Thursday, 28 June 2012

Border conflict laid aside as giants draw closer (Global Times)

Global Times | 2012-6-27 20:25:04
By M.D. Nalapat

In the past, relations between India and China have been much colder than are warranted by the many shared geopolitical interests of the two neighbors.

Since the 1959 arrival of the Dalai Lama in India, there has been a "trust deficit" between the two sides. However, only once did this result in a conflict, in 1962, at the conclusion of which then Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai ordered the PLA to return to the positions that they had held prior to the border hostilities.

Since then, the Sino-Indian border has been among the most peaceful in the world, such that over large stretches of it, troops on both sides carry only sidearms rather than heavy weapons.

Today, given the rapid growth of linkages between India and China, it is inconceivable that there would be another border war between two countries whose geopolitical interests are so closely bound together.

The just-concluded UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro saw the usual meeting of minds between India and China, two countries that have a combined population of 2.5 billion.

At his meeting in Rio with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of the need for the two giants of Asia to work together in promoting harmony and development. Should India and China forge a close relationship, there would not be room for any outside power to dominate Asia.

Between 1960 and 1990, it was imperative for countries seeking rapid development to be strategically close to the US, as China was from the mid-1970s. Yet today, no country, at least in Asia, can make rapid economic progress unless it has friendly ties with China.

Even countries that host US troops, such as South Korea and Japan, understand that good relations with China are needed to keep their economies stable and prosperous.

Closer ties between the countries of Asia will create a win-win situation on the continent, accelerating its progress toward regaining the prime position that it enjoyed for centuries before being dominated and occupied by European powers.

As the continent's largest economy, China is key to such an integration of economic interests. Small wonder that outside powers who do not wish to see Asia overtake the NATO bloc in economic development are working overtime to convince other Asian countries that China is a threat rather than an opportunity.

Harmony rests at the core of Chinese tradition, which is why the wise policy of peaceful rise and harmony of Chinese figures like former leader Deng Xiaoping and current President Hu Jintao is the best way forward for China, rather than copying the militaristic and domineering approach followed by NATO members toward other countries.

Those countries and blocs that have for generations enjoyed primacy in the global order are naturally unhappy at the rise of China, and of the way in which the Chinese economy has established mutually beneficial linkages with countries across the world, whether in Asia, Africa or the Americas, not to mention Europe.

Tensions between India and China are not because of natural dissonance between the two sides, but have been artificially and arbitrarily created by outside powers in order to perpetuate the strategic distance between Beijing and New Delhi.

For how long should the people of the two countries be denied the immense advantages of a close working relationship between China and India? Should a transformation occur, and the ties between the two nations be unimpeded by outside interference, Indian and Chinese tourists would visit each others' countries in the millions rather than, as now, in the hundreds of thousands.

Indian and Chinese universities could collaborate to train scholars who would have the ability to compete globally, while Indian and Chinese movies and music would be as commonplace on both sides of the border as Hollywood.

Let the border issue, itself a legacy of European colonialism, be put aside. Until India and China march together, the 21st century will never evolve into the Asian Century.

The author is director and professor of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India.

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