Friday 6 July 2012

Indo-Pak-China military ties needed (PO)

M D Nalapat

The warm response by the Chinese side to a recent Indian Navy ship visit highlights the potential for military cooperation between the two sides. Both sides have a strong historical basis for this.During the days in 1929 when it seemed as though the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) was waging a battle against the Kuomintang (KMT), Mao Zedong said that ‘the Party controls the Gun” ie that the armed forces must always function under political (civilian) leadership. In this,he differentiated the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from the Kuomintang,which had been taken over by military officers. Mao understood that a country,especially one as vast as China,ought to be administered by people with a broad overall vision for the present and future,rather than dominated by those who placed military viewpoints and priorities above other considerations.

This subordination to civilian control sets the PLA apart from other militaries in Asia,South America, Africa and in Europe,where those in uniformhave sometimes taken power away from civilians and concentrated them within the military. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Korea and Chile are examples,although all have now come under civilian control There are also countries where the military is a “state within astate”, which has special powers independent of the civilian authority. Turkey till recently was an example of such a system.However,Prime Minister R T Erdogan has - with the support of the European Union - ensured the taking back of executive authority to civilian hands, the same way as the armed forces of India and China are. Indeed, together with Communist China, the Republic of India has been among the very few countries in Asia where the military has always remained under civilian contro.

This common culture has the potential to forge a close partnership between the armed forces of China and India Another factor that can bind China and India together in the military sphere is the fact that both countries face the same twin threats: Terrorism and Splittism. Both China and India have been facing terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting the lives of citizens,and hence it is logical that both share their experience and expertise in counter-terror operations,as well as take part in joint Counter-Terrorism drills. Indeed,ideally the Pakistan military too ought to join hands with their Indian and Chinese counterparts in formulating defenses against acts of terror,given that Pakistan has become one of the biggest victims of terror attacks in recent years Another common threat facing both India and China is splittism.

Small groups of individuals are seeking to separate some territories from China and India. The urge to redraw boundaries is what caused so many wars in Europe. Hence it is necessary that countries in Asia avoid going the way of Europe till 1945. Asian powers ought to settle what boundary disputes there are in a wholly peaceful and Win-Win manner.The use of force is similar to drowning oneself in alchohol to “cure” a headache.Once the effect of the alchohol tapers off,the individual feels even worse than before. Asian countries ought to come to a joint agreement that does away with the use of force in the settlement of territorial disputes with each other,given that the military option would have such negative consequences for overall stability and development. Although conventional wisdom in several thinktanks has been that territorial disputes ought to get settled before better relations come about,the fact is that the atmosphere needed to resolve such differences will come about only after there is harmony between both sides.Beijing was able to resolve its boundary disputes with Moscow very quickly,once ties between the two sides improved.Similar is the case with the Sino-Myanmar boundary,which has been resolved to the satisfaction of both sides,in a context where Myanmar and China are friendly to each other. Apart from China and India,another major military power in the region is Pakistan. Hopefully,a situation will come about when - after China and India establish close military to military ties - Islamabad joins hands with Beijing and Delhi. Indeed, India has been extremely tardy in understanding that military-militarycontacts are essential in good diplomacy. In this,Pakistan has beaten India hands down. Delhi needs to reach out,through its men and women inuniform, to militaries in countries such as Turkey and Indonesia.

It is not enough for simply Asian leaders to talk to each other, their militaries must also join this process. Although there are several forces that oppose closer cooperation between China and India in the military sphere,yet geopolitical necessity may yet bring the two sides together. Hopefully,they will be joined by their counterparts in Pakistan. Should these three armed forces come together rather than remain at loggerheads,the entire continent would be the winner.

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