Sure, its the meeting of heads of state of Asia’s largest economies, yet maybe we shouldn’t be making such a big deal about it. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two day trip to Beijing from Moscow isn’t expected to bolster trade or solve our age old border issue. Its not expected either that the bonhomie between the brothers who share the Himalayas will significantly improve relations between our countries. Yes steps will be taken, deals signed and hands shaken in the glare of a million news flashes, but it will continue to be more of the same – diplomacy at her best.
We’re not trying to be pessimistic, but considering the sweet and sour relations our nations share, it will take much more than a milestone visit to alter history. Indian analysts especially don’t expect much to change with the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, much touted by the Chinese and expected to be signed during the visit. They however warn of one particular clause withing the BDCA, which states that No new construction can can take place along the Line of Actual Control. While the move is more political than military, China has the might to get India to agree to signing this clause because of her economic strength, however the agreement will severely jeopardize India’s plans on her side of the border. While both nations do favour a speedy and effective resolution to our border issue which has been a thorn in our relations, agreeing to dis empower a neighbour shouldn’t be ratified.
According to an opinion piece in the New Indian Express by Jayadeva Ranade, a member of the National Security Advisory Board and former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, Indian government The major military objective in the proposal relates to construction of border defences. “The PLA has completed construction and refurbishing border defences along the entire length of China’s border with India, including construction of roads along the length of the LAC, adequate accommodation for additional troops that may be inducted, and ammunition and storage dumps. Secure fibre-optic communications link each Chinese border post with the other and also their command posts and the rear echelon headquarters. The airfields yet to be built in and around the Tibet Autonomous Region are far to the rear of the LAC. Completion by China of its border defence network is a major factor prompting Beijing’s proposal to Delhi on border defence management. The proposal, in effect, suggests that neither side should patrol the LAC up to a specified depth on their own side or augment existing border defences or build new ones. This will effectively allow Chinese troops to establish a presence over Indian territories of interest because of increased intrusions, much like China is attempting in the Sea of Japan and South China Seas”.
Further, keeping in mind, China’s territorial testosterone levels, India is also weary of her aspirations along the Brahmaputra or Yarlung Tsangpo, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet. According to China’s new Energy Development Plan, which was made public in January, Beijing plans to construct several mega hydropower dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo to boost energy requirements and fuel her Go West Policy, while strategically moving away from a coal based energy nation to a more ergonomic and green hydro power. India is opposed to China’s ambitious US$62 billion south-north water diversion scheme, which will deprive millions downstream in India of both a source of livelihood and an elixir of life. A resolution will hopefully be on the anvil during Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit because the mere promise of agreeing to share rainfall and other data with India during Premier Li Keqiang’s visit did little to assuage the trust deficit felt i India.
The visit however, presents a ray of hope, one which means atleast that the line of communication between our nations are open and that our governments are happy to discuss issues in the open. Who knows this handshake over the Himalayas could be significant step in retrospect?