Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hardball in Beijing

My comment on the denial of a visa to a senior Indian general appeared in Mail Today August 28, 2010. For a fuller analysis of the issue look in the blog down below dealing with the Chinese military.

THE CHINESE denial of a visa to Lieutenant- General B. S. Jaswal, may be to quote Churchill, “ a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. But its message is unambiguous — the Chinese, or at least its People’s Liberation Army ( PLA) wishes to play hardball with India, just as it is doing with the US.

But you can comprehend China’s anger at the US — manifested in Beijing’s refusal to host a pre- arranged visit of US defence secretary Robert Gates in June — as an outcome of a major US arms sale to Taiwan earlier this year.

However, its attitude towards India is inexplicable.

Jaswal, the chief of the northern command, has been denied a visa allegedly because Kashmir is disputed territory, but the chief of our eastern command, then Lt- Gen. V. K. Singh, was granted one for his August 2009 visit to China. The eastern command’s area of responsibility includes the state of Arunachal Pradesh, claimed in its entirety by China. Why would Beijing act on Islamabad’s behalf and not its own ?

New Delhi’s hurt and somewhat puzzled response is that “ We have an important, multifaceted and complex relationship with the Republic of China.” And that “ the visit has not taken place for “ certain reasons”, pleading that “ there must be sensitivity to each other’s concerns”. Actually Gates himself hit the nub of the problem in his reaction in July, when he observed that “ nearly all of the aspects of the relationship between the United States and China are moving forward in a positive direction, with the sole exception of the military- to- military relationship... the PLA is significantly less interested in this relationship than the political leadership of China.”

The problem is to first grasp that the denial of the visa is a PLA decision, not that of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs. It represents a dangerous loosening of the tight control that the Chinese Communist Party used to exercise over the PLA. This is what has led to a pattern of disturbing developments which have seen Beijing deliberately raise the temperature of China- Indian relations using one pretext or the other in the recent years.

Communist armies, and the PLA was no exception, were run through a dual authority system in which political commissars were attached to all formations at all levels to ensure ideological purity and to keep an eye on the military commanders. The professionalisation and modernisation of the PLA have led to a widening gap between the commissars and the military men in the PLA who are better educated and easily see through the party cant.

The problem goes all the way up to the Military Affairs Commission or the Central Military Commission which runs the PLA. Its earlier bosses ensured the party command over the gun.

Till the Deng Xiaoping era, the political leadership in the CMC and the senior commissars were Long March veterans who had an enormous depth of experience in planning and executing the PLA’s campaigns. But the current leadership beginning with Jiang Zemin and now Hu Jintao lack that experience and as is increasingly apparent, the authority to run the increasingly powerful PLA.


Anonymous said...

what is the probability that this is a retaliation of our PM meeting Dalai Lama ?

And how likely do you think of a indo-china war within the next decade , may be involving pakistan too?

If we take the economists seriously (and they often proved wrong in the past) then china's economy is likely to grow slower and india's faster. So in future the gap will be narrowing .

If China has any thought of an armed adventure then the windows will be closing down within next 5 to 10 years.

manoj joshi said...

My view is that this is an outcome of the PLA snatching the initiative on China's India policy. Though there are people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who say this is a coordinated move of the Chinese system.
Given the Chinese lead, it is unlikely that India can catch up in this century. But India has its own strengths and we are rapidly augmenting our resources on the Sino-Indian border.
I don't think China will contemplate an armed adventure, though it will try to use the kind of tactics they are displaying to keep us off-balance.

Anonymous said...

It is certainly likely that PLA is hijacking their india-policy. But what is the advantage of doing so ?

Too much of it may nudge India more towards USA - a prospect China may not relish . And this diplomatic spat seems to have no manifest advantage.

Of course armed forces probably don't take long political views.

I think it is possible (with suitable environment and reforms) but certainly not inevitable to catch up with China within the next 30 years.
There seems to be a consensus among economists that it is within India's ability to attain and sustain long term double digit growth, something which GOI is aiming for too.
And China's growth will slow down to 8-9%.

This , if happens roughly means India will able to triplicate it's gdp every decade and China will double it's gdp.
around 2030 the two economies will be comparable.

manoj joshi said...

We are in the realm of speculation when we refer to internal issues of the Chinese Communist Party. Some of it is baffling, but people involved in internecine fights often take illogical positions.
As for overtaking China, the first thing that is required is a self-awareness among India's politicians and bureaucrats that such a thing needs to be done. Right now but for a hand full, no one knows or cares and pursues policies on the basis of self or group advancement, rather than the larger national need.