Home Contact Us
Search :


Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2933, 7 August 2009
Negotiating with China
Bhartendu Kumar Singh
Indian Defence Accounts Service
e-mail: bhartendukumarsingh@gmail.com

It is almost three decades since China and India initiated their border talks. While the levels of dialogue were raised, an agreement is still not in sight. So, when the Special Representatives (SRs) of the two countries meet for the 13th round of border talks in New Delhi, expectations will probably be mellow and like a dozen times before, this meeting may also end up only with incremental outcomes. However, instead of blaming our interlocutors for protracted talks, we need to study the issues that prevent them from achieving successful negotiations with their Chinese counterparts. Three issues come to the forefront: India’s inability to decode the Chinese grand strategy; failure to develop an alternative future in case the border talks fail; and lack of intellectual-political consensus.
Cultural problems apart, Indians have been unable to decode the Chinese grand strategy and mind games in the border talks. China is a satisfied party in the border talks, its claims notwithstanding. It got what it wanted (the Aksai Chin corridor linking Xinjiang with Tibet), partially through discreet encroachment in the late 1950s and the rest through open capture in the 1962 War. For a long time, China floated the ‘swap proposal’ based on so-called ‘mutual understanding and mutual accommodation’ to legalise its occupation. When that did not cut any ice, it suggested New Delhi put the contentious border issue on the back-burner and focus on other aspects of bilateral relations. Decades later, while the two countries do have a healthy bilateral relationship, China continues to limit the border talks to procedural roadmaps.
The 2005 declaration on ‘political guidelines and parameters’ had provided hopes about the possible contours of a mutually-agreed border. However, these developments were muddled by China’s aggressive claims on the Tawang tract of Arunachal Pradesh, supplemented by frequent incidents of border intrusions across the LAC. The construction of roads, railways and airports in Tibet have further added to Chinese ambivalence and consolidated its future strategy in the region. True, China has resolved its boundary disputes with many other countries, the latest being the China-Vietnam treaty over land demarcation and joint exploration and development of disputed areas in the South China Sea. However, China’s impasse over the Diayaoutai Island with Japan and the South China Sea disputes with other ASEAN countries continue without any substantial progress.

While Chinese tactics remain a challenge for our negotiators, Sinologists and war experts in India are yet to develop an ‘alternative future’ in case the border talks fail. This is regrettable since India is one of the six countries against whom China has used force in the past. Will China use force on the border issue again? Can India defend itself without losing any more territory? The border aside, what are the other issues that could induce a conflict between them? Perhaps a lot would depend on China’s perception of India as a military power. Unfortunately, most Indian studies on China’s military modernization tend to follow the universal thinking that China’s military modernisation is aimed at Taiwan. Similarly, the PLA plays an important role in the Chinese decision-making process but this fact is yet to get proportionate attention in India.

The challenge for Indian negotiators is further complicated by lack of domestic consensus, both intellectual and political. While eminent Sinologists like Roderick McFarquhar hold the Chinese leadership guilty for the 1962 War, many intellectuals in India still judge that war as well as the border problem from a Maxwellian prism and do not take the pains to read the original papers. While China boasts successful border agreements with many neighbours, India is yet to compare the Chinese objectives and tactics in these negotiations and highlight the common threads as ‘policy feedback.’ Instead, we have casual propositions such as ‘swap of territories’ or ‘status quo,’ suggested in some recent works, which tend to validate Chinese claims and violate the spirit of the Indian Parliament’s 1963 resolution.
Also, while all the mainstream political parties agree about building a better relationship with China, they hesitate in taking a public posture on an agreeable border with China. During the recent general elections, the foreign policy debate was largely centred around the US, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan. China remained marginalised in the election manifestoes, with the sole exception being the left parties. But then, the stand of the Indian Left on Sino-Indian relations or the border problem has been of little help. With both intellectuals and politicians shying away from actively shaping public opinion, the challenges for India’s negotiators rise manifold.
Negotiating with China has been a challenge for many countries. India is no exception. While we have the advantage of long engagement and healthy bilateral relations, successful negotiations warrant more investments in Chinese history, culture, negotiating strategies and analyses of changing Chinese perception of India. Domestically, India has the benefit of stable government and visionary leadership. Our negotiating strategy is in seasoned hands. All we need is an innovative strategy that is able to negotiate a border package acceptable to Indian popular aspirations. This is bound to take time. For the moment, we need to support our negotiators and be patient.
Note: The author is on deputation to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). The views expressed herein are those of the author alone.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Making a Case for Change
Connecting Sri Lanka: Train to Jaffna
Stronger Democratic Values for a Better Tomorrow
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Burying the Past: A New Beginning for Pakistan and Afghanistan
India-Pakistan: Working Boundaries and Lines of Uncontrolled Fire
Of Inquilab and the Inquilabis
Dateline Kabul
Mariam Safi
Af-Pak: A Fresh Start
Can Afghanistan Become a "Perfect Place?"
Afghanistan: Political Crises After the Presidential Run-off
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Bangladesh: Diplomatic Manoeuvres at the UNGA
Abe’s Successful Visit to Dhaka: Two Political Challenges

Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism’s Sake?
Changing Global Balance of Power: Obama’s Response
East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
Abe-Xinping Summit Meet: A Thaw in China-Japan Relations?
South Korea's Foreign Policy: More Rhetoric, Less Content?
India in East Asia: Modi’s Three Summit Meets

Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
The Future of SAARC is Now
China in Nepal: Increasing Connectivity Via Railways
India-Nepal Hydroelectricity Deal: Making it Count
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
Modi in Myanmar: From ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’
The ASEAN's Centrality in the Indo-Pacific Region
Myanmar's Political Transition: Challenges of the 2015 Election

Sushant Sareen
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir
Pakistan: Why is Army against Nawaz Sharif?
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
India and Maritime Security: Do More
Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations
Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Middle Kingdom
Srikanth Kondapalli
China and Japan: Will the Twain Never Meet?
Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping: Building a Closer Developmental Partnership
Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age

Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Naxal Violence: Challenges to Jharkhand Polls
Naxalites and the Might of a Fragile Revolution
Six Thousand Plus Killed: The Naxal Ideology of Violence
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Islamic State: The Efficacy of Counter-strategies
War against the Islamic State: Political and Military Responses from the Region
The Islamic State: No Country for the Old World Order
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile
Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Of Lawrence, Sykes-Picot and al-Baghdadi
Strategic Estrangement: An Odd Bedfellow to Economic Engagement
The Islamic State Caliphate: A Mirage of Resurrection
Voice from America
Amit Gupta
China's Global Ambition: Need to Emulate Germany
Mid-Term Elections: So What If the US Swings Hard Right?
Modi’s US Visit: So Much Promise, Such Little Outcome

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
18th SAARC Summit: An Economic Agenda
Regional Economic Architecture: Is India Ready?
Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
India-China: Securitising Water

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Ruhee Neog,
"‘Nuclear Weapons, Costs and Myths’: In Response," 16 September 2013
Rajaram Panda,
"Patching Up?," 24 June 2013
Teshu Singh,
"Xi-Obama Summit," 21 June 2013
Rajaram Panda,
"North Korea: “An All-Out Confrontation” After Fresh UNSC Sanctions?," 28 January 2013
Radhakrishna Rao,
"Why does India need an Aerospace Command?," 1 February 2012
Amruta Karambelkar,
"Vietnam and the South China Sea: Hypothetical Scenarios," 22 December 2011
Jayasree Nath,
"Stilwell Route: What are its Economic Implications?," 31 October 2011
Teshu Singh,
"Chinese Economy: Inflation on the Rise and Manufacturing on the Wane," 29 July 2011
Bhim B Subba,
"Border Trade at Nathu La: Five Years After," 18 July 2011
Teshu Singh,
"Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway: Strategic Significance," 8 July 2011

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Why India Needs an Outcome Budget for Defence

Using Defence for Development: New Policy Options for India

Chinese FDI in India: Will it augment the bilateral relations?

India's China Policy: Should it be ‘Effective’ or ‘Assertive’?

Agni V: Will it Enhance India’s Deterrence against China?

China’s Military Modernization: The Pentagon Report and Indian Fears

Defence, Development and National Security: Challenges for Naresh Chandra Committee

Resurrecting the Sino-Indian Defence Dialogue

Chinese Military Power and the Politics of Reports

The Annual Report of the MoD: Need for Change?

Chinese Military 'Website' : Possible Interpretations

China's 'Stride 2009' and India

Beyond the Chinese fantasy: Will India Disintegrate?

Taking China Seriously

Clamour over the Henderson Brooks Report: Missing the Wood for the Trees?

Does China Matter? Elections and Foreign Policy Issues in India

China and the Politics of UN Peacekeeping

Has India's Military Diplomacy Come of Age?

China, India and the Red Star over Nepal

China, India and the Tibet Crisis

China's Emergence as India's Largest Trade Partner

The Indian Prime Minister's Visit to China

The Kunming Joint Military Exercises and Sino-Indian Relations

Whither China's Democratic Transition?

Ideology, Foreign Policy and the Rhetoric of Anti-Americanism

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2014
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006
 2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-4100 1900, 4165 2556, 4165 2557, 4165 2558, 4165 2559 Fax: (91-11) 41652560
© Copyright 2014, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com