Dealing with the Chinese – diplomacy and some amount of hard talk ..

Whenever it comes to dealing with China, there is always the concept that India always seems in reactive mode to whatever China did, almost in fear mode; atleast that is whatever the public message goes. Chinese troops come into Indian territory a long way, and the Government, in a public display of surrender, talks about diplomacy and this being a small event, not something to get worried over. For weeks, this continues, but the Government is not really able to make public pronouncements on this, although there might be a number of back-channel diplomatic events that may be tried by the Government. Finally, the Government is pushed into seemingly withdrawing the proposed visit of the Indian foreign minister to China, and then the Chinese withdraw from Indian territory. Now, what a Government does in terms of back channel steps and other moves can and should remain secret, but the public is entitled to feel that the Government was feeble and not able to do anything. Further reports that the Indian Government agreed to dismantle a forward post just increased that feeling, since there was a thought that to get Chinese troops to withdraw from India, it was necessary to remove an Indian post from its own forward territory. And then rivers such as the Brahmaputra come from Tibet, and India fears that China is looking to exploit the river for its own purpose, without caring for the needs of the north eastern states that depend on the river.
Chine of course plays a role in many other Indian diplomatic challenges. All around India in south Asia, a zone which India considers its sphere of influence, there is an increasing push by China to step in and cause irritations, which require deft diplomatic handling, but where one feels that the Indian Government is lacking. For example, even in countries such as Sri Lanka and Maldives, where the power of Indian influence should be unquestioned, China is stepping in and creating space for itself in the vacuum of Indian diplomatic efforts. Nepal is already seeing a cessation of Indian influence, and Pakistan of course will do whatever China wants. Burma is also under the influence of China, but there are signs that the current Government in Burma is trying to extricate itself from a strong bear hug of China.
What China fears the most is the presence of strong rivals such the United states, Japan, and the like. And it fears the most any discussion at all about Tibet. India has a lot of potential in this area, where it can pass on strong messages without provoking a strong response from China. So, a few more state level cultural and other meetings with the Dalai Lama can scare China immensely, and this can be done without any of the central ministers meeting him. Similarly, there are problems with doing explicit deals with the Japanese and the Americans, but there are ways around that. For quite some time, there are quests to do military games with Japan, US, Singapore, Australia, and agreeing to some of these can cause huge problems for the Chinese. Like Manmohan Singh currently visiting Japan, ministers can go often to Japan and spend time there, which is sure to send a message to China. Similarly, enhancing of trade with Taiwan can cause a scare to China, and also benefit India. Even in terms of some US military presence, the North East states have a tragic opportunity. During the Second World War, many British and American pilots died while trying to fly over the Himalayas to China, and there are ongoing quests to identify the remains of those missing. An enhancement of the Indian military effort with joint search missions with the Americans will seem like a humanitarian effort, get some public credit for India in the western world, and literally scare China to have the Americans in any form so close to their southern borders, so close to Tibet. All these steps would be seen as strategic decisions by the Indian Government, and these will get respect from the Chinese, since in the absence of respect, they will continue to treat the Indian border and the Indian military with contempt, and all of these steps are fairly cheap.

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