India conducted five nuclear tests over two days on May 11 and 13, 1998, and declared itself a state armed with nuclear weapons. Since then, India’s nuclear deterrence has been effectively operationalised. With a pacifist strategic culture steeped in Gandhian non-violence, India is a reluctant nuclear power. It shares borders with China and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed neighbours, with both of which it has territorial disputes. India had sought but had been denied nuclear guarantees and had no option but to acquire nuclear weapons.
A clear-eyed assessment of the Prime Minister’s visit to China from 14 to 16 May must conclude that it has its pluses, no doubt, but there are also negatives that require attention. This will entail a detailed discussion on three major aspects of the visit: the border question, the economic engagement, and the broader strategy underlying the approaches of the two countries.
Prime Minister Modi has surprised his own people and, no doubt, external observers, by his foreign policy activism since he took office. In his year in power he has travelled abroad 16 times- and 19 if the forthcoming visits to China, Mongolia and South Korea are included- inviting some criticism that these peregrinations have meant less attention devoted to domestic affairs. This is misplaced criticism because today, with the change in the nature of diplomacy, the heads of governments play a critical role in external affairs.
The spring of 2015 was always going to be ‘hot’ in Afghanistan. The Taliban had already made clear their intention to bring the Ashraf Ghani government to its knees. It was also going to test the mettle of the Afghan National Army (ANA) which for the first time was going to face the Taliban without the support of the US-led ISAF. And if truth be told, things haven’t quite gone the way of the Afghan state.
Given the perceptions of a Janus-like character of India-China relations, it is well-nigh impossible to escape the past. Nor does one need to, considering the rich historical and cultural legacy that the two peoples have inherited. In the words of the late Chinese Indologist, Professor Ji Xianlin, India and China are天造地设(Tian Zao, Di She) (“Created by Heaven, Constructed by Earth”). Thus, the past will remain ever present in our current and future dealings. But do we have to be imprisoned in, or by, the past?
The South Asian region has been plagued by festering intra-regional disputes since its independence from colonial rule. The peoples of this region have been unable to progress towards self-fulfillment and self-realization of their latent potentials, held hostage as they have been for the past nearly seven decades to a legacy of sustained and seemingly irreconcilable mistrust and deep-seated suspicions. These malaises have been progressively exacerbated by a politics of division eschewing mutual accommodation and joint cooperation.
During his China visit, Prime Minister Modi has been unusually forthright in speaking about the problems that hold back the India-China relationship. He probably feels that his desire to strengthen ties with China being so clear, he has earned the confidence of the Chinese leaders enough to be able to pinpoint India’s concerns about some aspects of China’s policies that we find difficult to digest. This is a new approach Modi has fashioned. Our earlier approach has been to soft pedal differences, avoid airing them in public and pretend they are more manageable than they actually are.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have gone beyond the cautious approach usually advocated by the tightly-knit ‘China group’, an informal team of Sinologists in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in dealing with Beijing during his recently concluded China tour. In reminding the Chinese that there are “complex,” issues “holding back the relations,” Mr Modi was more than candid. He said in presence of Premier Li Keqiang: “I stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realizing full potential of our partnership.
The challenge facing India is the degree to which it should separate economic and security issues. China has huge financial resources and sectoral expertise that could be mobilised for India’s development. The CII has identified 18 sectors in which Chinese companies could invest and 5 areas in which we seek more openings for Indian products in the Chinese market. As against this, it should be noted that we have been discussing the opening of these 5 sectors with China for 10 years without success.