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India’s History Of Messed Up Treaties With China – OpEd

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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Earth is one family), one of the core philosophies of Indian civilization since ancient times appears to have taken India for a self ride. Indian Leaders, negotiators have been adopting a soft approach  aspiring to become world leaders and trying to follow the core philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.New Delhi from Nehru’s time has been strengthening the Chinese Dragon  while negotiating with the shrewd Chinese bargainers. India has over decades failed to read the  Chinese clever mind and has fallen into an adverse position since the 50s. It is never too late to learn lessons  from geopolitical events,  wars and past adverse negotiations and carry out course corrections. 

India – China  relations also called Sino-Indian relations or Indo–Chinese relations have had historically peaceful relations for thousands of years. India became independent on 15 August 1947.  The China People’s Liberation Army defeated the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) on 01 October 1949. Modern time relationships  began in 1950 when India was among the first countries to end formal ties with the Taiwan (Republic of China)  and recognise the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of Mainland China. Prime-minister Jawaharlal Nehru,  and Premier Zhou Enlai , started  on a positive note with the Panchsheel (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence ). Both countries had a conflict of interest in Tibet, which had traditionally served as a Buffer Zone. 

China viewed Tibet as a part of its territory and Mao  saw Indian concern over Tibet as an  interference in the internal affairs of the PRC and occupied  Tibet  in 1950. Nehru not to annoy the Chinese leaders stated that India had no political ambitions or territorial ambitions in Tibet. In October 1954, China and India signed the Panchsheel agreement  regarding Tibet, whereby India recognised Tibet as part of China. Agreement totally favored China.

China does not recognise McMahon Line as the legal boundary. In the 1950s China built a road through the Aksai Chin region. In March 1959, the Dalai Lama , spiritual and temporal head of the Tibet , sought sanctuary in Dharamshala , Himachal Pradesh where he established the Tibetan government-in -exile. India’s Panchsheel diplomacy with China of “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai”,  “Brotherhood” landed India into the 1962 shamful debacle with China.

Nehru deemed it wise to get the PRC at the UN with the logic that “great powers could not be left out from the comity of nations.’ But China in spite of this fact has been stonewalling India’s efforts to become member of the UN’s powerful body United Nations Security Council (UNSC)  even though the other four permanent members, the US, the UK, France and Russia have expressed backing for New Delhi’s membership.India has officially acknowledged that it is China that has been the biggest impediment to India gaining membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the UNSC.

India continued to misread the CPC mind and showed an extra keenness to ‘open up’ to ‘globalisation and once again falling into the Chinese trap instead of thinking of a ’62 revenge.  Indira Gandhi’s China policy made Delhi open  to the Dragon.  PM Rajiv Gandhi, continued the policy  for the sake of continuity.

China allowed Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nathu La  in Sikkim in 2015.The MoU between India and China was signed on 18 Sept, 2014, allowing for the opening of this new route for Indian pilgrims to the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. Addressing the media after the signing of the MoU, PM Modi said the new route offers many benefits. But this ‘gesture of friendship’ from Beijing was obviously driven by self-interest! In hindsight, it was trade profit and through it territorial acquisition under the garb of trade is the Chinese mantra in the long run .

It was clearly in India’s interest to open up Demchok route to Kailash-Mansarovar and demand quid pro quo of the Chinese for opening Kailash Mansarovar the traditional route via Nathula.The possible reasons for the Chinese reluctance to open up Demchok route are given in my earlier article ‘Kailash Mansarovar Pilgrimage Via Demchok: Chinese Reluctance’

China’s unrelenting posture on the LAC : The disengagement from the Kailash ridge without Chinese guarantees of vacation from other friction points, including Depsang, was a strategic blunder. The PLA has succeeded in creating buffer zones in Galwan, Gogra and Pangong Tso on Indian territory. Several grazing grounds in Gogra and Chushul have been lost to the Chinese. India is not likely to be in a position to take back Aksai Chin and other areas in Chinese occupation in the foreseeable future. China’s unrelenting posture on the LAC is not likely to lead to any worthwhile negotiations in the near future and neither do they have any urgency.China has now started renaming places in Arunachal to stake their territorial claims in the future .

President Xi’s proposal of ‘One Belt and One Road’ Initiative (BRI) of the New Silk Roads brought a new connotation for the old Silk Road are all part of China’s game of ‘Go’, being played on a much larger scale. China’s game of “Go’ BRI has no rules and is leapfrogging across continents occupying ports, lands and trapping nations through debt traps by building infrastructure. Chinese  continue unabated this BRI trade game aggressively to be the world economic masters to influence world events.BRI can be termed as the Project of the Century.

China in a bid to achieve a super power status will not get too involved in regional issues, like those with India, Taiwan, Japan or in the South China Sea.  China will  resolve these  issues may be by other means including trade war. The South China Sea and Indian Ocean is becoming an arena for great power competition and new partnerships and collaborations are being created to counter China .

West and the US have suddenly woken up to face the harsh economic reality having slept over the end result of getting ‘cheap’ finished goods from China and is now trying to do damage control.China is the second-largest foreign holder of the US Treasury. China’s role as America’s largest banker gives it leverage. For example, China threatens to sell part of its holdings whenever the United States pressures it to raise the yuan’s value.India over the years is also landing itself in a similar situation. It is a Clarion Call for India  to try and rectify its past negotiations  and be extra vigilant while dealing with China.

*Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army. Possess unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Regular writer on matters military in professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker. 

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