Tag Archives: Saurabh Kumar
Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Policy Brief, December 22, 2014
Saurabh Kumar, Visiting Professor, ISSSP, NIAS
Talk of a visit to China by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the air. The Chinese are said to be pressing for it in early 2015, pleading scheduling difficulties later in the year. It will be unfortunate if the Indian side gets busy debating dates dutifully, without addressing the root question – the advisability or inadvisability of the idea, as such, from a strategic perspective.
This is no knee jerk hawkishness on China. India-China relations are sui generis, quite unlike any other bilateral relationship. High level visits need to be carefully prepared, more than in the case of other countries. This is especially so in the present circumstances when the relationship is in a state of flux – with a fresh, clearing of the cobwebs, approach by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in India on the one hand, and potentially far-reaching political developments in the offing both in China’s neighbourhood and globally on the other.
A full scale review of the state of play, both in respect of bilateral relations and China’s relations with other countries, Pakistan above all, is called for before any such move is contemplated. And a cramped calendar at the Chinese end during the rest of the year should be the least of the reasons for an early visit.
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India-China Relations – An Introspection
Author: Ambassador Saurabh Kumar, Adjunct Faculty, ISSSP, NIAS
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The essay attempts a quick appraisal of India’s equation with China from a forward looking strategic standpoint, for charting the way ahead, in light of the ongoing visit of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping to India.
While the immediate task naturally is to work for early realisation of the potential through mutually beneficial diversification and intensification of ties, tapping all possible complementarities through imaginative arrangements and programmes, it is the political relationship that has naturally to be kept in focus as the driver, and determinant of the reach, of the former.
A summary review of political relations between the two countries identifies two features that deserve note:
(i) The fact of extreme volatility of the relationship – right from the start, and continuing to this day.
(ii) The fact that it is the Chinese diplomatic design (disposed towards generalities and formulations long on lofty rhetoric and abstractions that invariably lend themselves to conflicting interpretations and short on unambiguous specifics) that has been allowed to prevail in the corpus of Agreements/Communiques/Declarations/Statements issued over the years. An alternative, Indian template seeking to cast common understandings and shared agreements in tangible terms instead appears to have not even been imagined.
Two high points of the politico-diplomatic interaction of the two countries – the 1954 Panchsheel Agreement and the 2005 “Strategic and Cooperative Partnership” – are taken up, briefly, to illustrate the latter feature marking the relationship, namely of atmospherics projected by the official documents being allowed to run way ahead of substantive content.
It is argued that the “strategic partnership” is just an empty shell. With a recommendation that infusion of some solid content into it is a question that should engage the Indian strategic establishment much more intensely, internally, than hitherto.
Also that the paradigm within which India-China relations have come to be conducted is lacking in balance, and therefore in need of a rejig.
In particular, the approach to the “boundary talks” of the Special Political Representatives – the ‘three-stage road map’ (proceeding ‘top-down’ from abstract principles and parameters to specifics of territorial adjustments) being followed by the Special Political Representatives – is felt to be in need of a reversal (i.e. a ‘bottom-up’ one, beginning with a prior understanding on the specifics of the eventual boundary alignment evolved instead) in the light of the experience of four decades of ‘normalisation’ of relations (of inordinately, and endlessly, ‘delayed gratification’). A truly ‘political’ approach (entailing “negotiations”, not just “talks”, for coming to grips with the nitty gritty of a final settlement) is recommended to break out of the rut relations have got into over the last several years.