India has most to lose in border spats

By Yang Siling Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/4 20:43:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense, said on June 26 that Indian troops crossed the border with China in an attempt to block road construction in the Donglang area by the Chinese side. Ren criticized India's unilateral provocation as seriously endangering peace and stability in the border areas. Two days later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang pointed out that the Indian troops overstepped the mutually recognized boundary line at the Sikkim section and crossed into the Chinese territory, which is essentially different from previous friction between the two troops in other border areas where the boundary is yet to be delimited. On the same day, Indian Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times, "There was no incursion into our territory." The truth of the latest standoff between Chinese and Indian border troops has become clear.

However, India instigated Bhutan to lodge a protest with China over the road construction in the Donglang area and continued its face-off with China in the border region. The Donglang area belongs to and is under actual control of China. Neither India nor Bhutan should interfere in the matter.

At the time when Indian border troops made an incursion into Chinese territory, a new anti-dumping investigation was launched against Beijing by New Delhi. Judging from the timing, the possibility that India employed the two different strategic approaches simultaneously on purpose cannot be excluded.

Primarily, India intends to test how the US and Russia would react to its provocations. Under the tenure of former US president Barack Obama, India's position in the US Asia-Pacific strategy was clear-cut, but it's become ambiguous after Donald Trump was elected. Therefore, India hopes to remind the US of its value in confronting China. 

New Delhi also wants to weigh which is more important to Russia: China or itself. During his visit to Russia in early June, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his gratitude to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the backing Russia provided to India for India's full membership at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with no mention of China. Does Russia support India's accession to the SCO for the sake of common development, or for counterbalancing China? Modi may want to figure this out.

Besides, the Indian public has long been taught from top down that China was an "invader." Displaying toughness against China can help the ruling party score political points. India dragging Bhutan into the latest border row was also meant to demonstrate that South Asia is India's strategic backyard and warn other South Asian countries not to side with China.

But it's very likely that India's wishful calculations will come to nothing. The US and Russia won't take sides as China is of great importance for their economic development and they need China's cooperation with a string of regional affairs. That Moscow needs India in the SCO to counterbalance China is merely India's illusion. Modi's election as prime minister is not a matter of how tough he is against China, but due to the hope of development he brings to Indians. Once he deviates from the goal of development, India's political environment is bound to change.

China won't indulge India's unscrupulous provocations. Both China and India have made efforts to safeguard peace and stability in the border region and they have reached several agreements. But a blunt fact is that the Indian side hasn't adhered to those deals thoroughly.  

The two biggest developing countries, China and India together, have a total population of about 2.6 billion. With 355 million people living in poverty, 29.8 percent of India's total population, the country is facing an arduous task of development. Any wise politician could realize that China and India both gain from peaceful coexistence and lose from conflict. Unfortunately, Modi seemingly is more prone to seeking India's interests at the expense of China's.

The latest provocation will not be the last from India over the border issue. Worryingly, when China suggested India learn from the experience of the 1962 border war, Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley claimed that the India of 2017 is different from the India of 1962. Rawat also said earlier that the "Indian Army is fully ready for a two-and-a-half front (China, Pakistan and internal security requirements simultaneously) war." Such remarks are radical and irresponsible. Confronting China, India's dream of becoming a world power will only become further away. Sticking to peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit is the only right way to develop the China-India relationship. India should stop holding on a wrong cause.

The author is vice director and a research fellow of the Institute for South Asian Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.


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