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China’s Territorial Claim on the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh: Alternative Scenarios 2031

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  • May 20, 2011
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Dr. Arvind Gupta
    Discussants: Brig. (Retd.) Rahul Bhonsle, Col. Navneet Kumar, Dr. Rajiv Anantaram, Dr. Jabin Jacob

    Namrata Goswami’s paper focused on four alternative scenarios in 2031 with regard to China’s territorial claim on the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. At the outset, the author discussed the three drivers of uncertainty, which could influence the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh, namely, Chinese regime stability, Chinese perception of India and internal developments in Arunachal Pradesh. Based on the interactive interplay of these three independent variables, Goswami crafted four alternative scenarios based on two futures methodology: the ‘Alternative Scenarios Axis’ and the ‘Implication Wheel’.

    The paper sought to answer four research questions:
    (1) What are the four alternative scenarios in 2031 with regard to China’s territorial claim on the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh?
    (2) What are the policy implications of each scenario?
    (3) Which scenario is most preferred and why? What are the policy interventions necessary to be put in place between now and 2031 to ensure the unfolding of this scenario?
    (4) Which scenario is least preferred? What are the policy interventions necessary to be put in place between now and 2031 in order to avoid this scenario?

    The paper assessed the three drivers of uncertainty in detail. The author included several sub-drivers within the three main drivers to explain the significance of certain issues that had a direct bearing on how the future will unfold.

    The first driver, Chinese regime stability, was analyzed using five criteria which the author called ‘sub-drivers’, namely, principles, norms, rules, decision making procedures and institutions. These sub-drivers were drawn from Stephen Krasner and Hedley Bull’s definition of regimes. With regard to principles, the prevalence of economic reforms which was mainly visible during the Deng Xiaoping period was pointed out. In terms of norms, the historical and civilizational past of China and also the standards of behaviour based on rights, obligations, and social ethnics were brought into context. With regard to decision-making, the author highlighted the role of the State Council and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in taking most of the important foreign policy decisions. The lack of an independent judiciary in China made institutionalised accountability almost impossible. She also enumerated the role of the institutions, mainly that of the PLA, and how economic growth has modernized the PLA.

    The author identified the uncertainties with regard to regime stability primarily stemming from internal fears of dissent which might impact on Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh. As the author argued, if regime stability runs low, China could get aggressive on Arunachal Pradesh.

    The next driver is the Chinese perception of India. Chinese view the Indian state as mainly aping the West. Moreover, the Dalai Lama’s presence in India creates anxieties in China and is perceived as questioning China’s legitimacy over Tibet. While neither country is likely to go to war, much would however depend on how India behaves towards China over the years and on whether the border issue can be resolved.

    The last driver is internal developments in Arunachal Pradesh in terms of governance, riparian rights and border security. Here, one interesting factor in particular regard to riparian rights is the existence of differences of opinion between young and old over the construction of dams.

    Dr. Goswami offered four alternative scenarios along with the implications wheel crafted for each scenario based on the interaction of the three drivers of uncertainty. The first scenario is ‘backwaters’, in which Chinese regime stability is low, the perception of India is that of a weak actor and adverse internal developments in Arunachal Pradesh are also low. The second scenario is ‘heavy weights’ where Chinese regime stability and internal developments in Arunachal Pradesh run high and the Chinese perception of India is that of a strong power. The third scenario is “Ascendant India’ where the first driver of Chinese regime stability is low, Chinese perception of India is that of a strong power and internal developments in Arunachal Pradesh run high. The fourth scenario is ‘Yellow Emperor’ which is the least favourite. In this scenario Chinese regime stability runs low, India is perceived as a weak power and internal developments in Arunachal Pradesh run low.

    In conclusion, Dr. Namrata Goswami stated that she was in favour of the second scenario, “heavyweights”, and its positive wheel since it focuses more on interest-based bargaining. She speculated that India needs to seriously consider this scenario.

    Major points of discussions and suggestions:

    Scenario techniques and selection of drivers should be analysed carefully. The important part is to select the right drivers. More sub-drivers can actually be introduced and a multidisciplinary technique should be adopted as a base of support. Scenarios should connect more to the drivers and the selection of the period till 2031 must be made more significant. The importance of the 3Ts i.e. Taiwan, Tibet and Turkistan in China’s White paper is significant, and how these play out in its strategic assessment portfolio cannot be ignored; hence, this should be analysed.

    How to handle Tibet in terms of policy prescription and how to link the Arunachal Pradesh boundary question to the Indian western sector with China are also important. Political conditions in the Tibet Autonomous Region can be considered as one of the drivers. Tibet is the chief concern in the India-China boundary question.

    The Chinese perception of India in the context of differentiation between decentralization and lack of continuity were also discussed. How is India different from China in the approach to the resolution of the boundary? Both the Chinese and the Indian intentions can be looked into, and also the involvement of external actors like the US and Pakistan could be studied. Certain sub-drivers can be selected like the Chinese polity, economy, military, internal situation and Chinese comprehensive national security strategies. With regard to why 2031 is important and how international norms affect China: for the Chinese 2031 is not important; rather 2049 is more important because it will mark the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic.

    The paper is informative but a more rigorous exercise based on Chinese primary sources is required including language sources. In the alternative scenarios axis and the implications wheel, the independent variables are not to be correlated but a choice should exist between the two. The author needs to polish and strengthen the drivers through inputs from and discussions with other experts.

    Report prepared by Shristi Pukhrem, Research Assistant at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.