NEW DELHI | 27th Apr 2013
enerals still loyal to former Chinese President Jiang Zemin are believed to be behind the recent 19-kilometre incursion into territory that has been in the control of India since 1947. This is a barren strip of land near the Burtse army post in Ladakh, which is south of Depsang and the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip, which was brought back to operational readiness in 2008 and at nearly 17,000 feet is the highest military airstrip on the globe. Information reaching Delhi indicates that "a Major-General based in Chengdu Military District" is responsible for the Chinese side launching a repeat of Jawaharlal Nehru's 1960-62 "forward policy" (i.e. of small armed pickets moving into territory controlled by the other side and setting up makeshift bases there). Since early April, PLA units reporting to senior officers loyal to the Jiang Zemin Group within the Chinese Communist Party have set up three tents, in which at present three dozen soldiers are sheltering. These are being monitored by Chinese helicopters and long-range satellite surveillance system, and are designed to provoke an armed border clash for the first time since the 1986 Sumdurong Chu incursion by China, which too was masterminded by elements hostile to Deng Xiaoping's reconciliatory policy towards India.
Jiang Zemin has considerable influence within that section of the military leadership that is known to have substantial funds abroad, as evidenced by family staying or studying in (NATO-bloc) countries. Although former President Hu Jintao sought to cleanse the PLA of such corrupt elements, "the power of the Jiang group meant that he had only very limited success during the decade (2002-2012) that he was in power". Hu's successor Xi Jinping is known to be similarly opposed to the culture of greed and graft spawned under the Jiang years (1991-2001) and is also facing resistance to his clean-up efforts from those unwilling to give up their extra-legal privileges.
Both President Xi as well as Premier Li Keqiang have made a close strategic relationship with India a priority. India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the second foreign leader (out of two) personally called by Premier Li on the first day of his assumption of office, and planning is on to make India the new Chinese PM's first international port of call in the third week of next month. Following on the success of Huawei in the telecoms market and Chinese power companies in energy plants, Chinese companies are looking to India to sell infrastructure equipment and projects. "Should tensions grow, Huawei may be once again barred from the Indian market, while Chinese companies would be barred from energy, finance and infrastructure sectors," a senior official worried at PLA activism pointed out, adding that "already China has lost more than $120 billion of (additional) Japanese investment and may lose an equal amount in the India market" should the Jiang group have its way in racheting up tensions along China's periphery. "The Jiang Group wants to sabotage Li's India visit, which is why they have got friendly elements in the PLA to launch a Chinese version of the Forward Policy just weeks before Li's scheduled arrival," claim sources tracking developments in China. They add that "the effort to insert troops into territory that has always been in Indian control follows the continued refusal by Jiang-era hardliners in Beijing to agree to a transparency-generating mechanism about its four Brahmaputra dam projects". These sources point out that "both the Pakistan as well as the US lobbies within the PLA are eager to sabotage cooperation with India", and that Xi Jinping's open call for military to military cooperation between Beijing and Delhi has been followed by efforts at a coordinated hard line towards the Taliban in Afghanistan. Such moves have alarmed the Pakistan and US lobbies within China, who are both working through their agents to sabotage the Xi Jinping reset in relations with Delhi, these sources claim.
Trackers of Chinese developments point out that "several so-called ultra-nationalist elements are in fact secretly working at the behest of countries hostile to China, and use ultra-patriotic rhetoric only as camouflage". Several blog posts by "super-patriotic elements in China use language that is racist and xenophobic, thereby presenting a negative picture of Chinese society to foreign observers". India is not the only theatre where pro-Jiang elements are using their friends in the PLA to ensure that Beijing deviates from the Peaceful Rise policy of Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao, these sources point out. Such military activism has led to tensions across the eastern and southern periphery of China, from Japan to the Philippines to Vietnam and now India. "Xi Jinping has the potential to be as great a harbinger of economic growth and social and international stability as Deng. However, he is being sabotaged from within by self-proclaimed ultra-nationalists with big foreign bank accounts," said a source familiar with the inner dynamics of Chinese politics. However, the majority view is that "with backing from Premier Li, very soon President Xi will rein in the hotheads," thereby allowing Delhi and Beijing to resume the path towards normalisation first mapped out by Deng Xiaoping and Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. Their expectation is that the present sabotage of a Sino-Indian reset via a new forward policy in Ladakh will subside within the first week of next month, thereby creating conditions for a successful visit by Premier Li, who is being "awaited with warmth" in Delhi by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
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