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India-China Relations : Galwan and Beyond

by HE Times

India presents a big challenge to the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China. Today or tomorrow the people in China will ask for democracy and it will be very difficult for China to convince its citizens.

Delhi/27.12.2020/Rajesh Sinha

Today we are going to talk about India China Relations .The world saw the spread of coronavirus which emerged from Wuhan of China. At one hand when the world was expecting China to be more apologetic, Beijing showed the reverse behavior. It launched diplomatic offensive against countries like USA, Australia . India had to face a territorial aggression in the Himalayas.

Here is the conversation with Subhra Ranjan on INDO-CHINA relation, in relevance to Political Science and International Relations for Civil Services examinations.

Satya Prakash : As both countries became independent around same time, the initial relations were very idealistic. We were guided by the ideas of Tagoreand then we saw the “Panchsheel” of Nehru . This was followed by a full-scale war and now the deadly clashes in Galwan .So, if we want to trace the root cause this clashes in the history of India-China relations, then what would be your take on that?

Shubhra Ranjan : First of all , I beg to differ that the initial phase of India-China relations can be described as idealist even at the time of Pandit Nehru. There was no confusion at all that China is a threat for India considering the Chinese strategic culture. But, how to manage that threat was a question. So, there are two options against a more powerful country if we go by the wisdom of international relations theories- either you go for balancing or you go for band  wagoning so in India itself there were two schools and if we go by the approach of Sardar Patel. His approach was that India needs a balancing. But if we go by Nehruvian approach was that of peaceful co-existence. Also, foreign policies are not just always bilateral.

There are multiple considerations and India felt that instead of going for the bloc politics , it is in India’s interest to go for non-aligned path. So ,Nehruvian approach I will not say was idealist. How I will trace the origin of India-China territorial dispute? I’ll say that various explanations can be given .We can look into Kautilya’s wisdom which he gives in his Mandal theory that your neighbor is your natural enemy because both countries have an eye on the same land and that is why it’s very natural that the two giants are going to have clash in future . Till, India China were civilizational states , they were not looking at each other from strategic calculus . But, once they became a nation state, the fight for the territorial boundaries have started.

SP : Now , let us now look at the ideology part of it, because scholars have been writing that India presents a democratic alternative, India gives an example a successful democracy. This may cause a legitimacy crisis in China. Therefore China wants to project India as a bad exa mple of democracy. Do you think that, this ideological clash has been reflected in the current clashes at the borders.

SR : Yes, definitely. If you talk in terms of material power China is far ahead but if we talk in terms of ideational power, I will say India is at an advantage . India presents a big challenge to the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China. Today or tomorrow the people in China will ask for democracy and it will be very difficult for China to convince its citizens.

Till the time we had Hindu rate of growth, China was not taking India seriously. But today India has shown that despite most adverse neighborhood situations, despite extreme problems and diversity, democracy and development can go together. Obviously, it will be difficult for the Communist Party of China to convince that why Chinese people should not have freedom of speech and expression, when India can have it. Definitely, we can conclude that the dragon is afraid of India’s democracy and the human rights.

Subhra Ranjan is the director of Shubhra Ranjan IAS Study Pvt. Ltd. She’s helping a number of students to study and get their names in the coveted final selection list of the top 10 ranking students. Shubhra Ranjan IAS Study is one of the most renowned institute to prepare for Civil Services Examinations conducted by UPSC. The institute is founded by Shubhra Deshmukh and Viraj Deshmukh in 2014.

SP : There was a statement by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and he says that the Chinese Dragon and India elephant must not fight each other but dance with each other . If India and China come together, it does not make two it makes eleven. Rather, it was a very optimistic statement on his part and even the present government ,started with a soft policy as reflected in Wuhan and Mamallapuram informal talks .But later on realized that probably China is not ready to accept India as equal partners. Do you think that India and China can they grow peacefully? Is the world big enough to accommodate them?

SR : First of all, I would like to disagree with the view that the countries can afford to pursue the foreign policies which are idealistic . They may appear to us as idealist, because we are outsiders. Whenever foreign policies are made, whether it is Pandit Nehru or PM Modi, There will always be an element of pragmatism . Now, the second thing is that , China talking about elephant and dragon can coexist in the  Himalayas , is a Chinese narrative that is a Chinese propaganda and we can say that as China was looking for time to focus on its internal development , it made sense for China to accommodate India. But, we were never having any illusions that China is our friend and China does not have eye on India’s territory.. But in context of the change geopolitical scenario, Where USA is in the state of decline, India is rising. India-USA  partnership is becoming more and more strong. China is not finding much strong reasons for some sort of accommodation towards India. Rather, China is thinking that by creating the coercion and the pressure, it can bring India on negotiating table .So, the very reason they should pursue engagement with India has gone

 SP : Whenever we talk about India-China relations, one country which is not untouched with all this is USA, which is being seen as a power in retreat  and China is aspiring to be the new hegemony. Do you subscribe to this view that China and USA are falling into the Thucydides trap and India is suffering the collateral damage?

SR : Thucydides trap is a concept in international politics and it has its origin in the work of Thucydides, who has written the history of Peloponnesian war. The concept is like There are bound to be conflict between the hegemony at present and the revisionist power, the emerging hegemony as they have a conflicting interest . USA and China have already fallen in the Thucydides trap. Both USA and China are nuclear weapon states, so direct war is not on card .So, either they go for proxy war in North Korea or in Iran or in form of trade war. US establishment always see India as the ideal swing state in its policy of Asia Rebalance and India-China relations were never bilateral. There was always involvement of USA, Russia, Pakistan .

SP : It is being said that China wants a multi-polar world but a unipolar Asia . They want to be the dominating force in Asia and they keep on talking about Middle kingdom. With the coming of Xi Jinping ,there has been a very vulgar display of power, diplomatic aggressiveness towards countries of South East Asia, USA, Australia and against India. So, do you believe that this narrative of Middle kingdom and of Chinese Century  is driving Beijing’s policy towards the World ?

SR : I will say that we should never lose the connection between the domestic Politics and the international politics .China has its vulnerabilities . There has been huge corruption in Communist Party of China. China has internal problems like lack of democracy. Scholars call it “Pressure cooker syndrome”. These narratives and discourses like Middle kingdom and China Dream is an attempt by Jinping to divert the attention of the Chinese people towards the real issues and sell them this dream using the nationalism card or Chinese exceptionalism card . So, Chinese actions at foreign policy has a domestic angle .

The second angle is – now it is very clear that China does not simply aim to challenge USA, rather it wants to displace USA. China is asserting its arrival as a major power or a superpower. When USA announced its arrival after the second world war, it was also not less aggressive . USA announced its arrival as a superpower with the explosion of the nuclear weapon in Hiroshima and Nagasaki .So, maybe it’s a natural behavior for any great power. There can be many explanations. You can also look into the specific personality of Xi Jinping you can compare him with Hitler.

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