India forgets that China cannot be trusted

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National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon’s optimism over reaching a border pact with China is hard to understand
National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon’s optimism over reaching a border pact with China is hard to understand

One cannot but be surprised by the statement of the National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon brushing aside the serious implications of Chinese actions, while voicing optimism that “we are in the process of agreeing on a framework to settle the boundary”.

Have we forgotten that after agreeing to delineate the Line of Actual Control, the Chinese backed off on the entire process?

In 2005, Premier Wen Jiabao agreed that “in reaching a border settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in border areas”.

This clearly signalled that there was no question of transferring territories containing settled populations and addressed Indian concerns on Chinese claims to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Within a year, however, China was laying claim not merely to Tawang, but the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh.

One can only conclude that the new “framework” the NSA spoke of to settle the boundary issue would be about as successful as the much-touted “Joint anti-Terror Mechanism” with Pakistan, which came apart with the 26/11 attacks.

Just a day before the NSA spoke, Army Chief General Bikram Singh described bilateral relations with China as “absolutely perfect” and added that mechanisms were now in place to solve any issues between the two countries. This was an astonishing comment, at a time when the army wants additional strike formations, apart from vastly improved communications on the border with China.

Was it because Singh feels the army is unlikely to get its needs fulfilled soon, and needs to sound conciliatory to the Chinese? Do the other two Service Chiefs and the Defence Minister share this optimism? All these issues need to be debated now that Parliament is in session.


China can now be described as a “dynastic dictatorship,” after its 18th Party Congress. Outgoing leader Hu Jintao voiced concern at the growing dissatisfaction in China over political corruption.

The Party Congress had been preceded by the downfall of its rising star Bo Xilai, whose lavish and flamboyant lifestyle had led to the conviction of his wife for murdering a British businessman and revelations of the billions of dollars of assets that Bo and his family had acquired.

This was followed by a a well documented leak, quite evidently by Bo’s supporters, about ill-gotten wealth accumulated by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his family.

China’s worst kept secrets about dynastic politics in the Communist Party became public when it emerged that four of the seven members of its highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee of the Politburo, were “Princelings,” or descendants of first generation, Mao-era political leaders. Most “Princelings”, including Party Chief Xi Jinping, lead lavish life styles, with families having extensive business interests. The contradictions between having an open economy linked to foreign markets on the one hand and a one-party, authoritarian political structure perceived to be unresponsive to pubic grievances on the other, are coming to the forefront in China.

China will continue to seek new ways to further open up its economy and maintain a high growth rate. But the “Princelings” are unlikely to bring any changes in the basic authoritarian nature of the State apparatus. Tutored by Deng Xiao Ping, who was determined not to follow the glasnost and perestroika path of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, the new dispensation will be averse to increasing democratisation.


With jingoistic propaganda, evidently to divert public opinion away from domestic issues like high level corruption, China is obviously in no mood to show any flexibility on its territorial claims along the Sino-Indian border. As Chinese passports are generally valid for ten years, there can logically be no change in China’s territorial claims in this period.

China will continue on its path of rapid military modernisation, combined with an assertive line on its maritime and land boundary claims.

China’s recent decision to depict the entire South China Sea, together with Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Ladakh as Chinese territory in maps on Chinese passports, has to be seen in the light of this growing Chinese readiness to use force and military coercion to enforce its territorial claims. One has recently witnessed aggressive Chinese postures resulting in a virtual naval takeover around the disputed Scarborough Shoal, claimed by the Philippines.

A similar aggressive approach has been taken on recent tensions with Japan, with Chinese naval vessels entering territorial waters, adjacent to the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

China has evidently been emboldened by the American assertion that while the US does have a stand on freedom and maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea, it “does not take sides in (maritime) disputes”.


New Delhi is now talking of getting superfast trains and rail equipment from China, at a time when there is growing concern at our over dependence on second rate Chinese power equipment.

There are also concerns about dangers to cyber security and communications infrastructure posed by imports from China. Should we not insist on co-production, together with transfer or technology, in such strategic sectors, with preference for cooperation with friendly countries like Japan, France and Germany?

(The author is former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)

(This article was published on December 5, 2012)
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Dear Mr GP Many thanks for this caution. Will the ears listen to and the eyes see the ground realities instead of indulging in this 'all is well' kind of assumption and self assurance? . The present atmosphere is somewhat similar to the one that prevailed in early 1960s when our leaders wrongly assumed that China would never attack India. Reference is invited to the recent interview granted by Dai Bingguo Chinese Negotiator to PTI (covered by this publication) covering China - Pakistan relationships and China's territorial claims. We need to exercise extra caution, think and act carefully. I held the view earlier that China will think twice before attacking India once again. But am forced to rethink. Camradely with China can wait. Recent bonhomie in the form of financial assistance, collaboration in power and infrastructure may not be entirely and mutually beneficial. One may need to read the fine print very carefully! Thanks for this opportunity to interact. Regards

from:  Dr.Guru.Raghavan
Posted on: Dec 5, 2012 at 23:08 IST

The author is 1`00% right. We must not get high speed trains etc from China.Rather we must develop our technology with some assisiatn ce from Japan/Germany etc as the author suggests.We can not rely on CVhina to offer us the best technology

from:  P N V Krishnan
Posted on: Dec 6, 2012 at 02:19 IST

Unfortunately, our foreign office, army and the party in power have not learnt the lessons so painfully learnt in the Nehru regime. We have long back lost the Aksai Chin which would in the current environment have been very useful to India. We are meekly making submissions to China for opening more consulates. China is expanding its navy and is bottling up all routes to seek its enhanced power. In each and every action China wishes to show its rising power. Its aim is to become the world's biggest power. Let us not be overwhelmed by the repeat of Hindi Chini bhai bhai. Improve trade and commercial and cultural relations by all means, but do not fail to show to China that we also play their game sufficiently well and strongly. Will the MEA and MoD suitably tailor their policies and soon enough at that.

from:  s.subramanyan
Posted on: Dec 6, 2012 at 09:40 IST

India is emerging as a major captive market for China and will fuel china growth - India is losing in industries like IT and Diamond processing also to China.

from:  Man
Posted on: Dec 6, 2012 at 11:41 IST

If mr. sam walton can make WALMART in 30 years why cant India produce their
own local walmart like TATAS.?
what do we need and lack?
If china can reach 10 trillion dollar economy with 1.3 billion chinese why cant India
with 1.2 billion indians be a factory to the world.
If Germany and Japan can be second and third largest economies of the world
what stops india from becoming one?
Think big -think future- educate masses- with excellent skills.
No more bureaucracy -let every indian be business man and an Industrialist.
BE A FCATORY TO THE WORLD with TOP brands -top class quality products
jai -hind.

from:  Abdulla
Posted on: Dec 6, 2012 at 11:52 IST

Nehru & Commies controlled India after death of Sardar Patel & made SATYANASH of India.Still the GHOSTS OF NEHRU & RED BRIGADE are Live & kiking in NewDelhi.

from:  Vyomesh Bhansali
Posted on: Dec 6, 2012 at 18:12 IST

Preaching for education while exposing how uneducated you are. China is #2 economy in the world, not Japan nor Germany. This shows how disconnected you are with the real world. Incredible Indian! indeed!.

from:  John
Posted on: Dec 6, 2012 at 21:45 IST

If China can't be trusted, you think India can be trusted. The truth is that none of India neighbors trusted India at all. Even little Nepal and Bhutan is slowly moving away from India. The reality is that Indians boast too much of themselves when the world is actually laughing at India's incapability even to uplift the majority of people from proverty.

from:  Banlas
Posted on: Dec 7, 2012 at 02:56 IST
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