November 2, 2009
The recent deterioration of the relationship between China and India is deeply disturbing. Significant was the recent editorial on the People’s Daily website which attacked “India’s superpower dreams” and “thought of hegemony”.
The fundamental disputes are over the eastern western ends of their long border, unresolved since a war in 1962. In the east, China claims a large part of the state of Arunachal Pradesh (South Tibet to the Chinese), including the Buddhist monastery at Tawang. In the west, India claims Aksai Chin as part of Kashmir. There is a large military presence on both sides of the frontier.
In recent years, economic and political relations between the two countries have grown deeper, although there are trade frictions over Chinese exports to India. This has been matched by better military relations, including joint exercises. The two countries have reached agreement on climate change, ahead of the Copenhagen summit. However, Indian media and public opinion see China as a threat and the sensationalist reporting by the media risk provoking a nationalist hysteria.
Beijing is, for its part, extremely sensitive over Tibet. India is the host of the Dalai Lama, who regards Arunachal as belonging to India and says that his successor may be born outside Tibet. Tawang was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and the present Dalai Lama plans to go there on 8 November.
China mistrusts India’s new, closer relations with the US, and India mistrusts China’s close relations with Pakistan.
The ingredients for a military flare-up are present. It is to be hoped that cooler heads in Beijing and Delhi will prevail. It is clear that a solution to the border dispute demands a great effort on both sides. Having regard to the current problems in neighbouring countries, it is in the interests of the region and indeed the world that this long-running dispute be resolved.Author : Stanley Crossick