India’s Interests at Stake in Relationship with China

Published on PINR, the Power and Interest News Report, by Harsh V. Pant, 30 July 2007.

3 excerpts: As India embarks on redefining its foreign policy priorities to match its growing weight in the international system, it has become imperative for Indian policymakers to learn from the country’s past in order to frame appropriate policies for the future. The Central Intelligence Agency recently declassified its decades-old documents, referred to as the “family jewels,” which included the CIA’s own assessment of the reasons behind India’s debacle in the 1962 Sino-Indian war. While the documents do not reveal any major new insight into the events, it reinforces some of the issues that India should not ignore …


… Yet, reading the documents and examining China’s behavior reveals that it was no different than the behavior of major powers across millennia. China was not betraying Nehru; it was simply looking after what it perceived to be its national interests and seeking aggrandizement of power and influence at the cost of India, its weaker neighbor and a possible challenger in the future. Nehru allowed India to be taken for a ride as he started believing in his own rhetoric of “Hindi-China bhai-bhai.” His foreign policy became divorced from the realities of power politics and the consequences for India were catastrophic.

Today, as China and India emerge as major powers in the global hierarchy, it is imperative that Indian policymakers take note of their history. The reality is that, even today, Indian foreign policy vis-ŕ-vis China remains mired in confusion, contradictions, and clichés. Leaving aside the question of the ability of Indian elites to think strategically on national security, in the case of India’s China policy it is not clear if the Indian political and foreign policy establishment understands the basic forces that shape and configure global politics …

… A rising China will not tolerate a rising India as its peer competitor. Even if a rising India does not have any intention of becoming a regional hegemon, China will try its best to contain India as it has already done to a large extent. It is this containment that India has to guard against. China’s intentions vis-ŕ-vis India may seem entirely peaceful at the moment, but that is largely irrelevant in the strategic scheme of politics. India should recognize that the future of Sino-Indian relations remain highly uncertain in large part due to the opacity in Chinese intentions … (full text).

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