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India can keep China at bay: Pentagon study

India can keep China at bay: Pentagon study

Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 23, 2000

WASHINGTON: India is powerful and stable enough politically, economically and militarily to ward off any but the most violent (read nuclear) threat that could be mounted by China, a study prepared for the Pentagon said.

Japan and Vietnam were two other countries on the eastern and southern periphery that could stand up to China, the study prepared by the Rand Corporation, considered the Pentagon's own think tank, said.

The study, titled 'Interpreting China's Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future,' said that "China now confronts a truly formidable challenge if it seeks to replicate its traditional goal of controlling or at the very least pacifying new periphery regions beyond the expanded heartland."

"Indeed, the past option of direct military force now presents enormous political, economic, and military dangers to the Chinese state not only  from the actions of the major external powers such as the United States and Russia (which are often tied by security linkages to the peripheral states), but also directly from many of the peripheral states themselves," it added.

The study, by senior Rand analysts Michael D. Swaine and Ashley Tellis said, "Although China is changing dramatically and for the better, at least in economic terms during the last 20 years, the fact remains that the capabilities and strategic orientations of the countries along China's strategic periphery have also changed.

"As a result, the only principal peripheral area that Beijing can continue to threaten with overwhelming force remains Taiwan, an area long regarded by China as a province."

The study said this was one of the reasons China had adopted a "calculative" strategy to deal with its territorial disputes, like the one with India, where Beijing continues to dither on the border question. It said, "Wherever the dispute in question is significant but cannot be resolved rapidly to China's advantage by peaceful means, Beijing has advocated an indefinite postponement of the basic issue.

"This tactic has been adopted, for example, in the case of territorial disputes with India, Japan and several of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) states."

It said the "basic logic underlying this approach has been to steadfastly avoid conceding any Chinese claims with respect to the dispute, while simultaneously seeking to prevent the dispute from vitiating the environment that China needs to complete its internal transformation successfully".

Apparently referring to Beijing's territorial dispute with India as a perfect case study, the report said under this "calculative" strategy, "whenever intrinsically valuable territory is at issue, China has sought to preserve the status quo, not giving up its sovereign claims, but preferring to avoid any application of force, so long as the other parties to the dispute do not attempt to change the status quo either".

This was manifest during President K.R. Narayanan's recent visit to China where he consistently said that the border dispute was a stumbling block while the Chinese leadership accorded priority to improvement of atmospherics as a prelude to resolving outstanding issues. (India Abroad News Service)

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