 28 Sep at 0900 h
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