'China doesn't have the military might to do another 1962'

By Mohan Guruswamy

(Questions & answers on significance of Hu's visit to India)


New Delhi, 24 November 2006  


Mohan Guruswamy, Chairman of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, a privately funded think tank, focused on the study and review of public policy in India, answered a series of questions on the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India.

Mohan Guruswamy: Hi, Iím here to take your questions on the visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao to India.

Pradeep: Is it possible for China to think of a military solution to the boundary issue?

Mohan: No. They do not have the military advantage to do another 1962. Besides there is no reason for them to do anything because they are now on very much their claim line pre 1962.

Manish: Beware of China. Don't be fooled by their outer behaviour. China can anytime back-bite us?

Mohan: We must not be suspicious to the extent of getting paranoid. Countries particularly neighbours have to engage with each other. I am glad China and India are doing so. We have had a tranquil border since 1967, not a single instance of even a single shot being fired across the line and there is no reason why that should change. India and China are poised to become the number 2 and 3 economies by 2025 and India even has a shot of passing China around 2035Ė40. So why screw it all up with unnecessary paronia.

Ramananda: Sir how do the Chinese perceive India, strategically and otherwise? What does the man on the street think about India?

Mohan: The average man on the street in China has little perception about India. He vaguely knows that our economy is doing well and is being increasingly compared to that of China. Itís pretty much the mirror opposite of the view from the street in India. The elite in both countries are aware that conflict is not an option and that we must compete and co-exist. The Chinese are making a noticeable effort to put the past behind and resolve existing issues. We must engage them with a clear mind and with confidence.

Ramananda: Do you agree with the theory that better economic conditions will automatically foster better political ties?

Mohan: China is already India's biggest market for manufactured goods. Itís because of software the US becomes number one for us. Better ties have come with improved economies and improved military strengths.

Ramananda: Sir, what was the Chinese thinking behind raising the Arunachal issue just before Hu's visit?

Mohan: I think he was just restating a formal position. I saw the interview and I think the channel CNN-IBN was sensationalising a part of it for obvious reasons. There is still a dispute in the formal sense. We do not have a formal agreement. We have an agreement to standstill at our existing positions. India needs to reconcile its claims on Aksai Chin with the ground and historical reality, just as China is apparently willing to do on Arunachal. But Indians must not forget that India asserted formal control over Tawang only in Feb 14, 1951, just about when China went into Lhasa. I am not saying that we will leave or should leave. Itís now been internalised into India. But do not forget that even the Dalai Lama has still not stated a position on this in spite of being asked to do so several times.

Pradeep: In spite of the cultural affinity with India why China chooses to join hands with enemies of India?

Mohan: There is little cultural affinity between India and China. I donít think China will seriously pursue Arunachal Pradesh. The key for them is Aksai Chin. They want us to agree to that. The rest is a bargaining ploy, Games that diplomats play.

Jay: How realistic is the PakĖChina nuke deal? What are its implications for India, USA & Asia

Mohan: It is real. The Pak bomb is a Chinese bomb Type 153 and the Pak missile is an old Chinese missile which they got via North Korea. But whatís the big deal. We have our nuclear forces and our missiles, some of which are surely aimed at China. Nuclear weapons assure a degree of stability.

RSG: Mr Guruswamy, what are your views on the perception that China is 'encircling' us? If it is, what can India do about it?

Mohan: They are expanding their area of influence. Donít forget 55% of Chinese oil is now imported. I think Chinese bases, if any, in our backyard will only increase their vulnerability to pressure. The sea lanes pass only 300 kms from India. One can imagine them feeling pretty vulnerable to Indian, US, British etc pressures. All maintain powerful navies in the Indian Ocean. China is the weakest player here.

Rajeev: Donít you think Indian leadership lacks the strategic thinking when compared to China, US or even Pakistan? We seem to be leading ourselves into a pit when it comes to foreign policy decisions and are always on the defensive. Why ???

Mohan: I agree.

RSG: Sir, what is the main objective behind Hu's visit? What would make it a success, or a failure?

Mohan: I think there will be some major initiatives and there will be better understanding. The border issue is not important now. We can wait for time to sort it out.

Akjasfld: Sir, Hu Jintao will be in India for only 3 days. While he will spend a week in Pakistan. Does that not tell you where China's priorities lie?

Mohan: Pakistan is their ally and India is just a friend. As friendship with India deepens the alliance with Pakistan will be loaded with practicalities. China kept off from the Kargil war despite Musharaff being in Beijing then. They will give priority to their interests and war with India or conflict with India is not among them.

Manish: We should have supported Tibet and should not have allowed China to take over. China will gradually eat away the East side of India. They are six times more powerful then India. India should strategically find allies against China. China is major threat to India. May not be now but in the futureÖ?

Mohan: No point crying over split milk. Now we cannot undo what happened over 50 years ago. We have no strategic interest in Tibet beyond having a peaceful neighbour. There is no reason why China and India cannot be peaceful and even friendly neighbours

Faraaz: If we go to war now which country do you think has the military advantage?

Mohan: Nothing will happen. No one has the advantage over the other now. The Indian military is good enough to sort out any problems.

Tiger: Tiger skins are being openly sold in China-held Tibet. An entire species is being wiped out due to the connivance of the Chinese. Can you, Sir, please, raise this issue with the Chinese authorities?

Mohan: True tiger skins and bones are traded in China and Tibet. The Chinese authorities have now taken note of our concerns are cracking down. But people will continue to be callous and stupid. There is still a demand in India for Shatoosh wool from Tibetan Chirus. So there is a problem in both countries

Anurag: Why is he coming in India?

Mohan: He has unfinished business here. I think he also wants to sample a good Indian meal.

Jay: Do you think India should strongly ally with Japan to correct the strategic balance in Asia?

Mohan: What will Japan do? It is China's biggest trading partner and biggest overseas investor. Donít bank on Japan for anything. As far as geopolitics is concerned it is little more than a US satellite

Jay: Should we agree to Chinese investment in sensitive areas like ports & telecom?

Mohan: What is sensitive about a port or telecom. A civil contractor having built a port just moves on. Telecom is already open to FDI. I donít see any great security implications. Donít forget India tapped into Musharaff's telephone call from Beijing to Islamabad without having access to a telecom company in China..

Pradeep: Mr. Guruswamy, how do you see India and China in the second half of this century? Are they going to be equals?

Mohan: I think by the midpoint of this century India will be ahead, provided we donít screw up. We must educate all our people, get lots of foreign investment, increase manufacturing and become more export oriented. For that we need to tame the bureaucracy and decentralise government. Neither is happening. Our PM keeps talking about it but even halfway down his term he has done precious little.

Sam: Sir, I don't like the answer, "Nothing will happen. No one has the advantage over the other now". The answer has so many assumptions and yet confidence?

Mohan: So you are ready to throw in the towel? Donít think our military is unprepared. Or our leadership. But we must keep our guard up.

Sam: Hi! Do you believe that sooner or later the rising prosperity & the inevitable economic disparity will eventually lead to a clamour for political rights, resulting in big bang civil strife a la Soviet Union. Should we plan for that eventuality, sell this theory & emerge as a parallel investment & manufacturing destination for the West.

Mohan: China is having its first ever local elections now. Its leadership has targetted 2020 when it will become an "advanced democracy". That presumably means multiparty elections. There are quite many public demonstrations and disturbances in China even now. The procurator general of China reported 87,000 disturbances last year. So people are demanding more and want greater transparency. There is a great deal of corruption and rapaciousness in China now. But the important thing is that the leadership seems aware of the problem and is working hard to sort them out.

Neel: Mr Guruswamy. What is the difference between an Indian communist and Chinese communist?

Mohan: An Indian communist is a fellow who has not learnt anything since Stalin died and a Chinese communist today is a fellow who has forgotten Mao. A senior Chinese official once told me that "it seems that you have too many communists in India"

Anjan: Our leaders whimper if China does a wrong. They can't speak loudly, except George Fernandes. As if they are our big brothers. 1962 still haunts us. But look at Vietnam, they don't care a damn!

Mohan: Our leaders are generally wimps.

RSG: Sir, where do you personally see the Sino-Indian relationship headed?

Mohan: I have already answered this. I think the future looks good. We both need to discard some old baggage and perceptions. If you are in China you can see their perception that India is ganging up with the USA to contain them. This is not true either. But some people on both sides are always willing to believe the worst about the other.

Ramananda: Sir, how does having the left as a part of our government influence our policy towards China?

Mohan: It is better to have them inside the tent pissing outside rather than outside pissing inside.

Ramananda: And also, what kind of a relationship does the Indian Left really have with the Chinese communist party? Are they really in cahoots?

Mohan: The Chinese leadership has got its priorities clear. In Nepal they supported the King and said in no uncertain terms that the so-called Maoists were adventurists who need to be crushed. The Chinese have not supported any of our so-called Maoists either. The Indian leftists are quite happy running a few errands for the Chinese and China least wants a communist regime in India. Mind you China has had trouble with all itís communist neighbors. USSR, Vietnam.

Rajesh: Can India & China collaborate more in search of oil.

Mohan: We have begun in Sudan and elsewhere. Letís see how the future unfolds. It needs two hands to clap. Thanks guys. I have to go.

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