30 October 2009, on the eve of the 124th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel India first Home Minister, Tibetan Parliamentary & Policy Research Centre and M.L.Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs jointly organised a seminar on "The current status of India-China relations" at India International Centre Annexe, New Delhi. The programme was mainly to understand the current status of India-China relations.
Presenters and subject experts such as Prof. Shrikanth Kondapalli (Professor in Chinese Studies at JNU), Prof. P.Stobdan (Senior Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses), Dr.Yeshi Choedon (Associate Professor in International Organization at JNU). The program was chaired by Former Foreign Secretary Mr.Kanwal Sibal.
In the introductory remarks by Prof. Madhuri Sondhi (Director of M. L. Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs), she briefly comments on the context of India-China relation and reminded the audience of Sardar Vallabhhai Patel famous letter to Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. She then shared her late husband M. L. Sondhi's deep interest in the Asia Pacific region, since the 60s, much before the region's name was coined. She further dwelled on his understanding about Asia as an area of significant during the cold war and quoted the speech he gave in 1989, "India has to become strong so that rest of Asia can be strong, we cannot be afraid of China but we cannot also frighten China, we have to take a stand and it has to be a principle one". She again quoted him as saying "we must have normalization with China but it cannot be achieved by appeasement but by negotiation in which India does not surrender her claim".
Later eminent speaker addressed the audience with their own perspective about the current status of India-China relations. According to Prof. Kondappalli there were lots of turbulence between the India and China in the last two and half years. The turbulence is reflective of some of the events that took place between the two, starting with Chinese ambassador comment in the CNN IBN that the whole of Arunchal Pradesh is a disputed territory and the Chinese have a claim on it. And the recent one being issuing visa to a group of people from Kashmir soured the relation further.
Undefined border is the root of the problem and whole idea of exchanging maps with each other and defining the line of actual control on the ground including pockets of the disputed territory was intended to get around this problem. However, as a part of China's larger strategy they have not defined the line of actual control between the two countries. He also talked about the resource competition and military deployment on both the sides.
Prof. P. Stopden dwelled on the recent incidents happened in the Demchok are of Ladakh region. However, he questioned the ongoing hype in media by using footages of the incidents occurred way back. He also opines that as when there is a leadership crisis in China, they tend to adopt this kind of tactics to divert the world's attention. He even quoted a Chinese official, who told him the cause of 1962 conflict was not because of India giving asylum to the Dalai Lama but because of internal crisis. He further talked about the need of development in the areas adjoining to the border between Sino-India and also brought the issue concerning Sikkim not showing as a part of India in the map issued by the Chinese government.
Dr. Yeshi Choedon dwelled on the recent events in Tibet and their impact on India-China Relations. Tibet issue had been regarded as a lost cause by 1970s but it has revived to recapture the international attention by 1980s due to combination of factors. Since then it has remained major irritant in Chinese foreign policy in general and India-China relations in particular. In Tibet issue is the manifestation of level of mistrust and apprehension in the relationship between the two emerging powers of the globalized world. And she added on the factors for revival the Tibet Issue, China's strategies and impact on India-China Relations.
Chair concluded the discussion with the following points:-
Resource competition and military deployment: This resource competition business is exaggerated to him because even India not in the game and we are not thinking strategically in those terms and is not that we don't have sufficient resources, simply it is a different kind of strategy and many people believe that China is making a mistake in doing what specially in the hydrocarbon sector. China military deployment and military infrastructure has been developing and they have been developing that for so many years and it is nothing unknown.
Enough space: this is racial position to take and good diplomatic position to take but the reality is that Chinese don't believe in this and they are intruding into our space. China is the one country that hurt our strategic interest the most by giving nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan.
Indian Ocean area: the Chinese are very concern about the Indian Ocean area because all their trade, all their hydrocarbon flows everything else comes through the Indian Ocean and India dominate the India Ocean.
He cannot visualize the conflict through proxy except Pakistan, but Pakistan has been in conflict with India long before. India relationship with China became what it is and Pakistan is continuing to confront. So he can't see any other proxy being used by China.
This is really genuinely surprising that Beijing municipal maps are showing Sikkim as part of India and not the maps issued by the government of China, this is serious matter and he think the Chinese are in serious breach of 2003 agreement.