Tuesday, December 4, 2012

India, China and the US Pivot?

Shivshankar Menon, the Indian National Security Adviser has left for China to say bye to the old guard in Beijing and particularly to his counterpart Dai Bingguo with whom he had several rounds of 'talks' on the border issue.
In the article of The Hindu posted below, Hu Shisheng, a scholar from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations says that a progress on the border could be the acceptation and the respect "of each other’s LAC [Line of Actual Control] claim”, but he forgets to raise the question: where is the Chinese LAC? 
That seems to be one of the main hurdles in these fruitless talks, China is not ready to put on paper 'its' perception of the LAC, except that for general declaration that Arunachal is Chinese territory. This has nothing to do with a LAC, which is a precise demarcated Line.
Presuming that Beijing is not interested to immediately 'settle' the border issue, an indication of its 'perceptions' would be useful.
Regarding the 'Tibet policy', Ananth Krishnan says that it is "under the charge of Ling Jihua, a protégé of Hu Jintao". 
It is not exactly correct because, even though Ling may run the day-to-day Tibet's affairs as the head of the United Front Work Department, in fact it is the Central Working Coordination Small Group on Tibet which gives the directions. As mentioned a few days back in this blog, it has not been reconstituted as yet.
Regarding the 'American Pivot', many in India believe that in case of a conflict, Washington will side with India. 
Is this presumption correct?
Historically, the United States have never helped India against China.
I have earlier written about the 1962 conflict and the role of India's so-called friends.
In this context, an interesting to reproduce a discussion between Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai (Chou) and Henry Kissinger, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
Though now declassified, it was marked  TOP SECRET/SENSITIVE/EXCLUSIVELY EYES ONLY.
The encounter took place in Beijing  on July 10, 1971.
Dr. Kissinger: With respect to the incidents in Sinkiang [Sino-Russian clashes] , though, I can say the following.
When I assumed my present position I thought that the Chinese were always the aggressors. (Chou laughs.) Then I looked at the map of that part Sinkiang where the incidents took place --this was in the summer of 1969 and saw that it was three miles from the Soviet railhead and 200 miles from a Chinese railhead. It then occurred to me that the Chinese military loaders would not have picked such a spot to attack, Since then I have looked at the problem with a different perspective.

PM Chou: It is also possible to misunderstand the origins of the Sino-Indian conflict.

Dr. Kissinger: That's possible.

Chou: The Indians said that we created the Ladakh incident. It occurred on a peak of the Karakorums on the Aksai-chin Plateau of Sinkiang. At this point a ridge of the Karakorums falls off very sharply downward on the Kashmir side. The elevation is very high and even the Soviet helicopters used by the Indians could only gradually work their way up the steep slope. Our people were on top of this ridge and could see down on the Soviet helicopters gradually coming up. The Aksai-chin Plateau is the route along which we have to travel when crossing from Sinkiang to the Ali district of Tibet. The height of the plateau is 5000 meters. We started to build this highway in 1951

Dr. Kissinger: The Indians call this region Ladakh.

PM Chou: Actually, Ladakh is farther below, but the Indians call all of this region Ladakh. Even the British colonial maps do not show this as a part of India, and Nehru was only able to provide a claim on the basis of a map drawn by a British traveller. Even three years after the road was built, Nehru didn't know about it. It runs all the way from Western Sinkiang to the Ali district of Tibet.
In my discussions with Nehru on the Sino-Indian boundary in 1956 he suddenly raised the issue of the road. I said, "you didn't even know we were building a road the last three years, and now you suddenly say that it is your territory.." I remarked upon how strange this was. Although the so-called McMahon Line was a line that no Chinese government ever recognized, at least it was a line drawn by a Britisher, even though in drawing it he included more than 90, 000 square kilometers of our territory in India. However, in the western sector there was no such line.
was no agreement with us either in 1956 or 1957. And so in 1959 the Indians sent small patrols crawling up the steep slopes to attack our post. Our guards were at the passes. This was in December and the weather was extremely cold --40 degrees below zero. Our post was in the form of a fort and we could see them climbing up. So when the Indians attacked they suffered more heavy losses than we. However, we did have some wounded, and we raised a protest with the Indian Government. TASS said of this incident that the Chinese committed aggression against India. Khrushchev, without inquiring, took the same position on the grounds that the Indians had suffered such heavy casualties. This was the first such anti-China statement from the USSR.
Khrushchev wanted to go to David. Just before, in June 1959, he tore up the Soviet agreement on atomic cooperation with China, and he brought these two things (the Soviet support for India and the tearing up of the nuclear cooperation agreement with China) as gifts to Camp David.

Dr. Kissinger: No, we didn't know about this until much later.

PM Chou: Were you there?

Dr. Kissinger: I wasn't in the government then, but because I had been a time advisor to several governments I knew a number of our senior officials. They didn't believe that there was a split between Moscow and Peking until well into the 1960's. But whatever the Soviets do to you, they do for their reasons, not for our reasons.

PM Chou: I'm aware of that, but I wanted you to know what had taken place.

Dr. Kissinger: I wasn't present at Camp David, so I cannot tell what was happening.

PM Chou: You were not in the government at that time. When Khrushchev returned from Camp David he came to Peking the Tenth Anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Here, in the same banquet hall which you saw this afternoon, he made a speech in which he openly declared that there were "roosters who to fight."

Dr. Kissinger: Who were the roosters?

PM Chou: By this he meant the Chinese. We understood well what he but he put it in abstract terms.
The next day we asked him why he said what he did in such an open forum.
We also asked him first of all why it was that on the eve of his departure for the U.S. he had declared we had committed aggression against India --without even asking us about it. He said that he did not need any other information, and the mere fact that India had lost more men proved that we were the aggressors. This was strange logic, totally illogical.
On the border question, at the beginning he didn't understand it, but afterwards he understood very well what the actual situation was. This is a thing of the past.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: Weren't you aware of the fact that in 1960 he withdrew all Soviet experts from China and tore up all Soviet contracts?

Dr. Kissinger: I personally became aware of this only in 1962.
Kissinger happily bites at Zhou Enlai's arguments on the Aksai Chin, though the Chinese Premier seems to have poor knowledge of the geography of the Aksai Chin plateau and he mixes up the clashes in Longju (NEFA), when the TASS agency took a seemingly pro-India stand and some other incidents in Ladakh.
Though the US Department of State has officially stated that the McMahon Line is the border between India and China in the Northeast, Washington has never taken a proactive stand in the border issue.
It is true that in a Memorandum from the President's Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kaysen) to President Kennedy dated October 26, 1962, it is mentioned: "...We are now prepared to do the following things if you approve: ...b. Make a public statement through Galbraith that we recognize the McMahon line as the traditional border between India and China".
It was eventually approved and Galbraith was "authorized to state that the United States recognized the McMahon Line as the traditional and generally accepted international border and fully supported India's position in that regard" (telegram 1663, October 26, 1962), however India has never received active support from the US later.
My conclusion is that Delhi should not base its China's policy on a eventual US support, but look at its own interests and after assessing its own strengths and weaknesses, decide what is good for India.

What China’s transition means for India
Ananth Krishnan
The Hindu
 December 3, 2012
The new leadership in Beijing is likely to look for stability in relations with New Delhi as it addresses more urgent issues with its neighbours in the Asia Pacific and the U.S.
“Continuity” is a word that National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon is likely to hear often from his Chinese interlocutors during his visit to Beijing, which begins today. Mr. Menon, who is also the Special Representative on the boundary question, will meet State Councillor Dai Bingguo, his counterpart on the border talks, for what officials have described as “informal talks” on the border and strategic issues of common concern. He is expected to hold talks with one of the seven members of the newly-selected Politburo Standing Committee — likely to be second-ranked Li Keqiang, the anointed Premier, subject to his availability — marking India’s first real engagement with the fifth generation of the Chinese leadership following the November 15 transition.
The once-in-ten-year leadership change in China is likely to usher in a new chapter on how the country conducts its foreign policy, officials and strategic scholars in Beijing say. Over the next four months, both the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government that it leads will complete a sweeping change across all levels of its leadership. At the recently concluded Party Congress, the CPC selected a new 25-member Politburo and 371-member Central Committee, which will guide policy-making in all spheres for the next five years. The Parliament session of the National People’s Congress in March will be of more relevance to China’s diplomacy. The expected retirement of Dai Bingguo — one of five State Councillors who function under the four Vice Premiers of the Cabinet, or the State Council — in March has received much attention in India, as he has served as the Special Representative (SR) on the boundary talks since the current format was initiated a decade ago.

Border talks
Chinese officials and strategic scholars who focus on China-India relations say Mr. Dai’s retirement will not have much impact on the boundary talks. Mr. Dai himself, as the SR, was only tasked with the mandate of following strictly the guidelines put in place by the Politburo and Central Committee for the talks. That role will be continued by his successor as the SR — the current Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Vice Foreign Ministers Fu Ying and Zhang Zhijun, who were all selected as members of the new Central Committee, have been mentioned as likely candidates. Among Chinese strategic scholars, there is little expectation that the boundary talks, of which 15 rounds have been held, will yield any major concrete outcomes in the near future. Since 2005, when the two countries completed the first of three stages of negotiations by signing an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles, perceptions in Beijing are that the crucial second stage of framework negotiations has been deadlocked.
“After 2005, there is nearly no significant progress on the boundary talks,” said Hu Shisheng, a South Asia scholar at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR). “If there [will] be any progress in the future,” he said, “it could be [because of] accepting and respecting each other’s LAC [Line of Actual Control] claim.” Based upon this, he said, both sides could “put aside the sovereignty issue” and leave the boundary question for next generations to solve. Mr. Hu’s sentiment was echoed in a rare commentary on the boundary talks published last month in the Liberation Daily, a newspaper with ties to the CPC in Shanghai, which suggested that both sides put aside the dispute. The commentary said even the status quo — that is, accepting the Line of Actual Control — would not be acceptable to both countries, rendering a solution unlikely in the near future.
Lack of progress on the border notwithstanding, relations with India “will be much more stable” under the new leadership because of China’s current domestic and external priorities, according to Mr. Hu. As the Work Report of the Party Congress — the policy blueprint for the next five years — stressed, the internal focus will be on development. As for the external focus, “addressing China’s relations with West Pacific neighbours and China’s relations with the U.S.” would be the likely priority, Mr. Hu said. He agreed that India fared far below issues such as relations with the United States, current territorial disputes with Japan and the situation in the South China Sea in terms of China’s pressing priorities. “In urgency, it is true that China-India relations are secondary to those more urgent issues,” he said. “[But] in China’s present foreign policy, India is regarded as one country that China has confidence in. India-China relations are not a disturbance. The Chinese government has to keep this kind of momentum. But as for issues such as … the regional order in the Asia-Pacific region in particular, climate change and trade regime talks, China’s strong partner is still India.” “So, in whatever way,” he concluded, “China needs more stable Indo-China relations.”

‘Pivot concerns’

China’s concerns on the United States “pivot” or “rebalancing”, which has emerged as Beijing’s primary foreign policy focus in recent months, is likely to cast a shadow on ties with India. “Obama’s “pivot” offers a lens through which many Chinese analysts see India’s strategic intention toward China,” said Han Hua, a leading South Asia scholar at Peking University. “The two have to talk to each other on “core interests” and how to avoid challenging those interests,” she said. “Small frictions will be still there, but in general, stable relations are the main theme in China’s India policy.”
Ms Han was of the view that China under new General Secretary Xi Jinping “will attach more importance on its relations with its neighbours than before.” Chinese officials and scholars say the new leadership is acutely aware that the past year has been a difficult one for China’s diplomacy. There is renewed concern in the region — particularly among China’s neighbours — about increasing Chinese assertiveness, in the wake of recent territorial disputes with Japan over the East China Sea islands and in the South China Sea.
There is also a perception in Beijing that its diplomacy has lacked creativity and nimbleness. To elevate the level of diplomatic decision-making, the CPC is considering appointing one of its 25 Politburo members as a new foreign policy “czar” who would also hold the title of Vice Premier — a rank higher than the position held by the current top Chinese diplomat, Mr. Dai.
Wang Huning, who joined the Politburo in November, has been mentioned as a candidate for the post. As an official working in the Secretariat of the Politburo, Mr. Wang regularly accompanied President Hu Jintao on almost all of his international trips, including to India for the BRICS Summit earlier this year. He speaks French fluently, and earlier worked as the Dean of the International Politics Department at Shanghai’s Fudan University.
Two other areas where a new approach by the Chinese leadership is likely to be of relevance to India are with regard to Tibet and trade.
The CPC has appointed a new head of the United Front Work Department, the leading organisation in charge of Tibet policy and talks with the Dalai Lama, which have been stalled after the Tibetan spiritual leader’s representatives resigned citing a hardening Chinese position. The around 90 self-immolation protests by Tibetans have brought fresh accusations aimed at Dharamsala of a “separatist plot”.
The Tibet policy will be under the charge of Ling Jihua, a protégé of Hu Jintao. Under Mr. Hu, China followed an approach to Tibet that emphasised stability and security, and stepped up pressure on the Dalai Lama internationally.
On the trade front, the past year has seen a more than 13 per cent decline in trade with India, as of October. Bilateral trade has been driven by Indian exports of iron ore and imports of Chinese power and telecom equipment. Iron ore exports are unlikely to recover as a result of a prolonged slowdown in China’s steel sector in the short-term and the government’s long-term target of rebalancing the economy. China has suggested boosting mutual investments as a way to bridge the imbalance, but its officials have voiced concern — most recently at the November 26 Strategic Economic Dialogue in New Delhi — at the investment climate in India after duties on the import of power equipment and restrictions in the telecom sector were imposed. The CPC’s Work Report highlighted health care reform and Information Technology as strategic priorities for the next five years, which may open up new possibilities for Indian pharmaceutical and IT companies. In both sectors, India is pushing for greater market access. But Chinese officials say Indian companies will, for their part, have to invest far more in the domestic market — in terms of boosting both their expertise and commitment — if they want to expand their presence in China as the country’s new leadership takes charge.

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