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The CBMs in Sino-Indian Relations: Need for Revamping and Enlarging the Structural and Institutional Mechanisms

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  • January 13, 2012
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Shri Gautam H Bambewala
    Discussants: Professor Sreeram Sunder Chaulia and Professor Alka Acharya

    The fellow paper of Dr. R. N. Das focussed on how the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) play a critical role in India-China relations. According to him their importance is due to the persistence of ‘security dilemma’ in the India- China context. Factors that have led to security dilemma include among others baggage of the 1962 War, differences in the system of governance, competition in acquiring greater space at the international arena and the scramble for resources.

    Dr Das opined that India’s threat perception of China is not baseless and, therefore, the need for India to establish CBMs with China arises. After the 1962 India- China war, the bilateral relationship was restored in 1976. The 1979 visit by the then minister of external affairs, A. B. Vajpayee was a good gesture but it failed to bring warmth in the relationship. During his visit, China attacked Vietnam, India considered it undiplomatic and Vajpayee prematurely ended his visit to return to New Delhi in protest.

    The turning point in the India- China relationship was former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit of 1988, which led to the formation of important CBMs in India- China relations. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s landmark visit in 1993 gave a real boost to the CBMs, which materialised, according to Dr Das, due to the visionary leadership of Rao. India and China signed the agreement on troop reduction along the border, which was followed by arms reduction agreement in 1996. Avoidance of large-scale military exercise and air intrusions was also agreed upon, among other things. Since 2003, a number of bilateral visits have taken place; these include the 2003 Vajpayee visit, 2005 Wen Jiabao visit, and Pranab Mukherjee’s 2006 visit.

    In the context of military CBMs one of the biggest steps taken was to cnduct the ‘Hand in hand 2008’ India- China joint military exercise. The two sides have been taking numerous slow yet steady moves on that count.

    Since 2006, India- US relationship started strengthening and that, according to Dr. Das, led to rise in Chinese suspicions of India’s intentions to some extent. On the other hand, India has been wary of Chinese intentions, as China has been issuing stapled visa to Indian citizens hailing from Jammu & Kashmir, and Arunanchal Pradesh on several occasions since 2006.

    Dr. Das made several recommendations for strengthening the India- China relations. Checking border transgression and bringing the relationship on an equal footing and on reciprocal basis are prominent among his recommendations. He also recommended that India take its diplomatic steps carefully to avoid any miscommunication with China.

    The Chairperson, Gautam Bambawale, concurred with Dr. Das that border transgression by Chinese troops and stapled visa are concerns for India. In order to improve relations with India, China must understand and handle Indian sensitivities carefully.

    Points of Discussion:

    • Sino- Indian boundary question cannot be seen as a purely boundary issue. It is far bigger and complicated.
    • China’s vision of a uni-polar Asia and its position on India’s candidature for UNSC are at cross-purposes with India.
    • China does not want to discuss the nuclear CBMs with India, as that would automatically approve India’s nuclear power status, which China doesn’t want.
    • Responses from the Chinese side on India’s rise have not been very positive in the past. However, one must keep in mind that China does have its own insecurities and China’s responses to India’s relations with the US and Japan indication these.
    • China’s cooperation with India on the UNSC issue will help strengthening the relationship.
    • Thus far, CBMs have not been able to remove the persistent security dilemma in the India- China context. They have been effective only in managing the relationship. Nevertheless, contribution of CBMs in maintaining India- China relations has been significant.
    • It is important to assess the effectiveness of CBMs in India- China context, as that would help in planning further CBMs that could be put in place.

    Report prepared by Rahul Mishra.