Sino-Indian Border Dispute and Its Regional Implications

August 14, 2017

By Sahibzada M. Saeed

The ancient Chinese philosopher and strategist Sun Tzu writes in Art of War that “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” In these days Indo-China relation seems not satisfying because of month long border standoff. Latest clash has started on mid of June when India opposed a road construction in a plateau area which is known as doklam in India and Donglang in China. This plateau is an intersection between Indian state Sikkim, Bhutan and People Republic of China (PRC). It is important to mention that it is a disputed region between Kingdom of Bhutan and PRC while India is supporting Bhutan’s claim.

According to Indian analogy, the road which Chinese are building will give China, a strategic superiority over India because China will get access to “Chicken’s Neck” a 20 km long corridor which links mainland India with north eastern seven sister states i.e. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. According to Indian prospective, by the access to Chicken Neck or Siliguri Corridor, China could easily bully India.

While glimpsing into the history of Beijing and New Delhi’s relations, one can observe multiple ups and downs. Both countries fought war in 1962 while on the other hand history observed significantly warming relations and 230 times increase in trade from 25 years ago to 2014, from a few couple of hundred millions of dollars to 70 billion dollars. But according to an expert opinion, currently India-China relations are at historic low and as had been in 1962. Indian media published a photograph of which revealed that Prime Minister Modi is very friendly and Chinese President Xi is with half smile in Hamburg Germany, with a story that both leaders discussed many things on common interests but the next day Chinses media has bluntly said that there was no meeting between the two leaders.

In order to analyze the whole situation, it is quite obvious that both countries are pushing their interests in the way that no one can neglect the possibility of collapse. Recent Indian postures depict Modi’s grand design in Asia with the backing and support of Washington. And these postures are highly deleterious for the regional peace and stability. In May this year, Belt and Road conference was held in Beijing. In which 29 head of states and governments and representatives from more than 130 countries have participated. But unfortunately India did not attend this forum. Similarly, over the Chinese initiative of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, India is openly opposing this design. Because under this design China has to build ports and shipyards stretching from South China Sea to Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden. According to Indian prospective which is still based upon Nehru Doctrine that Indian Ocean is merely India’s ocean and no other power will be accepted there. Therefore, India realizes Chinese maritime policy as a clear and present danger for it.

If India remains as an American partner in the region to counterbalance China it could not be fruitful for the region. Likewise, Modi’s grand design is a threat for the forums like BRICS and if Modi government doesn’t change its foreign policy behaviour then the fate of BRICS could be no more different from SAARC. Which has been spoiled by Indian obstinacy.

In foreign policy decision making, timing matters a lot and aligning my argument with above mentioned Sun Tzu’s quote, I am not reluctant to say that India must realize that it is win-win situation for the whole region to integrate and cooperate. For the betterment of the regional peace and stability India must come back to its own terms of relations with China, Pakistan and other regional states. It is dire need of time that India must avoid escalation on borders with Pakistan and China and go ahead positively. Global shift of wealth and resources make 21st century as an Asian century and all Asian states must aware of this fact and work together for the healthier and better future of the region.

*The author is an IR analyst and freelance columnist based in Islamabad and can be reached at mmsb1000@gmail.com.