Escalation of war of words between India and China is no reason for veterans in diplomacy and matters military to lose their sleep. None of the two sides is losing its cool and that is a welcome feature. Perhaps the ministry of foreign affairs miscalculated the likely Indian reaction when it said that the general Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern command of the Indian Army, Lieutenant General B.S. Jaswal would not be a welcome guest as a member of the Indian Military Delegation to China. The Chinese thought that India would take this rebuff lying down. India, on the contrary, reacted strongly and retorted by saying that the two officers of the People’s Liberation Army of China coming to India to attend the National Defence College would not be welcome anymore.
THUS FAR BUT NO FURTHER
Why did China do what it did? It was trying to send signals to Pakistan reaffirming its friendship with that failed state. Indeed it is for historical reasons that China developed friendly bonds with Pakistan when India and the Soviet Union were bosom friends. China and the Soviet Union had developed cracks in their friendly ties and China needed a friend in the Indian Sub-continent. Pakistan filled the bill as both had their bête noir named India. The two have remained friends through thick and thin. China, as an emerging super power, keeps on assuring Pakistan that the latter has nothing to worry and that it could carry on with its anti-India hostile attitude both in word and deed. It serves China’s interests too. India remains entangled with a minor country called Pakistan and cannot emerge into a global force to reckon with. Thus China will have no competitor in the Asian sphere. By making this pro-Pakistan and anti-India move, China has endeavoured to kill two birds with one stone.
Is China interested in carrying on this war of words further? Is India interested in carrying the war of words forward? No, none of the two giant neighbours wish that this diplomatic tension and sending of a demarche turn into a border skirmish or a battle of books pouring over old treaties of the imperial era. Both the countries wish to resume their exchange of defence notes and continue military delegations visiting each other’s defence installations. The confidence building measures should continue.
The basic reason for China to continue this detente is its emergence as a world power. Entanglement in a regional dispute with India may make a dent in China’s international image. Thus the present stoppage of visits by defence delegations is at best a comma and not a full stop.
Generally speaking, China goes by past precedence and does not deviate from the policy adopted by it in similar cases previously. Not long ago, another Indian military delegation comprising, among others, then Lt Gen (now General and Army Chief) V.K. Singh. General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command had visited China. Lt Gen VK Singh was in military command of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory that China has been laying its claim on. China had raised no objection then to Lt Gen Singh’s visit to China. Isn’t it a puzzle that China has adopted a different approach to the issue this time? The crossword puzzle is ipso facto solved when Pakistan enters the picture. China has undertaken the entire exercise to reassure its flood-ravaged friend that it need not worry about India and keep on denying visa to its relief workers and remain as hostile as ever. The aim is achieved and the exercise is, it is hoped, shelved now.
IS AMERICA A PLAYER ?
If anything is happening at a global scale, America cannot but take interest in it. America does not like its image of an international policeman but it has to be there lest China is acknowledged by the comity of nations as the giant among men. However, there is no evidence to prove that America has taken an active interest in the present Sino-India war of words. Indeed, it is an observer. It may ensure that the balance of power in the region does not tilt unduly in favour of China. One of the reasons of America pouring in military and financial aid into Pakistan on a massive scale is to prevent the terror manufacturing country from falling into the lap of China lock stock and barrel. One who pays the piper dictates the tune. When America pays green back dollars to Pakistan, it has a leverage in guiding its policies at home and abroad.
Of course, India has to follow a policy in principle and in practice to prove to the world that it is not Pakistan centric. Further, India must stick to its guns and show to the world that China is incapable of browbeating her into submission. The present round of denial of visas to military officers by either country has proved the point to the hilt.
When China had deployed its Dong Feng-2 or CSS 5 missiles on the Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh border, many India and China watchers put out a theory that tension between the two great neighbours was at its peak. Fortunately, no international observer had predicted a shooting war between the two. In any case India had already deployed its Prithvi III, to cover a killing zone up to 350 Km and Agni II to cover a range up to cities in South China. The deployment of missiles should be seen in global perspective. China had to strengthen its alround defence by deploying its latest missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. America had made a defence pact with its arch enemy of yester years, Vietnam and an old time ally Phillipines to make its presence felt in the South China Sea. Deployment of the latest Chinese missiles in Tibet on the Indian border should be seen in that context.
Both India and China wish to resume their confidence building measures by holding joint exercises with officers and men of the three services of both the countries. Of course, the level of these military exercises should be raised from platoon and company level to brigade and divisional levels so that interaction between military personnel of the two countries grows at a higher level.
One may conclude that God is in heaven ( notwithstanding atheistic belief of Communist China) and all is well with the world.
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM