Asia Scope

The Hype Around India-China Tensions

Having raised the issue of disputed territory in Asia yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to get an on-the-ground take on another dispute that has been simmering just below the headlines in Asia lately, between China and India.

Tensions sparked by accusations over border incursions and troop deployments along the Himalayan border between the two are being stoked by Indian media outlets (who have apparently been slapped down by the government) and a semi-official Chinese think tank that suggested in August that India should be split up.

I asked our India correspondent Madhav Nalapat for his view on the dispute. He told me:

“Although the territory occupied by the respective militaries since the 1962 Sino-Indian border war is a settled fact, thus far the PRC has refused repeated Indian requests for a formal agreement on the (so-called) Line of Actual Control that separates China from India. The reasons are (a) the desire of Beijing to keep a bargaining chip in future negotiations with India on the Dalai Lama issue and (b) the advantage an unsettled border gives to Pakistan, by necessitating the stationing of several divisions of troops along the Sino-Indian border that could otherwise potentially get shifted to the Indo-Pakistan border.

Thus far, thirteen rounds of high-level boundary talks have taken place between the PRC and India, each of which has foundered on Chinese insistence on more land.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Such obduracy has given oxygen to those policymakers in India who seek to join Japan and the US in a PRC-facing alliance. Unless both the Dalai Lama and the boundary issues get amicably settled between India and China, tensions between the two giants of Asia are likely to continue, and (in a post-Obama administration) eventually lead to an Asian version of NATO that combines the US, Canada, India, Japan, Singapore and Australia in a military alliance that would dwarf the power of the PLA for decades to come.”

Madhav is also putting together a piece for The Diplomat on India-Taiwan relations – a further twist to an already complicated issue. Indian policymakers including National Security Advisor M K Narayanan have been careful not to add fuel to the fire. But tamping media and blogosphere hype is no easy task for any country.