China adamant on border

China adamant on border

'HAVE you forgotten the punishment we gave you in 1962 after you had violated our borders?' This is what a retired top army general asked me at...

"HAVE you forgotten the punishment we gave you in 1962 after you had violated our borders?" This is what a retired top army general asked me at Beijing nearly a decade ago. I recalled his warning when India was shaken in the midst of China's inroads into our territory. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, on visit to Delhi this week, have discussed the subject at length. But the victory by Beijing has not let it feel differently and it continues to ride a high horse.

China argues that normalcy can prevail if the border issue is sealed. This means it continues to occupy our territory it has usurped. Our Prime Minister is correct in maintaining that "no peace and tranquility is possible" without the settlement at the border.

I do not know whether people on both the sides are really familiar with the border dispute between India and China. When the 1962 war ended with our defeat, China unilaterally ceased fire and then indicated the ceasefire line as the possible border. But the line, despite India wanting the delineation of a firm one, was not acceptable to China. It changed its mind and declared the actual line of control as the border. China advanced its troops on its own.

This line violated the traditional border both in the Ladakh and in the northeast on the Arunachal side. Even these borders were not sacrosanct for Beijing. The Colombo powers intervened after the 1962 war to ask both India and China to withdraw their forces by 26.5 meters behind the lines where they stood. India withdrew accordingly. But China did not. Even the lines its forces have occupied at present are haphazard and favour it all the way.

Beijing's intrusion (our PM prefers to call it an 'incident' to keep tension down) at Daulat Beg Oldi sector in Ladakh is in the area which it has not allowed to be demarcated. In fact, it has treated the entire disputed area under its overall control without negotiating with New Delhi or even indicating specifically which area belongs to it. Nor has China offered any explanation for staying in India's territory (Despang) for 23 days and pitching tents inside India. Beijing wants to tell the world that it owes no explanation to anyone for going into its "own territory."

China has made it clear that it is not in favour of having a firm border because an undemarcated border gives it leeway to lay claim even on Arunachal Pradesh. For example, no information is forthcoming why a separate visa is issued to people from Arunachal Pradesh and J & K. The real issue with China is Tibet. Beijing may not say so but it links the border issue with the future of the Tibetans who have taken shelter in India in thousands under the leadership of the Dalai Lama. Beijing did raise the issue at the India and China conclaves but kept quiet when it was told that the Dalai Lama was a religious leader, nothing more.

Whatever be Beijing's wishes, New Delhi is in no position to reopen the Tibet issue. Buddhism is one of the religions which the Hindus profess. It should not be expected that for the goodwill with China, India can dare play with the sensitivities of Hindus who are 80 per cent. Even otherwise, the two countries, India and China, are giants and any clash between them is bound to have stirrings in South Asia and the rest of the world. India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, after the 1962 hostilities, warned the world leaders through a personal letter to each one of them that the two nations represented different traditions and conflicting ideologies. India is a democratic country while China a dictatorship. South Asian countries would be interested to know which of the two emerges successful.

From economics point of view, China has beaten India. But political problems have been solved through dictatorship in China. Can that be the lasting solution when India, compared to China, has kept society open and given an opportunity for a free play of different points of view and different ideologies? Only time will tell. Yet one thing that is clear is that India will have to accelerate the economic growth which is now 4.6 per cent, as compared to a little over 9 per cent three years ago.

And there is an axis between China and Pakistan. There is the allegation that China is trying to surround India by having close relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Even if a war is ruled out, the pressure on India's security forces will be immense. India need not treat the border as an obsession. China has seen to it that New Delhi does so.

This is its weakness. India should talk to China about the Tibetans who are a millstone around China's neck. Even otherwise, the word Tibet is a bugbear for Beijing. It is too late in the day to question its authority. It is under China because of its suzerainty over Tibet. But there is a difference between suzerainty and independence. However, the issue of Tibetans' human rights is a point which India can take up. It is strange that none in the world has taken notice of dozens of Tibetans who have burnt themselves in the name of freedom and liberation.

India's determination to increase the bilateral trade with China is welcome. But economic cooperation is not synonymous with people-to-people cooperation which does not exist. If the problem is solvable in the lifetime of the Dalai Lama, he is willing to accept autonomy of Tibet inside China. The youth is not in favour of the Dalai Lama's formula, but it cannot oppose him because he represents Tibet as long as he lives.

The enunciation that both sides would not attack each other is like what the late Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai told Prime Minister Nehru. Beijing never kept its word. There is no assurance that it would do so in the future.

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