An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 29 June 2003

India seems to have learned that China is to be mollycoddled and not fought with! China is still on India’s negative defence list, but a thaw in defence relations post PM Vajpayee’s visit has surfaced. The saying that “no nation can do business with another on a large scale unless there is understanding on each others security issues also”, appears to have been validated once again as now China has become India’s second largest trading partner after USA. CII and FICCI have both put their feet forward to do business which China and opened offices in that country and the security understandings have come as a corollary. The trends were visible and the 2003 annual report of the Ministry of External Affairs placed emphasis on track II exchanges, even in defence circles.

In 2002–03, 60 members of PLA visited India. An IAF delegation led by AVM Mirdha visited China from 14–21 Sep and GOC in C Central Command Lt Gen Chauhan was in China from 24–30 Nov. One student from each service is attending NDU in China since September 2002. Defence Minister George Fernandes, known to be a China baiter, visited China on a 7-day trip in April 03. The 16-member delegation included Defence Secretary Subir Dutta, Secretary (Defence Production) NS Sisodhia, Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Shantanu Choudhary, Air Marshal Raghu Rajan, Rear Admiral Ajit Tiwari and senior officials of the ministries of Defence and External affairs.

The team met PLA Chief Gen Cao, Chairman of the Central Military Commission Jiang Zemin, Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior officials. The team visited service institutions and went on board the show frigate of the Zhengwei class. It was at the time when the Chinese Navy suffered the loss of 70 submariners aboard a Ming class boat. Jiang told Fernandes.” As China and India are the two largest developing nations and also neighbors, to develop bilateral relations is in the fundamental interest of the two countries.” Fernandes conceded, “The important thing is the sincerity on both sides to take forward steps and this is one of the major outcomes of our discussions”.

India is now more open to overtures, and has signed an Agreement with the Republic of Poland on Cooperation in the Field of Defence, and attended the Defence exhibition in Brazil with an eye on defence exports, which is being given great importance. China is keen to open defence business with India, commencing with software imports. Now Vice Admiral J C De’ Silva VCNS has stated that an SAR exercise will be held with Chinese Navy soon.

Some time back a Chinese Software company Huawei had made inroads into India and employed a retired Signals Maj. Gen. and was restricted in its work. This company had problems in USA too but now with the IT Pact with China the doors for defence business are likely to open further.

In China it is seem that CNS PLA Navy Admiral Shi Yunseng and his political aid Yang Huaging have been removed and the new Plan Chief  Zhang Dungfa and his Commissar Yau Lu are in charge. Chinese officers are also welcome at National Defence College so in the defence field also “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” is the new order of the day.

These steps will also help in the ultimate resolution of the border question along the LoC with Pakistan. If USA, Europe, Russia, Japan and China are requested by India to achieve it, Pakistan will have no option but to relent. In USA on 27 June President Musharraf suggested a four-step plan, which hints of a final resolution. We quote below from Economic Times which sums up the mood after PM’s visit:

“Given the long history of mutual suspicion between India and China it is tempting to evaluate Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit in terms of movement along sensitive issues, rather than the longer-term vision the joint declaration has put forward. The changes that have taken place on the sensitive issues are not insignificant. The shifts in the position of China on Sikkim and India on Tibet represent a willingness to put ground realities above historical stances.“

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