China’s sinister anti-India moves Yet there is stability in relationship

IN its recent annual report to the US Congress on China’s military power, the Pentagon revealed that the Second Artillery — China’s strategic missile force — had deployed long-range CSS-5 (DF-21) nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles close to the border with India. It has also been widely reported that China has agreed to provide two new nuclear reactors to Pakistan in violation of its non-proliferation commitments and in complete disregard of the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. China’s military posturing and its continuing support for Pakistan do not augur well for strategic stability in South Asia. 
China’s nuclear warhead and missile technology nexus with Pakistan has been meticulously documented by several international experts. By giving Pakistan nuclear warhead technology and 50 kg highly enriched uranium for two bombs, helping Pakistan to test its first nuclear warhead secretly at the Lop Nor range, by gifting fully assembled M-9 and M-11 ballistic missiles to Pakistan and by blessing North Korea’s transfer of No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles to Pakistan, China has irrevocably changed the geostrategic equation in South Asia. China’s conventional military aid and joint weapons development programmes, including Al Khalid tanks, F-22 frigates and FC-1/JF-17 fighter aircraft, have considerably strengthened Pakistan’s war-waging capability. 
The “all-weather” friendship between China and Pakistan is, in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s words, “higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans”. Under a treaty of “Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourly Relations”, signed during Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2005 tour, China has guaranteed Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Had it not been for the cover provided by its nuclear shield, an internally unstable and economically failing Pakistan would have been in no position to wage a proxy war against India in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere through its mercenary terrorists. The Chinese are engaged in building ports, roads, gas pipelines and even dams in Pakistan, including in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). 
The Chinese also have plans to build a rail link through the Khunjerab Pass to link up with the main railway line in Pakistan so as to gain access to Karachi port. It was recently reported by Selig Harrison in The International Herald Tribune that 7,000 to 11,000 Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers are deployed in the Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. They are perhaps there for counter-terrorism activities to prevent Islamist terrorists from moving into Xingjian through the Karakoram Range. 
The military presence in PoK coupled with the denial of visa to the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, and the issuance of stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) clearly indicates that China has discarded the charade of neutrality between India and Pakistan over the status of J&K. It is sometimes forgotten that China is in physical occupation of 5,180 sq km of J&K territory in the Shaksgam valley. This territory was ceded by Pakistan to China under a bilateral agreement in March 1963. India, of course, does not recognise that agreement. 
Despite these unfriendly and provocative acts, the India-China relationship is relatively stable at the strategic level. Bilateral trade has crossed $50 billion and is expected to touch $60 billion soon. If India’s trade with Hong Kong is included, China — now the world’s second largest economy — is already India’s largest trading partner. 
China and India have been coordinating their approach in international negotiations at the Doha round of WTO discussions and on environmental issues in the 2009 World Climate Summit at Copenhagen. Both countries played a calming role in the 2008-09 global financial meltdown. As both hold substantial foreign exchange reserves, they will increasingly play a greater role in decision-making in the existing scenario. 
However, at the tactical level, China has been exhibiting marked political, diplomatic and military aggressiveness. There are several areas of concern that are limiting the growth of the bilateral relationship. China and India are competing for scarce energy resources all over the world. A strategy based on cooperation rather than competition will help both countries to secure better terms and will enable them to share their risks. China’s deep inroads into Myanmar and support to its military regime, its covert assistance to the now defunct LTTE in Sri Lanka; its increasing activities in the Bay of Bengal, its attempts to isolate India in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) while keeping India out of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and its relentless efforts to increase its influence in Nepal and Bangladesh are all contentious issues. 
China’s efforts to develop port facilities in Myanmar (Hangyi), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Sri Lanka (Hambantota), in the Maldives and at Gwadar in Pakistan are seen by many Indian analysts as forming part of a “string of pearls” strategy to develop the capacity to dominate the Northern Indian Ocean region around 2015-20. It emerges quite clearly that a major ingredient of China’s grand strategy is its carefully orchestrated plan aimed at the strategic encirclement of India in the long-term to counter-balance India’s growing power and influence in Asia even as China engages India on the political and economic fronts in the short-term. 
China refuses to discuss nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) and nuclear risk-reduction measures (NRRMs) with India on the grounds that India is not a nuclear weapons state recognised by the NPT. China’s official position is that India should cap, roll-back and eliminate its nuclear weapons in terms of UNSC Resolution 1172. It would be in the interest of both countries to discuss nuclear CBMs and NRRMs so as to reduce the risk of inadvertent nuclear exchanges. 
The unstable security relationship and lack of progress on the resolution of the territorial dispute have the potential to act as a spoiler and will ultimately determine whether these Asian giants will clash or cooperate for mutual gains. China’s political, diplomatic and military aggressiveness at the tactical level is hampering further normalisation of relations. Therefore, a border conflict, though improbable, cannot be ruled out. 
The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.