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New developments along the Line of Actual Control July 26, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Daniel Barnes

Controversy over repeated incursions by Chinese soldiers into disputed territories has provoked an Indian reaction. India’s government has given approval for a new mountain corps for offensive warfare to be based near the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Background

Chinese “transgressions” and “insensitivities” in recent months have helped prompt the creation of a so-called China Strike Corps, which is to be headquartered in Panagarh, West Bengal. This is the official culmination of a process that began six years ago. It was given a boost by an in-principle approval by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2010, but with the proviso that the three military services work together to strengthen India’s capabilities. The stated goal of this development is for India to achieve military parity with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the border, a situation it has long desired.

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Chinese “Blue Book” optimistic on Indian future May 27, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Daniel Barnes

The first Chinese “blue book” on the state of India has expressed concern over a government in ‘serious crisis’, but also believes India will emerge stronger after conquering its current obstacles.

Background

Chinese think tanks release “blue books” every year on numerous issues; the books have tacit backing by the Chinese government, even if they do not fully represent its views. The “blue book” on India runs to over 300 pages and was compiled by Yunnan University, which hosts one of China’s biggest South Asia programmes.

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India and Bangladesh: calculus of territorial dispute settlement February 8, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 10 October 2011.

On 7 September 2011 in Dacca, the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signed a landmark protocol to their 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, providing for final settlement of their long-pending boundary issues.

Given that instances of territorial dispute settlement in this sovereignty-conscious region have been few and far between, this exercise in statesmanship is both commendable and long overdue. A review of the principles and processes underlying the compromises reveals useful insights into territorial dispute settlement at New Delhi’s end.

The India-Bangladesh boundary is no ordinary one. Hastily constructed in the dying days of British colonialism, it was the longest international boundary created during the age of decolonisation. The border was intended to separate a contiguous majority area of Muslims from that of non-Muslims — but for only about a quarter of its length does it separate a Muslim-majority in Bangladesh from a Hindu-majority in India. As many as 162 tiny enclaves (111 Indian and 52 Bangladeshi) dot a section of the frontier: in the extreme an Indian enclave sits within a Bangladeshi enclave, itself situated within a larger Indian enclave, all surrounded by Bangladeshi territory!

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The China-India border issue: mired in the international politics of competing perceptions, mythmaking, and obfuscations August 27, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author, Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster

The recent warming up of international relations between China and India, as evidenced by frequent exchanges of high level visits and a massive increase in trade, has failed to replicate the fraternal relations of early 1950s, and the biggest hurdle in this is the unresolved border dispute. The legacy of the 1962 border war is very much alive as the nationalist narratives in both countries adopt a register of blame rather than critical examination and mutual understanding. Recently, the media in both the countries played up the disagreements; even a minor action by one country or statement by a leader gets amplified and sensationalised. There is no tangible evidence that allows commentators to ascribe responsibility to one or the other side and a fruitful way forward is to shift away from cataloguing blame to a critical understanding.

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Almost half a century on from the war, the dominant thinking in India continues to vacillate between accusing China of ‘stabbing in the back’ and blaming Jawaharlal Nehru for his naive and idealistic foreign policies. Even though a serious researcher can recognise the highly ideological and problematic nature of such a framing, Indian policy makers and politicians find it very difficult to shift away from it because the border issue is as much about national legitimacy as it is about state security. Revisiting the China-India border relations with an open mind is likely to be perceived as a betrayal of national interest by the general public that has been socialised into a victimisation paradigm. While democratic politics, and fear of being accused of selling out, engenders a conservatism amongst the Indian negotiators, there is hardly any statesman today who can bring about a radical shift of perception. Chinese actions, real as well as perceived, in Tibetan regions and countries around India (especially in Pakistan), increase the distrust and paranoia in India about China’s intentions.

The revisionist scholarship of Neville Maxwell and a few others who put the blame solely on India, and describe the 1962 war in terms of pre-emptive self-defence or punitive expedition by an aggrieved China, is refreshing but should be read with caution because they avoid a serious engagement with the domestic and international compulsions of the Chinese leadership in 1950s and 1960s. Chinese commentators who rely upon the Revisionist historians to buttress their claims do not offer a criticism of Chinese leadership during the war. Re-examination of what went wrong with China-India relations continues to consider Communist Party leadership of the time as beyond scrutiny and in this sense remains as blinkered as the dominant Indian position. A lack of self-reflection on the border issue comes mainly from a warped nationalism in India; in China it is a product of a political system that frowns upon dissent.

While the Chinese position on the illegality of the McMahon Line has remained constant, the exact details of their claims to territories has shifted regularly. The principle behind the Chinese claim – lands that belonged to Tibet belong to China unless China has come to a different settlement through negotiations – is not as straightforward as it appears. In its zeal to modernise the historically and culturally complicated Sino-Tibetan relations, China ignores the fact that the ideas of sovereign statehood, clear boundaries, and distinct national identities were imposed in the Himalayan region only in twentieth century through the aegis first of British imperialism and then the postcolonial state-building.

Contrary to the widely held view of the Himalayan region as an impregnable natural barrier, the Himalayan region until the middle of the previous century was a zone of interaction through movements of people, goods, and ideas facilitated by a pluralistic yet shared sense of Tibetan Buddhism-influenced culture. The geopolitics of boundary formation and the state projects of nation-building did not appreciate the desires and interests of people living on the borders and in this China, as much as India, is guilty. Both countries are what I call ‘postcolonial informal empires’, accepting cultural differences in the borderlands but intolerant of any political difference.

The only durable way out for China-India is a willingness to forget history, and to negotiate seriously because it is not sovereignty but wellbeing of borderland peoples that should be the primary concern. Sovereignty claims without development and wellbeing serves no one’s long term interests; greatness lies not in the exercise of coercive control, but in a capacity to negotiate, compromise and move on.

This contribution first appeared in The East Asia Forum, a sister ANU web log.