By Cheng Ruisheng
The Tribune, 24 October
On April 1, 1950, India became the first country among non-socialist countries to establish diplomatic relations with New China. From 1950 to 1958, China-India relations witnessed a very friendly period of “honey-moon”, with the slogan of “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” resounding across the land of both countries. However, it was indeed very unfortunate that China-India relations sharply deteriorated after 1959 owing to their differences on the Tibet question and China-India boundary question and under the influence of a number of complicated factors, both international and internal, leading to the border conflict in 1962 and confrontation between the two countries for more than ten years. Since 1976, China-India relations have gradually improved. In 1988, the visit of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China became a major turning point for China-India relations, which entered a new period of overall restoration and development after that, with only a short setback in 1998 after India’s nuclear tests. With the beginning of the new century, a rapid development of China-India relations was achieved and a Strategic and Cooperative Partnership was established in 2005.
In general, India is one of China’s neighbours whose relations with China witnessed big ups and downs after the founding of New China. It will be very beneficial to sum up some experiences and enlightenments from the tortuous course of China-India relations.
Harmony is precious
Through reviewing the history of sixty years of diplomatic relations between China and India and making comparisons of those different periods of friendship, confrontation and renewal of friendship, a conclusion of incomparable importance for both governments and peoples could be obtained, i.e. harmony is precious.
Friendly relations between China and India from 1950 to 1958 brought out great gains, either from the angle of peaceful construction of both countries or from the angle of safeguarding peace in Asia and the world.
(1) During Premier Zhou Enlai’s visit to India in 1954, both sides fixed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence as guiding principles for China-India relations. At the end of that year, Indian Prime Minister Nehru paid a visit to China, holding very good talks with Chairman Mao Tzedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. In 1956, Premier Zhou Enlai paid another visit to India. All these events led to a high tide of friendship between China and India which had been unprecedented in the history. It was during this period that India gave up its special privileges in Tibet.
(2) China-India friendly relations were conducive to creating a peaceful environment necessary for the peaceful construction of both countries, which had won independence not yet long before.
(3) Maintaining friendly relations with both India and Pakistan, China adopted a neutral stand on the Kashmir question. It was shown that China-India relations were helpful to safeguarding peace and stability in South Asia.
(4) China and India had very good cooperation in international affairs. Take the Bandung Conference in 1955 as an example. Before the conference, both India and Burma (now Myanma) took a firm stand that China should take part in the conference. And at the conference, Nehru made a number of efforts to support Zhou Enlai, giving a helping hand to New China which had just ascended the international stage.
In sharp contrast to the above period, the deterioration of China-India relations and the confrontation between the two countries from 1959 to 1976 caused enormous losses.
1. The China-India border conflict in 1962 brought about serious damage to the friendship between the Chinese and Indian peoples and a long-term suspension of friendly exchanges between the two countries. The shadow of this conflict has not fully vanished even today..
2. The long-term confrontation between the two countries caused great drain on the resources of both countries, negatively affecting peaceful development of both countries.
3. Along with the deterioration of China-India relations, relations between
China and Pakistan were rapidly strengthened, with the result that India had to face a two-front unfavorable strategic environment. And due to the continued improvement of relations between India and the Soviet Union and the formation of an alliance between them, China, whose relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated at that time, also had to face a two-front disadvantageous strategic environment. After the U.S. President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, there emerged in South Asia the confrontation between China, Pakistan and the United States on the one side and India and the Soviet Union on the other side, giving rise to a serious threat to peace in Asia and the world.
Since 1976, China-India relations were gradually restored and improved and witnessed greater development in this new century, producing very encouraging “bonus”.
(1) Both China and India are two neighboring countries on a fast rise among newly emerging countries. The friendly cooperation between the two countries would offer an indispensable and important guarantee to their peaceful rise.
(2) With the swift development of trade and economic relations between China and India, China has become one of the biggest trade partners of India. Since both China and India have quite similar national conditions, they could learn from each other’s strong points to offset their own weaknesses in the fields of economic and social development. It is well known that China’s hardware and India’s software have mutual complementarity.
(3) China has developed friendly relations with both India and Pakistan in a separate way, while trilateral relations between China, India and the United States have maintained a general balance. These are conducive to stability in South Asia.
(4) Both China and India have common stands on a number of major international questions. With both countries taking part in more and more regional and international regimes, they support each other on many important questions such as the climate change.
It can be seen from the above comparison that it is not an empty talk that China-India friendly relations are in conformity with the fundamental interests of the two peoples. That harmony is precious has more and more become a common understanding of both governments and peoples.
The policy of good-neighborliness and friendship adopted by both China and India towards each other at present has its rich and important connotation.
1. Both sides, viewing China-India relations as one of their most important bilateral relations, have raised the level of their relations higher and higher. In 2005, both sides announced that they agreed to establish a China-India Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. This should be the fundamental starting point for both sides to deal with various specific questions between the two countries.
2. Both sides have reaffirmed in official documents that the common interests of both countries outweigh their differences and the two countries are not a threat to each other. Both sides have decided to settle their differences through peaceful and friendly consultations, without using or threatening to use force against each other. In view of the armed conflict between the two countries in 1962, this policy adopted by both sides has very important significance.
3. On the China-India boundary question, both sides have agreed to a policy of seeking a political settlement and have undertaken that while seeking ways and means to settle the boundary question, both sides would develop their relations actively in other fields. Both sides have also agreed that pending an ultimate settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.
4. India has readjusted its original stand of recognizing Tibet as an “autonomous region” of China to the present stand of recognizing that “the Tibet Autonomous Region is part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China” and has undertaken that it does not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India. China has recognized Sikkim to be part of India’s territory.
5. Both sides have adopted a policy of actively promoting friendly exchanges in all fields, so that friendly exchanges between the governments, political parties, parliaments, armed forces, industrial and commercial circles, cultural circles, youths and civil organizations of the two countries have continuously increased. Both sides have attached much importance to their trade and economic cooperation, with the result that trade and economic relations have witnessed a swift development.
6. China has adopted a policy of developing friendly relations with India on the one hand, and with Pakistan and other South Asian countries on the other in a separate way and has expressed its desire that South Asian countries could be friendly with each other. China has tried hard to persuade the relevant parties to become reconciled when conflicts occur between India and Pakistan or between India and other South Asian countries. This policy of China is conducive to peace and stability in South Asia. However, up to now, a small number of people in India still consider that it is for “encircling” and “containing” India that China has been developing its relations with Pakistan and other South Asian countries. What is the truth? It has already been more than twenty years since China adopted the above policy. What people can see is that China-India relations have been greatly improved and developed in this period and can not find any kind of “encircling” and “containing” India by China. Perhaps some friends in India are still worried. Then the best way is to continue their watching on this question.
7. In recent years, India’s diplomatic strategy has shown a certain degree of inclination towards the United States. However, India has still adhered to its policy of friendship with China, with the result that a general balance has been maintained in the trilateral relations between China, India and the United States.
‘China threat’ theory
The inadequacy of mutual trust between China and India has been mainly revealed through the fact that the “China threat” theory has been on rise again in India in recent years.
There are a number of factors leading to the inadequacy of mutual trust between China and India. Some are the questions left over from history while some are related to real politics. Thus the situation has been quite complicated.
The first factor is that no major breakthrough has been achieved on the China-India boundary question. Since 2003, a number of rounds of talks have already been held by the Special Representatives of the two governments. During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in April 2005, both governments signed the Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the China-India Boundary Question, thus laying a good foundation for both sides to realize the final solution of the boundary question. However, owing to the complicated nature of this question, it seems that there is still some difficulty to reach the final settlement. Since the impact of the 1962 border conflict between the two countries has not fully vanished, the Indian side still has considerable apprehension about China on the boundary question.
The second factor is that the economic gap between China and India has been widening. In recent years, both China and India have achieved quite fast economic growth, but China’s rate of growth has been higher than that of India, with the result that the economic gap between the two countries has been widening to some extent. Since India has all along had a quite strong motive of competing with China, it seems India has some worry over this question.
The third factor is the influence of geopolitics. Along with the development of China-India relations, the impact of geopolitical factors on China-India relations has been reduced gradually. However, these factors still play a role to some degree. India still has some apprehension on China’s relations with India’s neighbors, while China has also its concern on India’s military and security cooperation with countries like the United States and Japan.
The above factors are interwoven together instead of being isolated with each other, leading to a rather complicated situation. Therefore, time and patience are needed. At the same time it is advisable that both sides would attach much importance to this question and make more efforts to enhance their mutual trust in an active way.
In accordance with the situation of China-India relations and with reference to historical experiences of China’s relations with some other countries, if both sides could make greater efforts in the following three areas, it would play an important role in enhancing mutual trust between the two sides.
1. Judging from the situation in recent years, mutual visits and meetings in third countries between leaders of China and India could play a vital role in promoting the mutual trust between the two countries. Leaders at the highest level of both countries have cherished very much these opportunities of personal contacts and conducted in-depth exchange of views, from a strategic altitude, on ways and means to further develop relations between the two countries, offering some new thoughts and proposals and publishing some very important documents which have much significance in guiding the relations between the two countries, so that greater impetus has been given to the development of relations between the two countries. These mutual visits and meetings have also shown outstanding effects in dispelling the dark clouds which might appear sometimes in the sky of China-India friendship and promoting the confidence of both peoples in the future of their friendly relations.
2. The final settlement of China-India boundary question will be the most important key to greatly enhancing mutual trust between the two countries. Judging from the present situation of China-India relations, it seems conditions are already mature for the final settlement.
3. Both sides could also take more active steps to support each other on questions involving core interests of the other side. This would fully reflect the practical significance of their Strategic and Cooperative Partnership and play an important role in promoting mutual trust.
The situation in recent years has indicated that both sides have taken a number of steps in this respect with good effects. The main steps taken by the Indian side in support of China are: recognizing Tibet as part of China’s territory; taking resolute measures so that the Olympic torch passed through New Delhi successfully in April 2008. The main steps taken by the Chinese side in support of India are : recognizing Sikkim as part of India’s territory; making positive remarks on India’s desire to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council; taking a flexible attitude so that the resolution to lift nuclear embargo against India could be passed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Since both China and India are large countries very active in international arena, both sides could find a number of problems on which mutual support is needed in the future. If both sides could give more and more support to each other, the mutual trust between the two sides would certainly be greatly enhanced.
The writer is China’s former Ambassador to India
India-China trade in 2011 stood at US$ 73.90 billion, recording an increase of almost 20% over the previous year
India’s exports to China in 2011 reached US$ 23.41 billion, recording a growth of more than 23% when compared to year 2010
China’s exports to India in 2011 reached US$ 50.49 billion, recording an increase of 23.50% compared to 2010
The trade deficit for India in 2011 stood at US$ 27.08 billion
India-China trade for Jan-July, 2012 stood at US$ 39.53 billion, recording a decline of almost 5%
Trade deficit for India for Jan-July, 2012 stood at US$ 13.69 billion
Ores, cotton, copper, organic chemicals, gems and jewellery, plastics, salt, cement, boilers, machine parts, electric machinery, sound and TV equipment, animal or vegetable fats, iron and steel, raw hides and skins, leather
Nuclear reactors, machine parts, electric machinery, organic chemicals, fertilizers, iron and steel, plastics, optical and photo equipment, medical and surgical equipment.