Exclusive Opinion Piece : Measures To Improve India-China Relations, By Lt Gen S L Narasimhan (Retd.)


By Lt Gen S L Narasimhan (Retd.)

Earlier in this four part series, we had seen the divergences and convergences in the bilateral relationship between India and China and the present state of cooperation.

In the last part of this series, some measures are being suggested to improve the bilateral relations between India and China. While there are a number of agreements and frameworks in place, there is still a need to undertake certain measures to bridge the gap in bilateral relationship.

Strategic Cooperation is the way forward and must be pursued vigorously at the highest level of leadership. Influence in regional and international organizations can be exerted very well, provided both countries go together. It is mentioned in the joint statement of May 2015 that both the countries will have dialogues on major issues before taking them up in international fora.

All countries are involved in sub regional groupings like South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, East Asia Summit, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN (+3) and so on. There is a need to look into a New Joint Security Framework for Asia enunciated by the then External Affairs Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee in 2006.

Energy security and complementary economic cooperation will improve the bilateral relationship. There is a need to induce increased investment in India by China mainly in infrastructure development. There was a hype prior to visit of Mr Xi Jinping to India with respect to likely investment worth USD 100 bn. However, it turned out to be USD 20 bn only. It may to go up in future.

The industrial development, construction technology and manufacturing acumen of Chinese should be looked into. The amazing speed with which constructions take place in China is worth emulating by India.

The construction techniques are very good as they employ the concept of pre fabrication elsewhere and erect the structure at designated location. It must be noted that every project gets completed in time and there is no scope for over shooting the timelines.

The business integration has already been discussed in the earlier articles. Cooperation in agriculture needs further strengthening. There is need to look into sports diplomacy in detail because this is an ideal platform to deepen the cooperation.

Population Control is one aspect in which India can render assistance to China. Though the ‘One Child Policy’ has been lifted on 29 Oct 2015 to overcome old age bulge, 

the results of a survey of approximately 1.7 lakh Chinese citizens showed that 43% of them don’t prefer to have a second child. India followed a path of educating people regarding family planning, while China followed a policy of implementation by force.

Similarly, others who were unaware of the recent change in the policy were ambivalent about the policy. India is in a position to assist China in this regard.

There is a need to evolve joint planning and operations in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) by both the countries. Looking into recent incidents of HADR, i.e. Nepal earthquake and shortage of drinking water in Maldives, the Chinese assistance appeared to be competitive in nature.

Hence, there is a case to evolve a joint effort instead of the competitive approach.

Military Training needs much deeper cooperation. The suggested courses that can be offered to the Chinese are the National Defence College and Higher Defence Management Courses. More English language courses earlier offered to China and utilized at Army Education Corps Center and College, Pachmarhi should be offered.

The Material Management Course at College of Material Management, Jabalpur is also an excellent course that can be usefully utilized by the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army.

Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare Course conducted at Vairengte in Mizoram is a reputed course being utilised by advanced armies of the world. China is facing disturbances in their Xinjiang and Tibet Provinces.

This course will be of great help to them as India follows a different approach towards resolving the internal disturbances.

The level of joint training needs to be raised. Both the countries have been undertaking Ex Hand-in-Hand, a company level joint training exercise since 2007.

There is no sign of enhancing the scope of the exercise in near future. This needs to be upgraded to a higher level. Joint air exercises can be started between both the countries. The scope for joint naval ex beyond Search and Rescue and PASSEX should be explored.

Enhanced defence cooperation will pay rich dividends. Five of the issues that can be looked into are firstly, inviting Chinese Defence Attache (DA) to witness own military exercises where other DAs are invited. The hesitation to invite the Chinese DA needs to be overcome as Indian DAs have been witnessing exercises in China since 2004.

Secondly, there is a need to institute mechanisms to conduct visits at medium/ junior level officials. Because the rapport established during visits by senior officials is short lived due to the retirement of the visiting Senior Officers, it lacks the longevity that is required to nurture friendships. Hence it is recommended that visits at medium/ junior levels be conducted to ensure continuity and increase confidence level.

Thirdly, though few officers have done Chinese language course in China, the effort lacks the focus it merits. There is a need to enhance cooperation in this aspect and ensure more number of officers do Chinese Language Courses in China.

These officers should form a language experts pool to study relevant material in Chinese language. This will also improve the understanding of China as a country and its people.

Fourthly, as on date the number of meetings between defence forces of both the countries are fixed. There is a need to increase the same. The decision to conduct meetings could be delegated to local military commanders to increase the frequency.

And fifthly, the friendly sports meet between border personnel that started at Nathula, Sikkim should be expanded and enhanced. Such sports activities will pave the way for increased confidence level.

It has been seen that all agreements take a long time to materialize on ground and hence lose their value. This aspect must be addressed to enhance cooperation. A monitoring agency for implementation of agreements need to be established.

India may also think of initiating checks and balances to ensure security with respect to equipment imported from China and derive the benefits of better technology and cost.

There is a thinking amongst some analysts that we should not enhance the cooperation with China as the latter has been insensitive to India’s concerns and interests.

Such a thought process is saddled with danger. It is high time that it is realized that international relations are not conducted based on emotions.

Realpolitik forms the basis of such relations.

One of our Prime Ministers is said to have emphasized that the window to China must remain open as it gave the room to manoeuvre when dealing with other powers and neighbourhood.

May be there is a lesson for us in that the bilateral relationship with China is not a zero sum game. It is also true for China. It will definitely help if China addresses India’s concerns and sensitivities.

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