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'China-Pak relations are not hunky-dory'

Last updated on: November 24, 2006 22:33 IST
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Chinese President Hu Jintao left Mumbai for Islamabad on Thursday afternoon after a three day official visit to India. What did his visit -- the second ever by a Chinese head of state -- achieve? Did it ease some of the mutual suspicion? What are the Indian concerns? Raviprasad Narayanan, an expert on Chinese foreign policy and economic affairs at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, answers these questions.

Here is the transcript of the chat:

Dr Raviprasad Narayanan says, Hi friends am online

srinivas asked, Any discussion happened on Arunachal Pradesh? What is the Hu's team view on the border issue?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Srinivas you have asked the 'million dollar question'! What Ambassador Sun Yuxi stated is best to be taken as a 'negotiating posture.' For the Chinese as so eloquently stated by Sun Yuxi, Arunachal is theirs. I think one should see it as a 'maximalist' position adopted by the Chinese so as to generate some concessions if and when an eventual settlement takes place
genghis asked, Hi, what role do intellectuals like you have in formulating national policy? Does the Govt of India consult with you on China affairs?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Genghis, Thanks for the complement. The government in India does acknowledge the valuable contribution made by researchers and as is true of a democracy, most contentious issues are discussed threadbare in the public domain before any decision is finally taken.
ramananda asked, Hi Ravi, and welcome to the rediff chat. Does the Indian government have any thinktanks or specialists who are working on the border issue? I am sure the Chinese have lots of such people
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Hi Ram. There are several think tanks in India specialising on strategic and security affairs, but to the best of my knowledge there are very few serious studies being done on the border issue between India and China.
ravindra asked, china is firm in their stand that Arunachal Pradesh is their territory , so what's your view on this subject?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Ravindra, Arunachal is as much part of our country as is Mumbai or Chandigarh. The people of Arunachal are participants in our democratic experience and value being in the national mainstream.
Srikanth asked, Can India let Peoples Republic of China on Taiwan open a Consulate in India, as a bargaining chip to negotiate our border? This could be our 'maximalist' position?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Srikanth, I don't think that will be a very good idea. For your info the government in Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China on Taiwan. By resiling on our stated position that there is only 'One China' complications are bound to arise
rsg asked, Dr Narayanan, if you have visited China, as I am sure you must have, how does the Chinese on the street view India?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, To the average Chinese, knowlege of India remains rather poor. Buddhism, Hindi movies of the Raj Kapoor era and of late our expertise and success in software are three things most Chinese – I had rather say 'urban Chinese' know of our country
NJRamesh asked, Has India irrevocably accepted China's claim on Tibet or is there is scope for legal restoration of Tibet?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Ramesh, The last three joint declarations -- Vajpayee's 2003 visit, Wen Jiabao's 2005 visit and Hu Jintao's current visit have all seen the Indian government taking a position in the Joint Declaration that Tibet is part of China. The scope for legal restoration of Tibet is a spacious one as when the League of Nations was around and China was plagued by internal strife, the Tibetans perhaps did not seem it fit to ask for 'sovereign' status.
sunnu asked, Is it true that the 1962 war was forced upon China by India?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Sunnu, that depends on which kind of literature you want to get swayed with! Neville Maxwell and Alastair Lamb blame India squarely for its 'forward line policy' but several others argue that India was missing the signals coming from Beijing.
ramananda asked, India: unstable above, rock steady below. China: stable above, very unstable below. Is that a correct assessment?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Ramananda, Not quite. There are fissures below the monolithic calm that passes off for China. The reforms and gloss that one sees in the cities of the Eastern and Southern coast are just one face. The interiors are in many places dusty, sooty, grimy places straight out of Charles Dicken's novels. To quote a statistic, there were 89,000 incidents of 'public outrage' in China last year.
pkr asked, Dr narayanan, why do you think the Indian government is not sponsoring such studies on the border issue, as you say?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, pkr Because the truth can sometimes be a bit embarrassing. I say this because as a nation and a sovereign proud independent nation since 1947, why is that we do not know where our borders begin or even end. With all our neighbours we have had disputes over territory and there seems to be no national policy on how to go about resolving each one of them. If indeed, we are serious about settling border disputes then we should go about it methodically and assiduously and also a public debate.
ranjit asked, Dr Narayanan, Chinese seem well aware of the fact that they bit the hands of friendship in 1962. This time they talk of "Mutual Trust". We are all well aware of Chinese help to Pakistan in developing Pak's Nuclear ambitions. How can India move forward taking ground realities in the picture and at the same time "Trust China".
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Ranjit Semantics used in an official document are usually gloss and reflect the realpolitik that prevails. If China does continue to help Pakistan with nuclear materiel, it is also guided by certain rules and conventions. Being a member of the NSG, it has to share all vital information with other members and hence scope for skullduggery looks minimal. More than China helping Pakistan with nuclear materiel is the fact that even within China there are sections who oppose this policy by wondering aloud as to what is the 'nuclear sovereignty' status of Pakistan following the presence of US troops post 9/11. Not for once should one assume that all is hunky dory between China and Pakistan. There are contradictions in that relationship too.
chinese panda asked, What do you think of the Tibetan situation? Do you think we will reach a stage where we will kick out the Tibetan government in exile for the sake of better Sino-Indian relations? Is that the ultimate objective of the Chinese?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, The Tibetan question is an important one. The Dalai Lama has over the years diluted his stand from 'independence' to 'autonomy.' He has also through his emissaries held talks with the Chinese and to my knowledge four such rounds were held. The Indian government is aware of this. We are a democracy and we cannot ask the Tibetans to leave or take drastic action against them. As along as they are in India we will treat them as our own and offer them all rights to live life with dignity and honour.
rsg asked, Sir, what is the actual status of the border talks at present? Have our so-called special representatives managed to achieve something?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, rsg The Special Representatives discussions are revealed sadly only by terse one line or one para releases by the respective governments. Perhaps our government should reveal more so that some information trickles down.
Yogesh asked, What are main benefits of this visit?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Yogesh, First, regular high level political exchanges instill some kind of robustness to the relationship Second, while acknowledging differences over the boundary other aspects of the relationship are encouraged to grow. Third, a realisation that both the countries are at the cusp of history - development over disagreements
DragonFly asked, As an expert who knows both Chinese and Indian cultures - could you please explain why Indian culture is soft and mushy, not hard nosed and hard headed like the Chinese? Does this explain the growing "economic achievement gap and the gaps in the perception of China as a superpower and India as a developing country?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, DragonFly, We are a lively participative democracy tolerant of all cultures and inclusive to all religions, ethnicities and languages. Our culture is assimilative and unique. I live it every day. It would indeed be a pity if Chinese culture were to be seen as being hard nosed and hard headed. DragonFly, cultures incidentally predate the nation state!
pkr asked, Also, how do you think the demise of the current Dalai Lama impact the Tibetan movement in India?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, pkr Definitely. If such a thing were to happen, the Tibetan movement is going to fracture further. The Dalai Lama realises this and has often tried to mediate between the different positions prevailing amongst the Tibetan diaspora. However the most encouraging aspect is that the Dalai Lama is still an inspiration to most Tibetans.
Srikanth asked, Is it true telecom firms Huawei and ZTE are part owned by the PLA? Is this where M K Narayanan, NSA is coming from in opposing these entities?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, One did come across reports that Huawei was part of the PLA 'conglomerate.' How far the PLA is involved in its operations is a wild guess though. Since the 1980s were a period when the PLA was facing budgetary cuts they diversified into commercial ventures and the tentacles that grew then are still around!
NJRamesh asked, Indians rooted for China's entry into Security Council, India strove for their entry into WTO. There has been no reciprocal response from China. Why are Indian policy thinkers unable to square up with reality? Where does the weakness lie?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, I think our weakness lies in not being able to differentiate between 'realpolitik' and 'idealpolitik.' The days when favours done amongst sovereigns and states are history as we all know. Practical diplomacy is a game where interests are articulated and the means adopted are done to enhance those very interests. As a rather young nation we are learning the 'game' and in a fast changing world we seem to have adapted well. For instance if one were to encounter Chinese scholars all that they wonder is how did Indian diplomacy pull off the 'Indo- US' nuclear deal on such favourable terms? Some food for thought!
NJRamesh asked, Is China's expansionist policy rooted in some kind of Marxist dialectics or is it a product of their eco-strategic needs or some kind of foundational need to accord themselves legitimacy by preserving their sense of civilisational continuity?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, NJ Ramesh Competing explanations are there to your query. The 'civilisational' school of thought says that China has remained a civilisation for the past XXXX years etc. The Historical/Cultural School says that China's cultural and historical traditions are in their very case proof of China's legitimacy and influence. The Communists in their historiography stretched the boundaries of China to include the maximum extent of China's territories citing 'the unfair treaties' China was subjected to. This methodology while criticising the 'outside powers' for their interference in China also sought to advance 'hurt nationalism' as a motivator in nation building. In a lighter vein may I add that more than Marxian dialectics this was an instance of 'interpreting socialism with Chinese characteristics'!
Srikanth asked, If no agreement is reached before the Dalai Lama's death, can anybody else achieve it? Will it not be a lost opportunity for China forever?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, It would undoubtedly be a pity if the Chinese were to miss an opportunity to talk to the Dalai Lama. He undoubtedly represents the moderate voice amenable to reason.
Gautam asked, Hi! Dr. Ravi, do you really believe that India can overtake China in GDP by 2020?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Gautam, I don't think so. If we can manage to post a growth rate of around 8.5 percent to 10 percent for the next 25 years then it is likely that we can overtake China. For the last 24 years we have clocked a surprisingly good 5.5 percent on an average and we just have to shift gears.
venkat asked, Dr Ravi ..Will there be another war possible with China in future because of land dispute?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, It would be a sorry day if that were to happen. Let me assure you that the Chinese do not for a moment think that the Indian armed forces of 2006 are the same as of 1962. We are better trained, motivated and equipped to face any threat and expel anyone willing to launch any such misadventure.
SUMAN asked, what can we learn from china as far as managing relations with US is concerned?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Engagement is the key word. Just as how the Chinese have engaged the US economically, politically, diplomatically, culturally we have to do the same with China. We of course have our differences, but that does not have to affect other aspects. Looking at Sino-Indian relations from the prism of strategic and security affairs is but one aspect. We need to have the temperament and rigour to study Chinese land reforms, bureaucratic decision making, industrial restructuring etc to understand how is it that they have managed to do well despite being a one party state with an ideology that has been discredited in most other parts
Gautam Agarwal asked, Sir, how much is it true that most part of rural China is still languishing and is no better condition than ours?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Rural China is the poor cousin in China's process of development. While there has been some improvement in living standards a lot needs to be done. Many villages have to be accessed by dirt tracks and infrastructure needs to be upgraded. Yes, provinces like Gansu and Shanxi and even Guizhou close to Vietnam are mush like the underdeveloped parts of our country.
vksharma asked, Raviji Don't you agree that like China we should adopt the one child norm and also do away with all forms of reservation either on the basis of religion/caste/gender etc.
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, vk Sharma No! As a democracy do you think the government can force us to go in for the 'one child norm.' Even in China in the rural areas compliance is minimal to such a norm and it is estimated that close to 150 million Chinese are not in the enumerated list!
RaviFromHyderabad asked, "I don't think that will be a very good idea. For your info, the government in Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China on Taiwan." I disagree with your statement. Taiwan is a very valid chip in the Aksai Chin debate with China.
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Ravi, Of course you have the right to disagree. I wrote that as that is what the visa the Taiwanese issue carries for official name! The issue of declaring themselves "Taiwan' is a domestic political issue which like all mature democracies they are debating.
chinese panda asked, I read somewhere that the Chinese are studying our democratic system of government quite you think you'll get to see democracy as we know coming to China in your lifetime, and would that necessarily be good or bad for China, and for the rest of the world?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, If and when that happens it will be 'Democracy with Chinese characteristics' knowing the Chinese penchant for everything Chinese!
ramananda asked, Ravi, what are your views on outfits like the Falun Gong/Dafa etc? Do they have any impact on China's politics?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, Ram, With economic progress the Chinese have come around to accept the view that religion is something that has to be tolerated at the individual level. The Communist Party however gets unnerved if a group of people were to assemble spouting a religious cause and they react very harshly by suppressing it. The Party, I personally feel is also realising that a little bit of religious freedom can be 'handled.'
ynagarjunaprasad asked, Dr Ravi, what is 'difficult and complex' relations between India and China at this stage?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers,  1. 'The border issue' 2. 'Trust Deficit' 3. '1962'
rsg asked, follow up to Indian's question: How will the admission of China as an 'observer' impact SAARC?
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, My personal take on the admission of China into SAARC is as follows: Within the next couple of years if trade levels are any indication then China will be the single largest reading partner with all the member countries of SAARC, excluding Afgahnistan and Bhutan. This could lead to a situation where the India centric SAARC could morph into a China influenced one. Are we prepared for this tectonic development?
Swaraj asked, Dear Sir, Clearly China has a vision, and thereby its sphere of influence is growing rapid and in very sensitive regions of the world (Middle East and North Africa) which could be counter productive to Indian Interest. So said, do you think India, to protect its interests, should start thinking about aligning itself with historical allies like Japan and strategise its own expansionist agenda and force its self directly/covertly into Tibet? Then, probably India may find itself in a good position at the negotiation table talking Aksai-chin, Bramaputra or Arunachal
Dr Raviprasad Narayanan answers, India is definitely aware of how to project its interests. Subtle nuances have been made in our foreign policy and India-Japan relations are better than ever before. Gone are the days when the Japanese would not talk to us as we had tested our nuclear device in 1998. Covert action in Tibet is a lost cause. The CIA with Indian help according to documents available in the public domain was active until 1974. The movement just fizzled out.

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