Provocative border posts add to tension

By Liu Zongyi Source:Global Times Published: 2013-9-8 23:08:01

Illustrations: Peter Espina/GT

Illustrations: Peter Espina/GT

New Delhi's plan to set up 35 new border posts on the China-India border made headlines in Indian media recently. More border police will also be dispatched to step up security along the border.

The Indian media also reported that due to a series of China "aggressions," India called off a scheduled visit by Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, since India is reluctant to "go into diplomatic overdrive" to engage Beijing, though later the Indian authorities clarified the visit was not cancelled but postponed.

Candidly the China-Indian relationship has never been that motivated. Instead, it's the Indian media and government that each time overreact to border issues. Another target of criticism by Indian media in recent days is Myanmar, which is accused of alleged incursion in Manipur.

There are undefined boundary areas between India and some countries, some of which even don't have a line of actual control (LAC). Nevertheless, the Indians have an "ideal" boundary in their minds and any other country crossing the line means they are invading India's territory.

India's hyping of China's "aggression" on the border comes from its growing upsets and worries. The border issue has become long-delayed and difficult to address and India is seeing an increasing gap with China in comprehensive strength and infrastructure construction along the border.

Also, it's related to the entangled struggle of interests within India, particularly between the Indian political and military circle.

There are basically two opinions about how to deal with China's military pressure. One emphasizes clinging to a defensive position on the land while taking advantages of India's superiority in navy and on the Indian Ocean to potentially threaten China's energy-importing and trade passages. Proponents for this strategy call for boosting the development of naval and air forces.

The other opinion reiterates the importance of land forces, believing India should strengthen military building and infrastructure construction in the China-India border area so that it's capable of a strong counterattack in the event of armed conflict. Supporters of this opinion include the land forces as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs which exerts certain controls over border management.

In the past decade, India's defense budget has favored the air and marine forces, which causes a soaring demand for increasing the ground force at the frontier. After the "tent confrontation" between the Indian and Chinese militaries in May, the Indian Ministry of Finance was reported to have agreed  to appropriate around 650 billion Indian rupees ($9.94 billion) for the creation of a mountain strike corps.

Given India's political system, it is not uncommon for the opposition to magnify and make use of the border issue to attack the ruling party despite harm caused to bilateral relations.

India often hypes China's "incursions" on the border, which in fact mirrors the fragility and sensitivity of India's mentality when dealing with China.

It is intended to underline India's equal status with China in tackling divergences and conflicts between the two and cater to the West. However, India's narrow-mindedness is harmful to mutual communications and problem-solving.

India should be aware that Western countries will play a small role in helping India in the most urgent problems it faces, such as alleviating pressure of the devaluation of its currency. Instead, BRICS' emergency fund reserves might be more helpful.

The fifth round of the China-India strategic dialogue was held in New Delhi in August, in which both sides negotiated on maintaining the peace and stability along the border and expressed their expectations to reach a border defense cooperation agreement. The dialogue also made preparations for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's China visit in November.

However, it's a pity to see a resurgence of hyping of the border issue. Every time before some major significant events between China and India, the India side tries to create some trouble.

The establishment of new border posts is a sensitive issue. China-India border war in 1962 was caused by the "forward policy" initiated by the Jawaharlal Nehru government. Now the LAC between China and India is located to the north of the MacMahon Line and the new posts built by India may cross the line, triggering a tense situation in the border area and thus affecting the bilateral friendly cooperation in other fields.

Indians with insight and vision should recognize the severity of the issue.

The author is a research fellow at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

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