By Long Xingchun
China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs announced earlier this month that it has standardized the names of six places in South Tibet. “The competent authorities in charge of managing China’s geographical names were exercising their lawful rights in publicly releasing these names in accordance with Regulations on the Management of Geographical Names and relevant regulations of the State Council. It is legitimate and appropriate,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said. However, Indian media outlets believe the move is China’s revenge against the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to the disputed region on the China-India border. The standardization of names demonstrates China is less likely to make concessions in border negotiations with India.
Border disputes are core conflicts between Beijing and New Delhi. The 1962 Sino-Indian border clashes turned the friendly bilateral relationship into confrontation. The bilateral relationship didn’t return to normal until 1988 when then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing. The two sides inked the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas in 1993.
Since the mechanism of the Special Representatives’ Meeting for the China-India Boundary Question was established in 2003, China and India have held 19 rounds of border talks. Both sides have kept border disputes under control and prevented them from impacting their diplomatic bilateral ties.
The two countries should exercise restraint on border disputes so as to maintain peace and tranquility, and in the meantime, create favorable conditions for negotiations. However, New Delhi has arranged the Dalai Lama to visit the disputed area several times, attempting to strengthen control over South Tibet. Beijing, for the sake of friendly ties with New Delhi, only lodged diplomatic representations rather than taking retaliatory measures against India’s provocations.
The Beijing-New Delhi relationship has encountered two “friction points” since 2016. India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was turned down by NSG members, including China, as New Delhi refused to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
However, the Indian government and media outlets attribute the failure to China’s objection.
In addition, China put a technical hold on India’s proposal at the UN to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist. The two events have triggered anti-China protests in India. The Indian government allowed and even encouraged its public to boycott Chinese goods, and has arranged the Dalai Lama’s visit to South Tibet as a reprisal against Beijing.
In fact, the Chinese government attaches great importance to its relationship with India. Beijing wants to work together with New Delhi to keep the conflicts under control, stabilize the bilateral relations, enhance economic cooperation and encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in India. These are beneficial to Modi’s “Made in India” ambition and the country’s economic development.
Some Indian scholars understand China’s stance on the issues of NSG and Azhar, and believe that India is free to express its dissatisfactions but it’s not necessary to deteriorate its relations with China.
A few other Indian observers argue that the Modi government is utilizing the two issues to instigate domestic nationalist sentiments so as to win more support in the next election.
India’s behaviors are obviously connected to the international situation. The US viewed India as a pillar of its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific strategy, and attempted to tie New Delhi to its chariot; Tokyo has been pushing to establish an alliance with the US, Australia and India to counter an “aggressive” Beijing.
Given the above, some Indians believe China would try to draw India to its side and won’t take retaliatory measures against India’s provocations. However, the Sino-US relationship has experienced an upward surge since US President Donald Trump assumed office, and Japan has limited capability and confidence to confront China.
Some radical Indians believe India’s military strength has seen rapid growth and are eager to triumph over China in potential armed clashes. In fact, India had more advantages in 1962, and it should learn from its erroneous strategic judgments and carefully evaluate the current international situation.
In fact, both sides need to have more strategic communications to promote cooperation, maintain regional peace and stability.
(The author is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University. email@example.com)
New Delhi must avoid turning Sino-Indian ties into confrontation
By Long Xingchun