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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 39, September 20, 2014

Xi Jinping Visit and Some Relevant Facts

Monday 22 September 2014, by Barun Das Gupta


During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India, a series of agreements—aimed at enhan-cing Chinese cooperation with India—have been signed. However, while a detailed assessment of the visit will take some time, the following relevant facts need to be borne in mind.

1. The fact that the Chinese President was staying in India as a guest, did not deter the PLA from escalating the level of confrontation with the Indian Army in Ladakh, especially at Chumar.

2. Beijing seems bent on dislodging the Indian Army from Chumar. They tried to do so earlier also on several occasions. The strategic location of Chumar enables the Indian Army to ‘see’ deep inside Chinese (that is, Tibetan) territory which is a matter of great inconvenience for China. China is determined to gain control of Chumar.

3. Both the Indian and Chinese sides say that the border violations are taking place because of the difference in ‘perception’ of where the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) lies. Both sides ignore the fact that India and China had earlier agreed not to advance beyond the points they are actually holding now — irrespective of their ‘perception’ of the exact location of the Line.

4. Indian markets have been flooded with Chinese goods. But correspondingly, China has not opened its markets for access by Indian exporters. India’s trade deficit in bilateral trade with China is currently close to $ 40 billion. China is now going to invest more in India. This will only put India in a more disadvantageous position vis-à-vis China.

5. China’s ambition to emerge as the sole superpower by the middle of the present century, supplanting the USA, is the driving force of the Chinese policy—in the realms of politics, economics and military strength.

6. India is trying to keep pace with China in strengthening its defence capabilities. On January 9, 2014, China for the first time secretly test-flighted its hypersonic missile. The second test flight was conducted on August 7. A hypersonic missile is one which travels four times faster than the speed of sound or has a speed of over 4 Mach. The Chinese hypersonic missile Wu-14, attained a speed of 10 Mach, or ten times the speed of sound.

7. According to an article written by J. Michael Cole and published in The Diplomat of August 20, 2014, India has also joined the race, secretly, with the US and Russia in developing its hypersonic missile as a deterrent.

8. The main rivalry between India and China is in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) where India currently has a stronger presence. China wants to surpass India in naval strength and turn into a real Blue-Water Navy so as to dominate the IOR and therefore all the maritime trade routes in Asia.

9. China is aware of the fact that India has already embarked on two ambitious naval projects to neutralize the growing presence of the Chinese navy in both the east and the west coasts. These are Project Seabird on the western coast and Project Varsha on the eastern court.

9A. Project Seabird is located at Karwar in coastal Karnataka. It will be completed by 2025 and operate on the western coast. Once completed, it will become India’s biggest naval base.

9B. The other is Project Varsha, 50 kms to the south of Visakhapatnam, the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. It is being built as an answer to China’s massive underground nuclear submarine base at Yalong on the southernmost tip of Hainan Island.

When completed, Project Varsha will have underground pens or bunkers to protect our nuclear submarines both from spy satellites and enemy air attacks. This sprawling naval base will be spread over 20 kms. Project Varsha is meant to bolster Indian Navy’s force-level on the eastern sea-board, specifically with an eye on China—to counter China’s expanding footprint in the entire Indian Ocean Region.

10. This is the perspective of long-term India-China relations. It is not confined only to our border disputes in Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh, or the ‘perception’ of the exact location of Line of Actual Control. It is against this perspective that China’s frantic efforts to secure a naval base in the Maldives should be viewed and understood. China considers India to be the biggest obstacle to establishing its hegemony in Asia. A resolution of the border dispute, or even a status quo, will not be possible, howsoever we may try. China looks upon and will continue to look upon India as an adversary and treat her with implacable hostility.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.