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China remains an untrustworthy neighbour

Monday, 7 July 2014 - 6:00am IST Updated: Saturday, 5 July 2014 - 8:27pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Last month, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visited India as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping to prepare the ground for the latter’s visit to India later this year. He met our external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, called Prime Minister Modi an "old friend" of China and said his election as Prime Minister of India had injected a "new vitality into an ancient civilization." A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson observed: "We are natural partners rather than rivals" and exuded confidence that "The growing relation with India and common interests far outweigh disputes."

Next, Vice President Hamid Ansari went on a five-day visit to China to take part in the 60th anniversary celebrations of Panchsheel. One of the Five Principles of Panchsheel, it may be recalled, is non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. While Ansari was still on Chinese soil, Beijing issued a new map showing the whole of Arunachal Pradesh and large parts of Jammu and Kashmir as Chinese territory. It was a not-too-veiled message to India that despite all the make-believe bonhomie, China’s basic attitude toward India has not changed and China is not going to give up its territorial claims on India, claims it had been unilaterally making over the years.

Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls ‘Southern Tibet’, are untenable. There is a huge corpus of books and documents that prove conclusively that what is Arunachal Pradesh today has been part of India since the earliest times. Among others, Dr Ram Rahul, formerly of the School of International Studies, New Delhi, has dwelt at length on this subject in his scholarly article ‘The History of the Himalayas’ in the book The Sino-Indian Border Question: A Historical Review, published by the Institute of Historical Studies, Calcutta. He has refuted the Chinese claims convincingly.

As recently as June 28, Xi Jinping called on the Chinese military to build up a ‘strong and solid border defence network’ to protect China’s territorial and water frontiers in order to deter "bullying foreign powers". He just stopped short of naming India. In May this year, China announced a military budget of $138 billion which is an increase of 12.5 per cent over the previous year. India’s defence expenditure, by contrast, is a mere $47.4 billion. 

Despite this glaring asymmetry in the defence capability of China and India, Beijing is always suspicious of any move by India to strengthen its armed forces. As soon as India started negotiations with France for the acquisition of 126 Rafale Multi-Medium Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), the People’s Daily reacted angrily: the move, it said “encourages, excites and spurs India’s appetite and ambition to become a great military power while intensifying aggressive and expansionist tendencies which pose a serious threat to peace and stability in Asia.” China can aspire to be a ‘great military power’ without posing a threat to anyone, but India cannot !

Right now, the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Bikram Singh, is on an official tour of China to strengthen military ties between the two countries. India has conducted several joint military exercises with China. More are to be held. But for all that show of camaraderie, Chinese hostility to India will continue undiminished. Even Japan and Vietnam are feeling threatened. Japan has just amended its constitution to remove the restrictions on its defence forces imposed by the US after the Second World War. This has paved the way for Japan’s entry into collective self-defence arrangements with other countries. India must not be off her guard. There must be no repetition of 1962.

The author is a senior journalist

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