360° Analysis

Indo-China Relations: From Conflict to Collaboration


February 14, 2013 14:46 EDT

The Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies, presents an overview of their recent conference on the 50th anniversary of the India-China war of 1962.

Founded in 2011, the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) is an Indo-American think tank devoted to providing an Indian perspective on political, socio-cultural and economic foreign policy matters, and matters related to India and the Indian diaspora worldwide.

On the 50th anniversary of the India-China war in 1962, FIIDS hosted the conference “Indo China Relations: From Conflict to Collaboration 50 Years after the 1962 War.” As an inaugural keynote speaker, India’s Deputy Chief of Mission in the US, Ambassador Arun Singh, described India-China relations as one of the key relations for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world today. He noted that both countries are engaged in a positive way to expand on the areas of cooperation, while dealing with differences through dialogue.

With regard to the settlement of the India-China boundary question, Ambassador Singh said that both countries are currently in the second stage of discussions in a three-stage process. He reiterated India’s belief that there is enough space and opportunity in Asia and beyond for both India and China to grow and realize their development aspirations simultaneously.  Ambassador Singh said, “We remain confident that India-China relations will continue to be guided by the vision of political leadership in both countries, who believe that our common interests far outweigh our differences.” He gave an example of trade between India and China, which grew from 3 billion dollars in the year 2000 to 74 billion dollars in 2011, exemplifying the transformation of the relationship and showing the level of their economic integration.

Mr. Glenn Carle, former CIA Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats, and author of the book The Interrogator: An Education, said in his address inaugurating the conference: “Today, India and China are closer to mutual cooperation than anything in past 50 years.” Mr. Carle went on to express what he believes will be the three key factors that will shape India-China relations: change, energy and resources. According to Mr. Carle, political openness, lower political corruption and economic flexibility are the major factors that will contribute to Indo-China cooperation in responding to those factors.

“This conference is very timely and is the only such conference held this year in the US covering multiple dimensions, namely geo-political, economic, and cultural, of current Indo-China Relations”, said Mr. Khanderao Kand, Convener and Director of FIIDS. He said, “In this conference, the Indo-China experts will take stock of the current relations and give their perspective on future relations and collaborations.”

The conference had four sessions: Geo-political Security, Geo-political Relations, Economies and Trade, and Cultural Relations. In the initial session on security, Dr. Namrata Goswami, from United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC, spoke about the visa controversy involving Arunachal Pradesh and China’s claim over the area, as well as the cultural and religious issues involved in the controversy.  Dr. Namtata assessed the threat of war using multiple scenarios. After giving the picture of military deployment, supply lines and terrain, Dr. Namrata emphasized that if there is once again border conflict, air utilization will be very high both for military deployment as well as for strikes.

Dr. Felix Wang, of Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), Philadelphia, presented a comparative analysis of Indian and Chinese armed forces including modernization, command restructure, and deployment. He elaborated over how China has restructured its army and made it ready as a Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) with deployments and possible movement via air in times of any potential conflict. In addition to ground and air, he also explained the maritime power of both countries and possible naval and ground movements of armed forces. He emphasized the importance of submarines and air carrier ships for China to carry such attacks. He covered potential paths of naval attack from China, which interestingly covered a possible path from China’s navy deployment in the African side of the Indian Ocean. According to him, extra territorial bases of both countries are increasing their sphere of influence in the region.

The following session on Geopolitical Relations had eminent speaker Dr. Rodney Jones (President of Policy Architects, a Nuclear and Defense policy consulting firm in Virginia); Dr. Jackie Deal (Foreign Policy Research Institute & Long Term Strategy Group, a Policy Consulting firm at Cambridge, MA); and Prof. Ved Nanda (International Law – Denver University).

Dr. Jones focused on Geo-Political drivers, Indo-Sino relative performance and military components. He mentioned that a country like China which is more homogeneous in the sense of religion and culture compared to India, has more ability to martial the power of its population. India and China both are nuclear capable states, but China is much farther ahead in its nuclear program than India. He warned particularly about China’s program’s focus on precise delivery missiles.

Dr. Jackie Deal, who has often been called to brief various committees and White House officials on India and China, covered some of her comments from her recent publications in Foreign Policy and Indian Express. Based on her numerous visits to both the countries and discussions with generals, politicians and experts from both the sides, she painted a grim picture for India regarding the current military imbalance. According to her, the gap is wider than it was in 1962 mainly due to China’s higher GDP for decades, China’s global access and investments, and heavy investment in military with a goal of China ‘unconstrained by US’. However, she emphasized that the imbalance would be corrected in the future due to India’s economic growth. She touched also on China’s territorial issues with neighbors and how their concerns may benefit India, as they are more willing to trust India. Dr. Deal estimates the cost for India to engage with China militarily would be too high and that India has more potential power against China on long-term economic and political fronts.

Prof. Nanda focused on India and China’s paradoxical relationship. While India and China are increasingly bonded together by commercial ties, as regional giants, they will continue to compete for resources and political influence. Prof. Nanda quoted the figures showing India’s growing expenditure on naval modernization in response to China’s growing naval power. He emphasized India’s need to strongly respond to Chinese claims on the South China Sea. Though he considers Indo-China relations to be improving, he cautions that India should “speak softy but still carry a stick.”

The following session on Economies and Trade opened with former Ambassador of India, Dr. Har Swarup Singh. He spoke about the areas of economic competition and cooperation in Indo-China relations specifically the areas where cooperation can be focused and increased. He asserted that India must stop deferring to China without reciprocity and must start proactively occupying the economic space. India’s growing economy, he stressed, will provide an advantage in the coming years.

Dr. Steven Lewis from the Bakers Institute at Rice University presented graphs displaying China and India’s energy demands compared to rest of world. He emphasized that experts need to pay the attention to the latest restructuring of the politburo as it did not lead to the appointment of new reformist leaders. The leaders’ approach to energy will be a powerful component in China’s relationship with India in the coming years. Shale gas, as it becomes a more viable energy source, will change the energy landscape and further impact the relationship.

Dr. James Clad from the Center for Naval Analysis stated that economic cooperation doesn’t necessarily guarantee national security. According to him, a close-mindedness of the elite national security community influences the power conflicts. He warned against falling into a trap of ‘fated confrontation”. According to Clad, Indians are obsessed with an ‘Indian centric’ view, identifying conspiracies by China or the US. However, for those countries, India is not as much a priority issue; there are many other priority issues on which these countries are working. He further pointed out that, for few decades after the conflict, India was not a priority concern for China but since 2007, China is working on relations with Asian countries. Dr. Clad says that India should monitor two areas that bring threats from China – Ballistic Missile Defense and Offshore activities of China.

In the last session, Cultural Relations, Prof. B. N. Hebbar, from George Washington University, along with his students, uncovered Buddhism’s expansion in China. Executive Director of RIWATCH, Arunachal Pradesh, Mr. Vijay Swami gave a pictorial presentation of villages along the Indian border and their cultural/religious ties with the villages on the other side of the border. Lastly, Dr. Yashwant Pathak from the University of South Florida, endorsed the Indo-China cultural initiatives and exchange study centers into the each other’s universities. He says both India and China have an ‘eastern’ view point which is different than a ‘western’ view point and that they can collaborate together based on common cultural beliefs.

Image: Copyright © Daniel J. Rao / Shutterstock.com. All Rights Reserved.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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