Indo-Chinese Cooperation - Time to Think Carefully
China wants India to dissolve the Dalai Lama's government in-exile at Dharmashala, according to an expert at a state-run think-tank that advises the Chinese government on Sino-Indian relationship.
In the early 50s era of Nehruvian utopia that followed the freedom struggle, the Indian nation was led to believe that India and China could be brothers-in-arms against the bourgeois capitalist west. This led to being blind sided by the Chinese political ambitions when the 1962 Indo-chinese war erupted wresting the control of strategically important Aksai Chin. Shamefully, India was totally unprepared for the war, and lost its sovereign territory to China, which it hasn't recovered despite its historic claim.
Recent developments on the Indo-Chinese front indicate that China may have decided to set aside its political ambitions in the region vis-a vis India in the interest of seeking economic security. Chinese efforts to cooperate with India on oil deals, and the opening of the strategic dialog with the Indians may have lulled India into believing that indeed this is a historic opportunity for the subcontinent to rise above the regional differences and assume leadership on the world stage. But Indians should beware - China wants the leadership stage to itself, and is not likely to want to share it.
A walk through any Indian bazaar will convince you that the Chinese have benefited tremendously from the opening of Indo-Chinese trade. Chinese trinkets and small goods are every where, often driving out Indian producers of similar products. My family tells me that in fact cheaper Chinese goods are driving them out of business. For example, if you are a producer of cotton fabric, you better get cracking for the Chinese have established a network to sell cheaper fabric than you can ever expect to produce. Look what has happened to the US textile industry? Its decimated. And because India does not have the anti-dumping protections that US industry has, India doesn't stand a chance!
So, how has India benefited? Some say that Indians have opened fine chemical factories and pharmaceutical plants in China, Info-tech hubs in China and so on. But if recent experience of the west is any indication, the short term gain of capitalizing on lower Chinese cost of production will end up costing these companies big time in the long run. History shows that Chinese will often use these kinds of deals to build their own strengths (using these tech transfers for instance) up to the point where they are self sufficient, and then abandon the partner. Call me paranoid, but I don't see Indian industry benefiting too much from these deals.
But cooperation between neighboring countries is good. So why am I worried? Indeed cooperation is good, and India and China should cooperate. But I worry that India is letting its guard down. I am worried because we are beginning to see the first signs of the resurgence of Chinese political ambitions.
On July 6, 2006, India and China opened up the border region of Sikkim to Chinese trade. While this event was hailed as a great event of political rapprochement between China and India, I see it as a defacto recognition of the Chinese annexation of Tibet.
Up until recent days, India had always maintained that Tibet is a sovereign nation, and His Holiness, The Dalai Lama is its sovereign leader. After China annexed Tibet, India provided shelter and political support to his Holiness in opening a Tibetan government in exile. This government-in-exile has been ever since trying to resolve this Sino-Tibetan problem but the Chinese have been absolutely unaccommodating. China has often criticized India for harboring His Holiness, The Dalai-lama, whom it considers a fugitive, but this criticism has been muted in recent years, as China has sought cooperation from India.
But as this news article indicates, this may be changing.
"The Tibet problem is a major obstacle in the normalisation of relationship between India and China. India made a mistake in the fifties by welcoming the Dalai Lama when he fled Tibet. It is now time for correcting the past mistake and build real and sustainable relationship with China," he said. What happens if New Delhi really concedes to this request? "The Dalai Lama will become a political refugee. But the problems between India and China would get much closer to a solution than it is today," he said.
Am I over reacting to a researcher's statement? Well, in China nothing happens without the approval of the central politburo, so pardon me if I over react.
True, China still needs India in its race to modernize the economy and continue its growth. But at the same time, it does not want India to overshadow it. Hence I believe that this carrot and stick approach is likely to continue until China is strong enough to start imposing its political will on the region. And then all we will see is the stick.
That day may not be too far. As a price of Chinese cooperation, India is likely to be asked to compromise on several issues of national importance, such as...
1) Give up the rights to Aksai Chin
2) Give up the rights to Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers as part of Tibet
3) Agree to support China in its dispute against Taiwan
4) Abolish the Tibetan Government in exile
And don't put it past the Chinese to consider using force (they seem to threaten the Taiwanese with force quite periodically) to achieve their end. They have done it in the past in 1962, and they would do it again if they see India as a rising threat to their political ambitions.
History has taught us that its better to be careful when dealing with the Chinese, and India better pay attention to its history as it embarks on the road to cooperation with the Chinese. If you want to embrace the Chinese dragon, better keep your claws ready. You never know when they may come in handy.