IPCS Discussion: Military Confidence Building Measures & India-China Relations
30 Apr, 2013 · 3901
Narayani Basu reports on the discussion of the book, "Military Confidence Building Measures and India-China Relations: Fighting Distrust"
The book, Military Confidence-Building and India-China Relations: Fighting Distrust is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) and the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS).
This is an area that needs to be studied with greater depth, especially since the military aspect can be a problematic one, depending on the ties between countries. With regard to India and China, there can be no doubt that India’s strategy in all aspects of foreign and economic policy is driven by the geostrategic presence of China. Given this factor, this book is a timely initiative which deals with many of the speaking silences on issues between both India and China, and has been contributed to by a diverse cross-section of authors.
Several lacunae exist in the handling of this issue by the authors of this book. The combined fallout of history and politics hampers the speed in which bridges can be built between the two countries: a key example being that of the border dispute, which has long been at the core of the diplomatic ructions between India and China. For India, solutions for political peace are mired in bureaucratic red tape. There is a strong need for India to project its own power, rather than remaining content on the sidelines of power politics. The lack of a concerted political will, aimed at finding solutions to repairing the trust deficit that exists between the two countries, will result in an acceptance of the status quo. For China, it is a question of the legacy of pivotal centrality, the fallout of Tiananmen, and authoritarian rule, which affects its stance on the world, including India. If one is to look at the situation through the prism of institutional truths, simply prescribing a new vision for moving forward is not enough unless that new vision is amply detailed. For this, the objectives of finding ways and means to build trust between India and China must be defined if a workable conflict resolution mechanism is to be developed.
While the writing of this book is a good initiative, it is still a collection of known facts, rather than a specific and uncharacteristic deviation from the norm. There is no doubt that both India and China share a trust deficit, but it is a deficit that exists across the spectrum of bilateral ties, not merely in the military sphere. While peace has prevailed between the two countries since 1962, in today’s context any military encounter would be both extremely costly and long-drawn out. Therefore, the overall trust deficit is the area that must be repaired. In this context, key issues such as nuclear proliferation, China’s relations with global ‘rogue’ states like North Korea, Iran and most importantly for India, Pakistan needs to be dealt with. This book does not deviate from the norm in addressing these issues, while the timing of its release calls for riskier stances to be taken in academia.
Lt. Gen (Retd.) A.S. Lamba
It is true that Indian strategy in all areas is driven by the China factor, however, it must also be noted that no confidence-building measures (CBMs) are possible between militarily asymmetric nations. Core issues like the border dispute, and geopolitical hotspots like Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), and China’s collusion with Pakistan has hampered the speedy reduction in the trust deficit between both countries.
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