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Scrutinizing India and China Relations

Leading towards the path of Dharma for endeavoring humanity and inculcating the principles of righteousness, self- control, truthfulness and therefore, lighting the paths to guide our conduct.

India's Foreign Policy: A Historical outlook

Free India's Foreign Policy reflected many concerns within India and outside India also. The British Government had left behind so many international disputes as well as India internally had its own issues, related to the task of poverty alleviation, the devastated economy, the problems related to partition and the task to develop itself as a prosperous and a powerful nation. India has kept two things in mind while dealing with its foreign relations, first was to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all the nations and secondly to maintain peace and order with every nation.

India has never intervened in other country's internal affairs and always believed that violent retaliation, confrontation and aggressive measures only complicate the matter. So, India always focused more on peace and development and never tried to exacerbate any situation. India had always followed the principle of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means that the world is one family and we must live together in peace and harmony and work for our mutual benefits.

India's foreign policy reflected the noble ideals that inspired India's struggle for freedom. When India attained Independence, there was cold war going on between USA and USSR (presently Russia). There were developments like the establishment of UN, the creation of nuclear weapons, the emergence of communist China and the beginning of decolonization. So, it was a big challenge for India to pursue its national interests coinciding with the international ones.

Article 51 of the Indian Constitution also provides that the State shall endeavor to promote international peace and security, maintain tranquility between nations, respect the international laws and oblige with the treaties and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration.

Recently, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi referred to Atmanirbhar Bharat so as to make India self- reliant or self sustaining, pursuing policies that promote efficiency, equity and resilience. The law and IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that being self reliant doesn't mean being isolated from the world, the aim is to make India a bigger and important part of the Global economy. Some of the key slogans related to this are, Vocal for Local, Local for Global, and Make for World.

India's Policy Of Non-Alignment

From 1946 to 1964, the first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru played a crucial role in formulating and implementing India's foreign policy. He was always in favor of preserving the hard- earned sovereignty, protecting the territorial integrity and promoting economic development. For the accomplishment of these objectives Pt. Nehru adopted the strategy of non- alignment. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Bharatiya Jan Sangh, Swatantra party and many political parties who were opposed to communism believed that India should favor US because it was pro- democracy.

But Pt. Nehru was of the view that we must avoid any entanglement in power politics and must not join either of them. According to him, it was the ideal foreign policy approach as it gave a platform for newly independent developing nations to join together and preserve, protect and respect their autonomy.

He wanted to retain the peaceful co- existence and co-operation among the nations so as to prosper world peace. George Liska said that Non- alignment stands for distinguishing between right and wrong and supporting the right. It was indeed a policy of harmony and tranquility which was based on the idea that war is not inevitable and can be avoided.

On 29th April, 1954 the Panchsheel Treaty (Panch- Five, Sheel- Virtues) was signed between India and China which was the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, aiming to build a stronger relationship between the two countries. At that point of time, former PM Jawaharlal Nehru promoted the slogan of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai.

The Sino- Indian War

The Line of Actual Control (LAC) (4,056 km)
It is a loose demarcation line which separates the Indian and the Chinese controlled territories.

It was formed after the 1962 war. It has been divided into three sectors:

  1. Eastern Sector: which includes Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim
  2. Middle Sector: which includes Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh
  3. Western Sector: In Ladakh

China claimed two areas within the Indian Territory:

  • Aksai Chin Area Arunachal Pradesh area
  • (Ladakh) (North Eastern Frontier Agency)

This dispute exacerbated in the late 1950s when China built a strategic road in the Aksai China area, linking its autonomous region of Xinjiang with Tibet. In 1959 India granted asylum to Dalai Lama, which further increased the tensions between the two countries. Tibetans used to oppose the idea of China claiming Tibet as its part. The most prominent reason for the Sino Indian war was that China perceived India as a threat to its rule in Tibet, inflicted from the asylum of Dalai Lama in India.

China's assertiveness alarmed India to launch its Forward Policy in 1961, creating outpost behind the Chinese troops so as to force them to return to China. Deployments were made at several posts but India never expected that China would indulge in full- fledged war, only prima facie thing was that China would engage in small skirmishes.

When the world was baffling with the two superpowers, China invaded in October 1962 on both the disputed regions, capturing some key areas in Arunachal Pradesh. People's Liberated Army of China invaded Ladakh and NEFA in a synchronized manner. It became difficult for India to endeavor such daunting situation. China managed to advance to the entry point of Assam plains and declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew its troops to the earlier position. It was a farrago of India's military preparedness and incautiousness in such a volatile situation.

The BJP Government in 2019 reconstituted the state of Jammu and Kashmir and made two Union Territories .i.e. Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. In the above map, the red color shows the area which is controlled by China, known as Aksai Chin. India lost this part to China in 1962 war. On the west or south western side, Karakoram Range is there. On the north and on the north and north eastern side, there's Kunlun Mountains.

Aksai Chin is administered by China but claimed by India as its part in Ladakh. Karakoram Range which separates Ladakh from Aksai Chin extends up to Afghanistan and Kazakhstan in the North Western direction. Galwan valley provides direct access to Aksai Chin from Ladakh, so it's very crucial.

In September, 1962 China illegally occupied some area of Galwan valley along the Karakoram Range. By the end of the war, the Chinese forces reached further inside and have since then claimed that Galwan Valley is a part of China. The G219 built by China in 1957 connecting the region of Xinjiang with Tibet was built without India's consent. China doesn't wanted India to have control over the dominating heights of the Karakoram Range so they curbed the movement of Indian troops from Ladakh.

Ultimately, the slogan of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai turned out to be a chimera. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had faith in China from the starting itself and had always tried to build peaceful relations not only with China but with other nations too. The actions of China have build lack of trust between the two nations and even today, we are in the middle of an unprecedented situation. Pt. Nehru had never expected that a country which he defended in international forum would ultimately attack India.

He miscalculated on China and Nehru's Asianism and non- alignment is also somewhat responsible for India and China's debacle. This point should also be considered that if he had chosen to be an ally of US, he could have taken on China better.

India becoming a Nuclear power

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had full faith in the science and technology for transforming India. He opposed nuclear weapons and wanted to generate atomic energy for peaceful purposes only. The five nuclear weapon powers, the US, USSR (now Russia), UK, France, and China (also the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council) tried to impose the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968. India refused to sign it as it was apparent that NPT was discriminatory, as it was selectively applicable to the non- nuclear powers, legitimizing the monopoly of the five nuclear weapon powers. In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, and thereby describing it as a peaceful nuclear explosion.

It was aptly titled as Smiling Buddha signifying that it was done not to threaten or to violate the world peace but to ensure its own safety and power in the comity of nations. Pokran-1 was significantly a landmark moment in India's journey of becoming a nuclear power. There was coordination between two institutions namely, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

It was an astonishing start by India, showcasing its remarkable spirit and intent, to develop itself as a nuclear power and to motivate other newly independent nations to take inspiration from India. India, with such untiring efforts and contribution, became the first non- permanent member of UN Security Council to conduct such a test under the leadership of the then PM Smt. Indira Gandhi and in 1998 the country became a full- fledged nuclear power.

Present face- off between India and China

India China relations continue to crumble; particularly this 2020 year has been particularly violent. The clash in Galwan valley was the fatal confrontation between the two countries where both sides suffered fatalities. Now, with the tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) refusing to end, despite of the marathon military and diplomatic- level talks, the question that arises in everyone's mind is quite obvious and frightful at the same time: Is 2020 another 1962?

Are we leading towards a dawn of hope or to a dark of ruin? India's External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, stated that this is, surely the most serious situation along the India China border after 1962.

There are some similarities also between the 1962 war and the present situation. For example in August 1959, after the first border clash between Indian and the Chinese troops, China said that India had crossed the McMohan Line and then opened fire and the Chinese border guards had fired back. Next day, there were protest against this statement and India clarified that it was the Chinese troops that had moved into the Indian Territory and opened fired. The current scenario is also somewhat same as both the sides are accusing each other of opening fire; both are blaming each other for the current standoff.

But, in 1962 there was this Tibet- factor looming over our ties. But, unlike in 1962, when India was not politically and militarily prepared for the war with China, the today's conflict is between the two nuclear powers.

Both the countries have reached to a 'five- point consensus' in Moscow, providing a ray of hope to solve the dispute. The LAC had always been a point of conflict between the two countries, but both sides have agreed on not to allow the differences to become disputes.

Abiding by all the existing agreements and building measures to maintain peace, both sides have agreed to strengthen the relation. The current situation between the two countries is not benefitting to any of them, so they have agreed on the point of disengaging the troops and easing the tension. It has been decided that both will continue the meetings for coordination, working on measures to build confidence to maintain peace.

Unraveling The History To Understand China's Strategy

The Five Finger Strategy:

The historical strategy must be put into light to understand the actions of China today. The Mao's Five Finger Strategy could be taken into account as to decode the real cause that has created the dispute between the two. People's Republic of China (PRC) has always kept aside the moral principles and tried to use its power to suppress other countries and gain control over them.

The Five Finger Strategy involves these five regions as its fingers:
  1. Arunachal Pradesh,
  2. Bhutan,
  3. Sikkim,
  4. Nepal and
  5. Ladakh

Considering Tibet as its palm. As an effort to secure its periphery, China sought to believe that if they gained control over these five territories then its territory would be safe.

The map denotes that how cleverly China has pointed out these 5 regions as the five fingers and Tibet as its palm to secure its territory. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was established by the Communist Party of China on 1st October, 1949. Subsequently, China occupied Tibet as to bring these five regions under its control. Since then both India and China faced military escalations along the Indo-Tibetan border. Being shifted to Sino- Indian border it has created unprecedented geopolitical enigma in the Himalayas.

Tibet, being the heart of the relations of the two countries, is vital for the national interest of both India and China. India has the right time now to craft a new Tibet policy, as the South Asia is being destabilized. No glimmer of hope could be seen between the two countries even after a series of meetings at various levels. There's no visible change in the ground as of now, so fresh boundary agreements must be made in order to solve this issue.

The immortal conversation
As India is confronting with a very strategically challenging situation, we must have a deep insight into our culture and the teachings of Dharma by Lord Shri Krishna in Mahabharata. India has being perceived as a nation with no real culture of strategic thinking; not being coherent about the decisions relating to national security.

To confront with all the dilemmas relating to justice, moral principles, international politics, etc, the teachings from the immortal conversation of Shri Krishna and Arjuna would help us to be more resilient while facing such situations. Lord Shri Krishna (being the Absolute truth, the ultimate strategic visionary, upholding Dharma) had always advised Arjuna to follow the path of Dharma by upholding righteous interest and to work for the welfare of humanity.

In terms of leading a nation state, we must protect the national interest from internal and external adversarial circumstances. Dharma in a broader sense means acting without any desire of material gains, without attachment, fear and external pressure. The doctrine of strategic autonomy could sustain the foreign policy. It focuses on reifying humanity, concerning the people.

As the verse taught by Lord Shri Krishna to Arjuna reflects:
Karman Yevadhikaras Te Ma Phales U Kadacana Ma Karma-Phala-Hetur Bhur Ma Te Sango 'Stv Akarmani….

We only have the right to act and we are not entitled to the result of our actions. We only have power to direct our actions. So we should never desire for the pleasant results as it creates bondage and bewilders the intelligence. So, Shri Krishna advises Arjuna to ACT without ATTACHMENT to the result.

It is the right path for peace and harmony, because supremacy could be finished at any moment and an individual may fall down again, so it becomes very crucial to give importance to moral principles.

Ahimsa Parmo Dharma, Dharma Himsa Tathaiva Cha (Non- violence is the path of righteousness but sometimes violence is also necessary for the service of dharma).
We must keep our moral principles alive while dealing with such situations and keep ourselves aloof from any such great power competition which is just meant to spread terror and to violate the world peace. Even, at times, violence is also required to maintain stability and tranquility in the world.

Promoting the larger righteous national interest should be our aim and to lead the world with new paradigms. Lord Buddha said that Dharma is the foundation stone of good governance so we must reflect upon ourselves and let the moral principles prevail in the world.

The Father Of Atomic Bomb Quoted Srimad Bhagavad Gita

The Scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (Father of the atomic bomb), who led the Manhattan project which led to the development of the first atomic weapons, thought of a verse from Bhagavad Gita, while witnessing the first nuclear test in 1945:
Divi Surya-Sahasraya Bhaved Yugapad Utthita Yadi Bhah Sadr Sis Sa Syad Bhasas Tasya Mahaht Manah (When Shri Krishna revealed his universal and divine form to Arjuna, it was an unimaginable phenomenon as if thousands of sun rising in the sky resembling the effulgence of The Supreme Personality of Godhead .i.e. Shri Krishna).

By supporting the development of nuclear weapons against fascism and opposing the thermonuclear hydrogen bomb during the cold war, he carved out a clear distinction between Dharma and Adharma. So, it becomes very crucial for us to reflect into it in the most inclusive sense.

Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
(Let the whole world be prosperous and peaceful)
Yatho Dharma Thatho Jayaha
(Where there is Justice, there is victory).


Leading a fulfilling life aligned with dharma… To be able to perform our duty and detach ourselves from the results is a better way of living a skilful and worthy life.

Written by: Samiksha Ahlawat - B.A.LL.B(Hons) Punjab University, Chandigarh.

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