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India and China must revisit their traditional mindset, JNU scholar

*The news story published in Global South Colloquy, quoting CPPR Senior Fellow, Muraleedharan Nair’s talk at the two-day international conference on “Engaging Rising China: Strategic Options for Emerging India” organised by the Institute for Contemporary Chinese Studies (ICCS), Mahatma Gandhi University in collaboration with the School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP) of the university and the Institute of Parliamentary Affairs, Government of Kerala

The traditional mindset of India and China needs to be revisited to look forward to developing a fruitful and cooperative bilateral relations, according to Dr. Swaran Singh, a leading International Relations expert and Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was delivering the valedictory address at the two-day international conference on “Engaging Rising China: Strategic Options for Emerging India” organised by the Institute for Contemporary Chinese Studies (ICCS), Mahatma Gandhi University in collaboration with the School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP) of the university and the Institute of Parliamentary Affairs, Government of Kerala today. Prof Singh said that societies in the contemporary world are reassessing their role in national and international affairs and consequently the people are willing to engage with each other in diverse and dynamic ways. The texture of international relations will change when leaders meet, as often as possible, while the same facility being strengthened for people to people contacts.

Professor Swaran Singh said that “during the last few years, the foreign policy of India has been engaging with new goal posts and it inevitably demands fresh interpretation of non-alignment. Today, India is absorbed in the policy of multi-alignment with sectoral cooperation across world powers on a range of issues. He said that though there is military asymmetry between India and China on the borders, both countries are now willing to engage with each other in an atmosphere of tranquility. In that sense, Doklam is a sign of future, he added.

Muraleedharan Nair, former Indian Consul in China, pointed out that “any solution to the vexed, quagmirical boundary issue between India and China can be reached only on the basis of major ‘give and take’ concessions by either side. The public sentiments on the issue in China notwithstanding, it might be comparatively easy for the Chinese leadership to sell the idea of ‘give and take’ to the Chinese people and the People’s Liberation Army. However, he posed the question whether, under the circumstances of “the scarred Indian national psyche, related Parliamentary resolutions, potential manipulations by the political opposition in the context of five yearly general elections, among other factors, will any sitting Indian prime minister risk his and his party’s political future by offering even minor concessions to China on the boundary issue.” He said that “when the permanent resolution of the India-China boundary dispute hinges on a ‘give and take’ package, the nation as a whole, and not the party in power alone, should take responsibility for any decisions on such deals. To this end, a detailed national debate on the subject needs to take place.” In his view, “to initiate such a discussion, the ideal starting point would be the formal declassification of the half a century old Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report on the 1962 Sino-Indian War, which could be preceded by a comprehensive review by a Joint Parliamentary Committee on which portions are to be continued to be kept confidential. Even if information of “current operational value” needs to be withheld as maintained by successive regimes, the people of India deserve to know the actual causes of the war and to what extent, if at all, are China’s claims on the boundary genuine so that a national consensus, difficult as it might be could be built. Only on the strength of such a consensus would the country’s leadership be able to take bold decisions on the subject, of course, not sacrificing our national interests in the process,” he added.

Col. Virendra Sahai Verma, Hon. Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi argued that “the snow desert of Aksai-Chin where not a leaf grows has a potential to resolve border dispute.” China had been in occupation of Indian claimed territory in Aksai-Chin and is claiming Arunachal Pradesh having named it as the Southern Tibet. However, “a long term way out for harmonious coexistence is possible by a settled and peaceful border. Militaries live in peace if the border is delimited and demarcated.” He said that “the McMahon line in Arunachal, except for minor adjustments needs to be accepted as the international border.” “The Aksai-Chin road would be non-negotiable for PRC as the State of Arunachal would be for India. A practical resolution has to be found which can protect vital interests of both India and China which are strong military powers with nuclear assists. Col. Verma recommended “a West to East line in almost dividing Aksai Chin in two half into its centre. A Lakhtak ridge which is an extension of Karakoram towards South East would serve the purpose. It is a water parting line, River Karakash flows north and River Indus towards south of the ridge. The north of the ridge which is main Aksai-Chin and through which Aksai-Chin road passes would become PRC territory. South of the ridge is Linzhithang be vacated by PRC and given to India. A resolution on above lines has a potential to resolve the long pending border dispute between China and India” he added.

Liang Meng, expert at the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, Wuhan University, China said that both “China and India take the core island countries in the Indian Ocean as important partners. However, it does not necessarily require building an exclusive regional construction or taking China as India’s rivalry. In fact, both India and China hope to build an open, inclusive, coordinated Indian Ocean regional system and attach importance to positive interaction with key countries. Meng pointed out that in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and India’s SAGAR Vision, “the two countries should work together to overcome a series of international, regional and national constraints and challenges, and to establish and develop cooperative relations.”

Scholars from China and India made presentations in different sessions.

Dr. AM Thomas, Director, SIRP, Dr. C.Vinodan, Director, ICCS also spoke. K.M. Seethi, Dean of Social Sciences, chaired the valedictory session of the Conference. Dr.MV Bijulal welcomed and Cyriac S. proposed vote of thanks.

This news story can be read at Global South Colloquy