Troubling China-India ties
By BRAHMA CHELLANEY
VOL. 04, NO. 14, Jan 07 2011 (Poush 23, 2067)
The already fraught China-India relationship appears headed for more turbulent times as a result of the two giants' failure to make progress on resolving any of the issues that divide them. Earlier this month, during the first visit in more than four years of a Chinese leader to India, the two sides decided to kick all contentious issues down the road. Instead, Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh agreed to expand bilateral trade by two-thirds over the next five years.
But the trade relationship is anything but flattering for India, which is largely exporting primary commodities to China and importing finished products, as if it were the raw-material appendage of a
neocolonial Chinese economy. To make matters worse, India confronts a ballooning trade deficit with China and the dumping of Chinese goods that is systematically killing local manufacturing.
The focus on trade even as political disputes fester only plays into the Chinese agenda to gain bigger commercial benefits in India while being free to inflict greater strategic wounds on that country.
India-China relations have entered a particularly frosty spell, with New Delhi's warming relationship with Washington emboldening Beijing to up the ante through border provocations, resurrection of its
long-dormant claim to the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and diplomatic needling. After initially seeking greater cooperation to help dissuade New Delhi from moving closer to the U.S., Beijing shifted to a more-coercive approach following the mid-2005 U.S.-India defense framework agreement and nuclear deal.
Last year relations sank to their lowest political point in more than two decades when Beijing unleashed a psychological war, employing its state-run media and nationalistic Web sites to warn of another armed
conflict. The coarse rhetoric of the period leading up to the 1962 Chinese military attack also returned, with the Chinese Communist Party's broadsheet, People's Daily, for example, berating India for "recklessness and arrogance" and asking it to weigh "the consequences of a potential confrontation with China."
Since then, Beijing has picked territorial fights with other neighbors as well, kindling fears of an expansionist China across Asia.The only area where India-China relations have thrived is commerce. But the rapidly growing trade, far from helping to turn the page on old rifts, has been accompanied by greater Sino-Indian geopolitical rivalry and military tensions, resulting in India beefing up defenses. Tibet remains at the core of the Sino-Indian divide. While Chinese damming of international rivers has helped link water with land disputes, the 30-year-long negotiations to settle territorial feuds have hit a wall and gone off on a tangent.
Little surprise a 20-fold increase in trade in the past decade to $60 billion has yielded a more muscular Chinese policy. In fact, the more China's trade surplus with India has swelled — jumping from $2 billion
in 2002 to almost $20 billion this year — the greater has been its condescension toward India.
Trade in today's market-driven world is not constrained by political disputes or even strained ties, unless artificial political barriers have been erected, such as through sanctions. The China-India relations actually demonstrate that booming trade is no guarantee of moderation or restraint between states. Unless estranged neighbors fix their political relations, economics alone will not be enough to
create good will or stabilize their relationship.
Yet ignoring that lesson, China and India have left their political rows to future diplomacy to clear up, with Wen bluntly stating that sorting out the border disputes "will take a fairly long period of time." On the eve of his visit, Zhang Yan, the Chinese ambassador to India, publicly acknowledged that, "China-India relations are very fragile and very easy to be damaged and very difficult to repair."
Even as old rifts remain, new issues are roiling relations, including Chinese strategic projects and military presence in Pakistani-held Kashmir and a new policy by China (which occupies one-fifth of the original princely state of Jammu and Kashmir) to depict the Indian-administered portion of that state as de facto independent. It thus has been issuing visas to residents there on a separate leaf, not on their Indian passport. It also has stopped counting its 1,600-km border with Indian Kashmir as part of the frontier it shares with India.
In less than five years, China has gone from reviving the Arunachal Pradesh card to honing the Kashmir card against India. Thanks to China's growing strategic footprint in Pakistani-held Kashmir, India now faces Chinese troops on both flanks of its portion of Kashmir. Indeed, the deepening China-Pakistan nexus presents India with a two-front theater in the event of a war with either country.
China is unwilling to accept the territorial status quo, or enter into a river waters-sharing treaty as India has done with downriver Bangladesh and Pakistan. Yet it wants to focus relations increasingly on commerce, even pushing for a free-trade agreement. With the Western and Japanese markets racked by economic troubles, the Chinese export juggernaut needs a larger market share in India, the world's second fastest-growing economy.
But the current lopsided trade pattern — presenting a rising India as an African-style raw material source — is just not sustainable. China's proven iron-ore deposits, according to various international estimates, are more than 2 1/2 times that of India. Yet China is conserving its own reserves and importing iron ore in a major way from India, to which, in return, it exports value-added steel products. As India ramps up its own steel-producing capacity over the next five years, China will have dwindling access to Indian iron ore.
At present, China maintains nontrade barriers and other mechanisms that keep out higher-value Indian exports, such as information technology and pharmaceutical products; it exports to India double of
what it imports in value; it continues to blithely undercut Indian manufacturing despite a record number of antidumping cases against it by India in the World Trade Organization; and its foreign direct investment in India is so minuscule ($52 million in the past decade) as to be undetectable.
Such ties amount to lose-lose for India and win-win for China. As if to underline that such unequal commerce cannot override political concerns, India has refused to reaffirm its support for Beijing's sovereignty over Tibet and Taiwan. India had been periodically renewing its commitment to a "one China" policy, even as Beijing not only declined to make a reciprocal one-India pledge. But in a sign of the growing strains in ties, Wen left for his country's "all-weather" ally, Pakistan, with a joint communique in which India's one-China commitment was conspicuously missing.
Growing Chinese provocations have left New Delhi with little choice but to play hardball with Beijing. ( Japan Times)
Lured By Langtang
Dr. ARUNA UPRETI
I had heard a lot about Langtang and its beauty. So, when Ashok Bhurtyal from the Peoples Health Initiative (PHI) invited me to join his team to visit Langtang, I agreed.
“Are you sure you will have time to go with us?” Ashok asked several times to confirm I won’t change my mind about this long, difficult trip. I promised I was really eager to see the place which is so famous among trekkers.
Soon we were walking on the beautiful but difficult terrains from Syaphrubensi to Langtang. In eight hours, I was so tired that I asked Ashok why they had chosen to go so far? They could have organized their program somewhere near Kathmandu, perhaps a walk of 2 to 3 hours.
I was told that Langtang was chosen to start the first health camp and research activity. A public health student had done his undergraduate research when people had asked if his thesis would help the local people. The public health student felt that it was a moral duty to conduct health program in that part so that he could give back to the community which helped him to conduct the research. Warm welcome, nutritious food and open discussions involving the local villagers were very helpful for the student and his team (PHI) to finish that. At the same time, the profound beauty of Langtang was found to be so amazing for some of the health science (public health, medicine, pharmacy and nursing) students that they deiced to give back something to enjoy this beauty and to help villagers.
Ashok told me his first visit to Langtang was in May 2003, when he aimed at hard trekking and climbing small peaks. “Unable to resist the temptation posed by the beauty of the land, I went again in September that year. In 2004 I went twice to research people’s livelihood activities and the nature conservation efforts,” he said.
“In October-November 2005, on my descent from Mt. Langtang Lirung, I fell off into the river, injured heavily my arm and spent a scary and painful night by the side of the freezing river, gazing the stars. The next day, I managed to climb back to the trail and arrived at the nearest settlement. Villagers advised me to see a traditional orthopedic healer (Amchi ) . The healer fixed my arm bone, it worked!”
After this incident Ashok tried to find how the local Amchi (local doctor) did his job (which was like that of a medical doctor ) and also found that they had so much knowledge about the local herbs and people used that a lot in their daily lives. “In collaboration with medical students, we made it a point to visit Langtang at least once a year and to let people learn more about lives and local traditional herbs as well as to help people of the villages here” Ashok explained .
Indeed the program to help the people of Langtang went off quietly. It helped build the capacity of local people as well.
Ashok gave me more ideas about PHI work . “In March 2007, a landless peasant from Langtang joined Amchi training with assistance from PHI and a Tibetan medicine school in the Mt. Everest region. In May-June 2007, Langtang people and PHI started a campaign to improve health in Langtang. It was a mix of public health action and a medical camp. And then started the long-term program for improvement of health of villagers of Langtang.”
I was clearly able to see how people respected the members of PHI and how much they had hoped for their help. When the team came to the nearby village, the villagers were happy to greet it: “Wow, you have come again and brought doctors and medicines.” Villagers offered hot tea and even asked if we wanted to have the ‘local tea,’ that is, the home made wine.
It was amazing how kind people were to appreciate the good deeds. I was constantly thinking, “How the mighty river there could be brought to Kathmandu so that the people in there did not have to think about stealing water by water pumps at one O’Clock in the morning ( including myself) and how could we learn from the people of Langtang to clean our roads.”
Water falls in every corner of the long way to Langtang were astonishing and I hoped that for 2011, our government would be able to do some ads so that not only tourists but also Nepalese would be able to come to see these beautiful waterfalls, green trees, flowers and high mountains.
I remember Sri Lanka and Laos have some hills, mountains and small waterfalls. But the beautiful pictures of these places, prepared by the government, more alluring to the tourists. Friends from various countries were so happy that they were dancing near the waterfalls and looking so cheerful.
In Langtang, I was wondering if those tourists would come to Nepal. What would they say or do here? In fact I have not seen any ads of Langtang. Still the flow of tourists in this area is much. I was surprised that without much publicity, this place is so much visited. With better publicity and better road from Kathmandu to Dhunche and Syaphrubensi, how many more tourists (both Nepali and foreigners ) would come here?
I had to walk about 15 hours when I was coming back from Langtang to Syaphrubensi , which was of course a stupid idea as we had to walk through the jungle at 7 O’Clock to 9 O’ Clock in the dark and we were exhausted to death. Then my toe nails were broken. I suffered from pain for one whole week. Yet the beauty of this place is so enchanting that I will go there again with my family members to enjoy the water falls , to learn about local medical herbs and to talk to people about their lives and love stories, which is in every corner. (She writes on women and gender issue)