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HVK Archives: Can India and China be friends?

Can India and China be friends? - The Free Press Journal

M. V. Kamath ()
June 25, 1998

Title: Can India and China be friends?
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: June 25, 1998

For some time after India became free, the People's Republic of
China habitually used to describe India as "running dog of Anglo-
American Imperialism", this despite the fact that India was
practically the first country to recognise the communist
government in Beijing (then known as Peking) and establish
diplomatic relations with it, In the face of American
disapproval. India subsequently determinedly pursued the policy
of advocating the Mao government's right to China's seat in the
UN Security Council, again in the face of American disapproval.
If for this alone, China should have been cautious in be-
friending Pakistan whose inimical designs against. India were
well known to the' world. Then China changed a bit. At a banquet
given in honour of the very first Indian goodwill mission to
China in September-October 1951, Premier Chou En-lai spoke in
favour of maintaining unity among the Asian people. His
statement then bears repetition. He said: "Those who maintain
that unity among the Asian people is a threat to peace, are
precisely the American and allied imperialists who are
threatening peace in Asia today by building military bases on our
continent, re-arming Japan and attempting to extend their
aggressive war. The Chinese believe that if the peoples of China,
India. Burma, Indonesia, Malaya, Vietnam, Pakistan and other
Asian peoples, including the Japanese people, strengthen their
unity in the common fight for peace, they will surely be able to
resist American aggression and aggression from other imperialist

That speech has to be read in full to realise the change that
have taken place in China in the last decade or so. It is
difficult to believe that the same China which fought the
Americans to a standstill on the banks of the Yalu River in
Korea, inflicting very heavy casualties on the US Army, would
today make common cause with the same United States, once hated
and derided as an mperialist power against India which for
years and advocated China's cause. The change in China is truly
mind-boggling. What was it that persuaded China to befriend
Pakistan against India? What harm had India done to Beijing to
merit this act of animosity? Why has China cooperated with the
United States to help Pakistan in the production of nuclear
weapons and long distance missiles? The fact of Chinese
assistance is too well-known, for Beijing to deny it. The United
States turned a blind eye for years to what was going on right in
front of its eyes.

Consider this report from Aziz Hanifa in the New York-based India
Abroad (20 sep. 1996): "For the fourth time in less than two
years, the Chairman of the powerful House International Relations
Committee, Rep. Benjamin Gilman, last week accused China and
Pakistan of conspiring to divide and weaken India. Gilman, a New
York Republican, also pilloried the State Department for
allegedly pandering to Beijing and Islamabad, while ignoring New
Delhi, and turning a blind eye to collusion by China and Pakistan
to destabilise India."

Rep. Gilman made his statement long before the BJP came to power,
long before George Fernandes made his statement about China, in
fact at a time when the Congress was in power in Delhi. Were
China friendly towards India, was assisting Pakistan militarily
the way to show this friendship?

If China was such a good friend of India, where was its need to
set up monitoring station on Coco Islands, 24 miles north of
Andamans, to keep tabs on Indian missile testing? Since when did
the Bay of Bengal come under China's sphere of influence? The
matter had come to the attention of the Government of India
during the time when J. N. Dixit was Foreign Secretary. In his
memoirs: My South Block Years he writes: .....India has anxieties
about Chinese defence cooperation with Myanmar and Pakistan.
There are concerns about China seeking naval facilities on the
south eastern coast of Myanmar and around the Co-Co Islands which
would affect the security environment in the Bay of Bengal and
the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.... We should remain alert to
evolving Chinese strategies in South Asia and in the Indian

The question can well be asked: How would China react if India
were to seek naval facilities in the Pacific not far from the
Chinese coast? The issue, indeed, was raised by Harvey Stockwin,
The Times of India's correspondent in Honk Kong. In a despatch on
12 May 1998 Stockwin asked how China would feel if:

* New Delhi decides that its interest in counter-balancing
China's power are best served by clandestinely supplying Vietnam
with nuclear and missile technology, occasionally using South
Korea as a cover and

* The Indian Government also makes a deal with the Philippines.
under which the Indian Navy is allowed to use one island in the
South China Sea for various surveillance purposes.

Stockwin wrote: "Faced with such (imaginary) circumstances, what
does China do? Does the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman put
out statement claiming that "There has been steady improvement in
India-China relations? Does the government of China stress its
commitment to the development of friendly cc). operative, goad
neighbourly relations..?

More importantly, do the Chinese keep quiet regarding (imaginary)
Indian ties with Vietnam and the Philippines for seven years (the
time the Chinese have been on CoCo Islands) while only
occasionally raising its concern in closed-door consultations
with India?" And Stockwin added for good measure: "There is
nothing wishy-washy about the hard-nosed Chinese pursuit of what
it perceives to be its national interest. That perception may be
misguided, but the single-minded dogged pursuit of interest is,
in a way, admirable. Sentiment is not allowed to intrude and
illusions are. not entertained..."

China has a poor opinion of India and evidently thinks Delhi is a
pushover. It is again pertinent to quote from Dixit's My South
Block Years. Dixit in recent days has been critical of his own
country's attitude towards China and it is well to remind him of
what he wrote only a couple of years ago. Concluding his chapter
on relations with China Dixit referred to an article which
appeared in the official newspaper of the People's Liberation
Army of China in the summer of 1992. The article presented an
analysis of the strengths and weakness of Indian society. Noted
Dixit: "The writer (of the article) claimed that the Indian State
was soft in nature and Indian society was not given to discipline
and organised action. Hr also claimed that the Indian ethos and
the cultural milieu resulted in the Indian state being incapable
of gritty and decisive action. Another factor contributing to
this phenomenon, according to the writer, was the tendency
towards dissent and autonomy which were striking in Indian
democracy. The basic point he made was that China should
maintain good relations with India but need not be too concerned
about India becoming a challenge to China."

Commenting on that, Dixit wrote: "I certainly have no desire to
perceive India as a challenge to China nor do I want Chinese to
be smug about their professed superiority vis-a-vis India. Our
policy towards China in the coming years should, therefore he
imbued with practical and constructive attributes. But, at the
same time, we should empower ourselves to attain a position to
redress any strategic or political imbalance that China may will-
nilly generate because of its economic, political, technological
and military strengths".

First, consider the terribly low opinion China has of India. That
opinion is buttressed by the present Opposition in Parliament
consisting of a motley crowd of Congress MPs and members from
other parties who have shown an amazing sense of irresponsibility
in regard to the nuclear tests carried out at Pokhran. Instead of
fully supporting the BJP government these opposition parties have
shown an utter lack of understanding of India's security needs
that border on the unpatriotic. Instead of giving full and
unqualified support to the government, the Opposition has shown a
willingness to attack the government in a shocking exhibition of
disunity. What wonder, then, that China has such a low opinion of
is and tries to bully us?

The shameful behaviour of Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha and of
other Opposition MPs will only strengthen the conviction of China
that India can be ignored. That alone will explain Beijing's roar
when India exploded a nuclear bomb at Pokhran.

In the same book, Dixit provides us a glimpse into American
thinking as well. After he had a talk with senior American
officials in the State Department in 1993 he says that he came to
the conclusion "that the US did not consider India as a major
factor in its Asian policies." With the kind of Opposition we
have ii Parliament, can one blame the United States for having so
low an opinion of India as well?

We can't expect any better relations with either China or the US
as long as we have the Mulayam Singh Yadavs, the Inderjit Guptas,
the henchmen of Sonia Gandhi and others such working towards the
displacement of the BJP. When will we ever learn from history and
>from the Mir Jaffars willing and ready to sell themselves to a
foreign party? There has to be some soul-searching among the
Opposition members.

There has been a sea-change in Chinese attitude towards India
since 1951. Today China sees nothing wrong with going along with
its arch enemy of another era, the United States, to damage the
interests of a fellow Asian country, India. Beijing apparently
either has a poor memory or poor principles. But how can one
blame China, knowing the kind of irresponsible Opposition we have
in India today? When one realises to what depths the Opposition
can to damn the BJP, even when it is striving valiantly to uphold
India's stature, one begins to understand how China takes
liberties with our security needs. In its hatred of the BJP, the
Opposition seems ready to see India destroyed. The nation must
be warned.

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