Complexities Of Dealing With China – OpEd

Just as one used to talk of comprehensive national strength and comprehensive national security, one now talks of comprehensive diplomacy. From a uni-dimensional concept, diplomacy has become a multi-dimensional concept dealing with various dimensions such as political, economic, commercial, military, technological etc. Shri Dubey is one of the distinguished practitioners of comprehensive diplomacy that we have . He has handled creditably bilateral as well multilateral diplomacy and the various aspects of comprehensive diplomacy. He was associated for many years with economic and commercial diplomacy and had overseen the transition from the era of the GATT to that of the World Trade Organisation ( WTO). His observations in the book should be of tremendous benefit to political leaders, professionals and the sections of the general public interested in the evolution of our foreign policy and in the exercise of our diplomacy.

People's Republic of China
People’s Republic of China

Normally, when retired public servants and policy-makers write, they tend to bat for their service and department. A refreshing aspect of Shri Dubey’s book is that he refrains from batting for the Indian Foreign Service and the Ministry of External Affairs. He bats for the nation and its interests and does not hesitate to admit deficiencies in the exercise of our diplomacy, analyse the reasons for them and suggest correctives.

I was struck by his admitting how our defeat by Japan in 1995-96 in the election to the non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) was a wake-up call and showed that India had no stature in the international community. He rightly attributes this lack of stature to India’s poor economic strength and its inconsequential role in global economy.

Economic strength is the basic component of the comprehensive national strength of any country. Without economic strength no country can make its presence felt and make itself respected in the international community. We have since paid more attention to building our economic strength. We are more consequential than we were till 1995-96, but still not as consequential as China is.

This became cruelly obvious during the recent Presidential campaign in the US. Whereas there were frequent references to China in the context of the global economy and the USA’s economic problems, there were few specific references to India, which still does not count. If India wants to be taken more seriously in the world of diplomacy and as an emerging power, it has to pay more attention to building its economic strength.

The book is not a comprehensive analysis of the evolution of our foreign policy. It is an updated collection of essays written by Shri Dubey on India’s relations with the US, Russia, China and Bangladesh and certain other aspects of which he has first hand knowledge. There is no detailed discussion of India’s relations with Pakistan and the Arab world. Pakistan does figure in his discussion of India’s relations with the US and China.

I would draw attention to three chapters devoted by Shri Dubey to a discussion of India’s relations with China and underline my views on this subject even at the risk of my views not being in consonance with those of Shri Dubey.

In my writings and speeches, I have been repeatedly drawing attention to our obsession with Pakistan and to our relative neglect of the importance of building up our knowledge and expertise on China despite our humiliation at the hands of China in 1962. We still do not understand the complexities of our relations with China adequately and what impact these complexities will have on our future stature as an emerging Asian power.

These complexities have three dimensions — our pending border dispute with China, the Tibetan question which will have an impact on the border dispute and the Damocles Sword of the China-Pakistan nuclear and missile axis hanging over our head.

I am confident that given time and patience, our diplomats are capable of finding a mutually satisfactory solution to the border dispute and the Tibetan question. But, I am worried that not adequate attention has been paid to analysing the implications of the China-Pakistan nuclear and missile axis. Is there a way of weaning China away from Pakistan and what are the options and incentives and disincentives that we have or that we ought to have in this regard? This is a matter that requires constant study by our governmental and non-governmental analysts and policy-makers.

We talk of the Pakistani mind-set and the mind-set of the Pakistani army relating to India. We cannot understand Pakistan and deal with Pakistan effectively unless we have a clear comprehension of those mind-sets.

Is there a Chinese mind-set towards India and what impact it has on its policies towards India? In my view, there is a Chinese mind-set which is predominant not in its Army, but in its Party leadership and cadres which strongly influences its determination to keep adding to Pakistan’s nuclear and missile strength.

Why does the Chinese Party leadership want to maintain the nuclear and missile axis with Pakistan? To confront India with the spectre of a two-front nuclear threat? To undermine India’s efforts to emerge as an Asian power on par with China? How to deal with this axis strategically and tactically?

We still do not have satisfactory answers to these questions. I do hope that Shri Dubey himself and other experts will pay greater attention to these questions in future and contribute to a comprehensive understanding of China and to the evolution of a comprehensive strategy for addressing the complexities of our relations with China.

Dealing with China satisfactorily is the most difficult aspect of our comprehensive diplomacy. This question has not received the attention it deserves.

(Based on my intervention during a Panel discussion on November 9,2012, on the book titled “ India’s Foreign Policy— Coping With the Changing World” written by Shri Muchkund Dubey, our former Foreign Secretary. The book has been published by PEARSON. Other Panellists were Shri Dubey and Shri C.V.Ranganathan, former Indian Ambassador to China and France. The discussion was jointly organised by the Chennai Centre For China Studies and the Rajaji Centre For Public Affairs, Chennai )

B. Raman

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: [email protected]

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