India and China are the world’s two most populous countries. They share a 4,500-kilometer-long (2,800-mile-long) border, most of it between northern India and Tibet. Much of this border runs along the Himalayas, which forms a formidable barrier between the two countries. Not only is the border long it also touches the volatile areas of Tibet, Xinjiang, insurgent-plagued Assam in northeast India and Maoist Nepal. China and India have gotten along pretty for 5,000 years with the exception of 20 years between 1958 and 1978 when they adopted strong nationalist poses.Today, because India does not threaten the West it has powerful friends who the friendship on its own merits and as a counterweight to China.

India is a democracy with freedom of expression and China is communist state that restricts expression yet nearly half of Indians are illiterate, compared to 17 percent of Chinese, and nearly a third of Indian girls are not in school, compared to less than 10 percent among Chinese girls. China also has more computers and phones per person, better housing and better health care than India.

India is encouraged by increases in trade with China but sees it as too one-sided in China’s favor. It is also wary of China’s involvement in other South Asian states such as Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives and has been angered by the issue of special visas for residents of Kashmir because of its “disputed status.”

During the Cold War era, India was an ally of the Soviet Union while China was one of the Soviet Union's bitterest enemies. Not long after China and India became independent Nehru declared “Indians and Chinese are brothers.” Mao made a mockery of this when he invaded the Indian Himalayas. Nehru cultivated his friendship with Zhou Enlai, dismissed warnings that China posed a threat and abandoned strategies of defense used by the British against China. When he did awake to the theat posed by his cross-Himalayan neighbor his saber-rattling remarks provoked Beijing into calling India’s military bluff and inflicting a humiliating defeat. Nehru was decimated by the defeat. He never recovered and died two years later.

Today, many of the problems China and India face are similar, including corruption, rapid urbanization and the challenge of feeding hundreds of millions of poor citizens, but their institutions and approach are often very different, said Rukmani Gupta, a research fellow at India's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.


Tense Relations Between India and China

“The China-India border may be the second-most dangerous frontier in Asia after the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, John Pomfret, a journalist and author of "Chinese Lessons," said. "India is the only country defeated by Communist China in a war; they might be tempted to do it again," Pomfret said. "The Indians also might easily be lured by populist anti-China fever to do the same." Recent India-China misunderstandings have been compounded, Pomfret and other analysts said, by the growing autonomy of Chinese ministries. Where once they voiced a single party line, increasingly they espouse contradictory positions, making it more difficult to read Chinese intentions.

In May 2009, the chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi, now retired, told a prominent Indian newspaper that China posed a greater threat than Pakistan. Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research, a research organization in New Delhi, told the New York Times, The India-China frontier has become more “hot” than the India-Pakistan border. India has let it slip out that China was the main object of its nuclear tests.

The Indian government has said that it views China as more of a threat than Pakistan largely because it is not clear what China’s military capabilities are. According to the Economist, In India “a historic mistrust of China is deeply ingrained. India sees China as trying to undermine it at every level: preempting it in securing supplies of the energy both must import; through maneuvers to block a permanent seat for India in the United Nations Security Council; and, above all, through friendships with its smaller South Asian neighbors, notably Pakistan,...Autocrats in Beijing are contemptuous of India for its messy, indecisive democracy. But they must see it as a serious long-term rival---especially if it continues its tilt towards America.”

In June 2010, a Beijing waiter named Guan Liang---who claimed he was being harassed by the Chinese government over e-mails he sent complaining about human rights abuses in the Chinese military---sought asylum in India and walking across the border between China and Arunachal Pradesh, one of India’s most militarily sensitive states. The case created an unusual sensitive situation for China and India and may be the first case of a Chinese other than a Tibetan seeking asylum in India.

War Between India and China

The border area between Ladakh-India and Tibet-China, some of the world's most inhospitable and unlivable land, is disputed by the Indian and Chinese governments. In 1962, the world's two most populous nations went to war over it. Mao was leader of China and Nehru was the Prime Minister of India. Mao made a mockery of Nehru declaration that “Indians and Chinese are brothers” Zhou Enlai said the aim of the war was to “teach India a lesson.”

In the late fifties, after China invaded Tibet, China built outpost on the edge of Ladakh and a road that connected the region with Tibet and the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. In 1958 an Indian patrol was captured and Nehru sent soldiers into the Aksai, a desolate 8000-square-mile plateau occupied by China. China answered back with an offensive during October and November, 1962 and captured 2000 more square miles before a cease-fire was called.

It was tense time, with the world's two most popular nations at war. Trenches were dug in Calcutta and Delhi, and the Hindu festival of Lights was canceled out of fear that the lit up cities would be easy targets for Chinese air raids. Up until that time India had been a neutral country like Switzerland. [Source: W.E. Garret, National Geographic May 1963]

During the fighting more men died of altitude-induced heart failure and brain hemorrhages than gun shot wounds. Helicopters carried victims that were in such bad shape their skin had decayed away leaving only bones. Chinese soldiers were better prepared than their Indian counterparts. They had spent a year in Tibet getting acclimated to the cold and altitude.

India was worried that China was going to invade disputed and largely undefended region of Assam in far eastern India. At that time Assam was the home of rich jute and tea plantations that provided one forth of India's exports.

The United States supported India. The Kennedy administration feared that India might fall like domino and contemplated using nuclear weapons if China invaded India a second time. In one meeting Robert McNamara told Kennedy: “Any large Chinese Communist attack on any part of the area would require the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S., and this is to be preferred over the large number of U.S. soldiers.”

The Chinese invasion of India came just after the Cuban missile crisis and there was a real concern that China seriously threatened India. One of Kennedy’s advisors told him using nuclear weapons wasn’t such a wise move because it was “going to create problems with the Japanese” and “all the yellow people.”

Legacy of the 1962 War and the Ghost of Aksai

China captured 45,000 square kilometers of land---an area that makes up about 20 percent of Kashmir and includes a small area that Pakistan ceded to China---and has yet to relinquish any of it. A formal cease-fire line was never established. Even so the border remains mostly peaceful and "border peace and tranquilly" agreements were signed in 1993 and 1996. In 1995, China and India began withdrawing troops along the borders. Each side had a force with more than a 150,000 men.

The disputed area is reportedly inhabited by a ghost named Harbhajan Singh, a Sikh soldier who disappeared while on patrol in the 1960s. Chinese soldiers say they have seen him on high mountain ridges. Indian soldiers claim they have been woken by the ghost who is said to have achieved moksha (Sikh enlightenment). A shrine erected to Singh reportedly cures skin disease and an empty bed kept for him is often found rumpled.

After a general, who refused to visit Sigh's shrine, died in a helicopter crash, arrangements were made for Singh to get leave time like every other soldier. Periodically a vehicle owned by the commanding general picks up the ghost and takes him to a train station, where he catches a train to his homes in the Punjab accompanied by soldiers who shoos people from his seemingly empty seat.

Points of Contention Between India and China

China opposes India getting a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It claims Sikkim and 90,000 square kilometers of Arunachal Pradesh while India claims that 38,000 square kilometers of its territory in Kashmir that China took over in the 1960s. In the late 1980s there was fighting along the Tibetan border between China and India in the late 1980s. The Indian media has fanned tensions with sensational and often jingoistic reports.

India was angered by China's strategic alliance with Pakistan, nuclear support and sale of missiles and other weapons to Pakistan. China was concerned about India’s nuclear tests in 1998. India and the United States have a strategic partnership to maintain leverage over China. China maintains a strong ties with Pakistan and Bangladesh to keep pressure on India China supports the regime in Myanmar but India does not.

There is some friction between India and China over the presence of the Dalai Lama in India and Indian support of the Tibetan government in exile. After the Chinese invasion in 1950 many Tibetan refugees fled into India. The are currently 120,000 exiles from Tibet in India. The Dali Lama and many of the exiles make their home in Dharmasala, India.

The Indian military documented 270 border violations and 2,300 cases of “aggressive border patrolling” by the Chinese in 2008. In August 2010, India suspended defense exchanges with China when Beijing refused to grant a visa to a top Indian army general who is responsible for the disputed region of Kashmir. The move was largely seen as nod by China to its close ally Pakistan, which claims Kashmir as its own.

Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang and the India and China

Diplomatic relations were severed after the border war in the Himalayas in the 1960s and were not restored until 1976. China doesn’t recognize India’s 1975 annexation of Sikkim or India’s claim on the state of Arunachal Pradesh. and it rejects the McMahon Line drawn between Tibet and British India in 1914.

Both sides have beefed up their military presence along their borders. Chinese cross-border incursions nearly doubled from 140 in 2006 to 270 in 2008 according to Brahma Chellany of the New-Delhi-based Center for Policy research.

Beijing was angered by a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Aranachal Pradesh State in October 2009. Around that time Chinese border guards waved their guns at an India road crew building a road near the India-China border. The incident made front page news in India.

The Indian army, in terms of numbers, is third in the world behind China and the United States. It has 100,000 troops in disputed Arunachal Pradesh. According to the governor of Arunachal Pradesh and a retired chief of the Indian Army, India is in the process of adding two divisions of troops, totaling 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers, to the border region over the next several years. Four Sukhoi fighter jets have been deployed to a nearby air base. Some say that China hold on to its claim of Arunachal Pradesh is mainly as a bargaining chip.

China tried to block a $2.9 billion loan to India from the Asian Development Bank on the grounds that $60 million of the loan had been earmarked for flood-control projects in Arunachal Pradesh. It was the first time China had sought to influence the territorial dispute through a multilateral institution. Then the governor of Arunachal Pradesh announced that the Indian military was deploying extra troops and fighter jets in the area.[Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 3, 2009]

In November 2009, the Dalai Lama strained relations between China and India when he held a mass audience that attracted 30,000 people at Tawang monastery in the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh, a territory claimed by China. The Dalai Lama wields enormous influence over Tawang. He appoints the abbot of the powerful monastery and gives financial support to institutions throughout the area. Last year, the Dalai Lama announced for the first time that Tawang is a part of India, bolstering the India’s territorial claims and infuriating China. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 3, 2009]

Tawang is 35 kilometers from China, 500 kilometers from Lhasa, and 4,000 kilometers from Beijing. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “This is perhaps the most militarized Buddhist enclave in the world. Perched above 10,000 feet in the icy reaches of the eastern Himalayas, the town of Tawang is not only home to one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most sacred monasteries, but is also the site of a huge Indian military buildup. Convoys of army trucks haul howitzers along rutted mountain roads. Soldiers drill in muddy fields. Military bases appear every half-mile in the countryside, with watchtowers rising behind concertina wire...The Chinese Army has a big deployment at the border, at Bumla.

Tawang is a thickly forested area of white stupas and steep, terraced hillsides that is home to the Monpa people, who practice Tibetan Buddhism, speak a language similar to Tibetan and once paid tribute to rulers in Lhasa. The Sixth Dalai Lama was born here in the 17th century. The current Dalai Lama through this valley when he fled into exile in 1959.

The Chinese Army occupied Tawang briefly in 1962, during a war with India fought over this and other territories along the 2,521-mile border. More than 3,100 Indian soldiers and 700 Chinese soldiers were killed and thousands wounded in the border war. Memorials here highlighting Chinese aggression in Tawang are big draws for Indian tourists.

Traditional Tibetan culture runs strong in Tawang. At the monastery, an important center of Tibetan learning, monks express rage over Chinese rule in Tibet, which the Chinese Army seized in 1951. I hate the Chinese government, said Gombu Tsering, 70, a senior monk who watches over the monastery’s museum. Tibet wasn’t even a part of China. Lhasa wasn’t a part of China.

Tawang became part of modern India when Tibetan leaders signed a treaty with British officials in 1914 that established a border called the McMahon Line between Tibet and British-run India. Tawang fell south of the line. The treaty, the Simla Convention, is not recognized by China. In 2007, Chinese soldiers demolished a Buddhist statue that Indians had erected at Bumla, the main border pass above Tawang.

Easing of Tensions Between China and India

India and China drew closer together in the late 1990 and 2000s primarily out economic self interest. They have been working to forge better political and economic links and restore trust between the two countries. Regular meeting since the late 1980s on border issues have not made yielded much progress on the disputed territories.

China and India signed a border security agreement in 1993, a peaceful cooperation accord in 1994, and a cooperation agreement in 2003 and formed a “strategic cooperative partnerships” in 2005. There is a tacit an agreement that China will not muck around in Kashmir if India does not muck around with Tibet. Of late China has backed India’s candidacy for membership to the United Nations Security Council.

It appears that China has unofficially recognized India’s claim over Sikkim by allowing cross border trade there and India unofficially recognizes Chinese control over Tibet. It is hoped that China could act as an intermediary between India and Pakistan and diffuse tensions between the two countries.

Chinese president Jiang Zemin visited India in 1996. It was the first time a leader from either country visited the other since India and China became independent. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China in June 2003. During the trip he issued a statement that Tibet was part of China. In November 2003, India and China held their first ever joint naval exercise together.

In April 2005, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Bangalore and said that India and China should take the lead in the new “Asian century.” Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Singh also signed agreements to increase military cooperation, trade and transportation links. The two countries agreed on a road-map to settle their decades-old border disputes and build a new “ridge of friendship.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India in November 2006 and declared “a year of friendship” between the two countries. In May 2006, military leaders of China and India met in Beijing, In early 2007, the foreign ministers of China, India and Russia held a joint meeting. In April 2007, China and India held talks on their border dispute. Officials from both countries described the talks as “friendly” and “constructive.” Talks on improving toes were held in October 2007.

In December 2007, China and India held their first ever joint war games “to build trust.” About 100 soldiers from each side participated in the drill, which lasted nine days and was held in China’s Yunnan Province.

In January 2008, Singh visited Beijing and met with Hu Jintao. A number of agreements were signed China and India characterized themselves as cooperative, complementary friends rather than regional rivals. The tone was amazingly cordial when considering the two countries have unresolved border disputes still pending and are emerging as major global competitors.

In 2009, China and India set up a hotline, which was seen by some of an indication that tensions between the two country had racheted up a notch. The Indian media reported that Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested the idea of setting up the hotline.

In December 2010, China Premier Wen Jiabao spent three days in India. His visit in 2005 was regarded as a breakthrough for the two nations when a broad framework for addressing border disputes was worked out. Between 2005, when Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China visited India, and 2009 China and India have gone through 13 rounds of bilateral negotiations over border the issue with little to show for it. “The China-India border has got to be one of the most continuously negotiated borders in modern history,” M. Taylor Fravel, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is a leading expert on China’s borders, told the New York Times . “That shows how intractable this dispute is.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 3, 2009]

Problems and Distrust Return to China-India Relations

Mark Magnier wrote in the Los Angeles Times, The India-China relationship, relatively well managed for years by the two governments, is under growing pressure in the face of insensitivity and nationalism on both sides, India's hyperactive broadcast media and the growing autonomy of Chinese ministries, analysts say. Irritants that have spurred distrust recently between the two Asian giants include a series of reported incursions along their disputed 2,500-mile border. [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, November 26, December 18, 2011]

In one case, an Indian warship off Vietnam received an apparent Chinese naval radio transmission in July telling it to "leave Chinese waters." Afterwards India’s usually meek Prime Minister Manmohan Singh supposedly looked his Chinese counterpart in the eye at a summit in Bali last weekend and defended his country’s “commercial” right to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea. In another situation that upset India, an official Chinese brochure used at a November news conference in New Delhi announcing a $400-million investment by a Chinese state-owned heavy equipment manufacturer featured a map that included as part of China the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and sections of Kashmir claimed by India.

"A closer look at the incidents suggests the Indian press made more of them than were there," Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, strategic affairs editor with the Hindustan Times newspaper, said at the Common Agenda Round Table conference in Shanghai in early December. "But they've strongly contributed to greater suspicion by the Indian public."

Many people in India were annoyed by Beijing's policy a few years ago to issue Chinese visas separate from passports for Indians living in Kashmir. Divided Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan, and each side maintains its area of control. The visa policy, since reversed, offended many Indians, suggesting that Indian-controlled Kashmir was not an integral part of their country. India, in something of a tit for tat, allowed the Dalai Lama in 2009 to travel to a monastery near the Chinese border. In November 2011, China pulled out of joint border talks because the Dalai Lama was speaking at a conference in New Delhi that week.

Deterioration of Relations Between China and India

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “The deterioration in relations between China and Indian began in 2005, as India drew closer to the United States and negotiated a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. That new alignment appeared to threaten Beijing and set relations with India on a downward spiral---so much so that India’s multibillion-dollar military-modernization plans are now largely directed toward containing the growing threat from China. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 29, 2011]

“Ever since the U.S. nuclear deal in 2005, relations with China have been going through a turbulent time,” said Brahma Chellaney at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “Nothing has changed in recent months to suggest that turbulence is easing or subsiding. What we are seeing actually is that Chinese state media is taking an increasingly hard line.”

At the heart of the tension lies a seemingly intractable border dispute that erupted into a brief war in 1962.China claims the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, a thickly forested, mountainous region that shares cultural links with Tibet. India contests China’s occupation of a barren plateau in Kashmir, far to the west.

In 2005, the two sides agreed to respect “settled populations” in any final deal, suggesting that they might one day agree to accept the status quo. But soon after the U.S.-India nuclear agreement was signed, the backsliding began. China took every opportunity to reassert its claim to Arunachal, which it refers to as Southern Tibet. Sensing that there was no longer any hope of a deal, India hardened its position, too.

The extent of the deterioration in relations was underlined in February 2012 when a team of Indian foreign policy experts and former senior officials warned that India needed to be better prepared in case China decided to assert its territorial claims by force. “There is the possibility that China might resort to territorial grabs,” they wrote in a major review of Indian foreign policy, saying China probably would aim to occupy “bite-sized” chunks of land along the ill-defined frontier. “We cannot also entirely dismiss the possibility of a major military offensive in Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh [Kashmir].”

Increased Military Build-Up on the Chinese-Indian Border

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “Sino-Indian relations started to fray after the United States and India drew closer and ultimately signed a civil nuclear cooperation deal in 2008. Feeling threatened, the Chinese government drew even closer to Pakistan, its long-standing ally and India’s arch-rival. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, December 1, 2011]

India has formed two new divisions, comprising more than 36,000 troops, to defend its northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, territory the Chinese invaded in 1962 and still claim sovereignty over as “Southern Tibet.” For the first time, India is also planning to station BrahMos cruise missiles in Arunachal. These were decisions made because of what India sees as a significant Chinese “buildup” on the other side of the border but pushed through on a fast track, partly in response to frenzied Indian media coverage of the threat from China and the effect this was having on public opinion. At the same time, China’s rapid development of road and rail links in Tibet up to the Indian border, its investments in major infrastructure projects in many of India’s South Asian neighbors, and reports of thousands of Chinese troops stationed in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir have contributed to a sense of unease here. Both countries are modernizing their armed forces: India announced an 11.6 percent increase in defense spending in its last budget, while China hiked defense spending by 12.7 percent.

New Tensions in India-China Border Dispute

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, In early 2012, “China’s top diplomat, Dai Bingguo, arrived in New Delhi for a 15th round of talks between the nuclear-armed neighbors over their long---and long-disputed---border, proclaiming that they shared a historic opportunity to forge a brighter future “hand in hand.”[Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 29, 2011]

A visit by India’s defense minister to a border state claimed by China, accompanied by a fly-past by fighter jets recently stationed in the area, provoked some frosty advice from Beijing not to “complicate” matters. In return, the Indian defense minister, A.K. Antony, called China’s comments “most unfortunate” and “really objectionable.”

In January, China denied a visa to an Indian air force officer who comes from the state and was due to visit Beijing as part of an Indian military delegation. New Delhi responded by canceling the entire trip. Antony then visited Arunachal for the state’s silver jubilee celebrations. The festivities included a fly-past by India’s top-of-the-line fighter jets, the Russian-made Sukhoi-30s, pointedly led by the same officer who was denied the visa. The Sukhois were stationed just outside Arunachal last year to counter the Chinese threat.

“India should maintain the peace and safety of the border area together with China and refrain from taking any action that could complicate the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing. It is the sort of diplomatically worded objection that India might have ignored a few years ago but now feels compelled to rebut. “India will not tolerate external interference of China into Indian territorial affairs,” Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said.

In Chinese state media, calls for restraint and tolerance are mixed with jabs at the Indian government for being “pushy” or “surrendering” to increasingly nationalist public opinion. An article this month in the People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, even upbraided India for suggesting that China’s occupation of a slice of Kashmir was in dispute at all.

Public Distrust of India and China in India and China

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “Until a few years ago China ranked near the top of foreign nations in Indian public opinion surveys, but that's slipped significantly, said the Hindustan Times' Chaudhuri, who is part of a grouping of academics, journalists and think tank analysts looking at India-China relations. Surveys conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project show that just 25 percent of Indians had a favorable or somewhat favorable view of China in 2011, compared with 34 percent in 2010, albeit among a different population sample, and 57 percent in 2005. Only Turkey recorded a lower score among the 22 nations surveyed. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, December 1, 2011]

This is partially because of India's broadcast media, he said, which tends to sensationalize issues. Indian military officials suggest privately, for instance, that patrols from both countries routinely cross the India-China border given the rough, unmarked terrain. But China's clunky public relations hasn't helped, Chaudhuri said. China's ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, told an Indian journalist to "shut up" during the investment news conference last month when challenged on why the Chinese brochure map mischaracterized the border. Sometimes worse, Chaudhuri said, is that Chinese officials often won't comment when there are problems, providing an opportunity for Indian hawks to paint China in the worst light, further fueling public distrust.

“There is a clear consensus that China’s military rise is not in India’s interests and that China’s growing economic power is also not in India’s interests,” said Pew’s Richard Wike. To make matters worse, China’s perceived reluctance to recognize the rise of India “is something that really touched a raw nerve among the Indian elite and middle classes,” said Harsh Pant, an Asian security expert at the Department of Defense Studies at King’s College in London.

It flows both ways. Just 27 percent of Chinese surveyed by Pew had a favorable or somewhat favorable view of India in 2011, compared with 32 percent in 2010.Simon Shen, an associate professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and former visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, carried out a study of online comments from Chinese netizens and found that the vast majority were “filled with hostility and contempt for India.” “In their minds, India is stereotyped by terms such as “curry,” “dirty” and “poor,” and these images are almost always connected,” Shen writes in a research paper that will be published in China Quarterly next year. This in turn means India’s rise is uncomfortable for many Chinese, who consider their neighbors racially, economically, militarily and culturally inferior.

Some of the popular distrust is generated by their respective governments--- policy and propaganda. The Chinese leadership, for example, is thought to track Internet sentiment closely and may at times find the nationalist card a tempting one to play. Shen concedes his findings could magnify and distort the views of ordinary Chinese, partly because extreme nationalism is one of the few avenues open for a Chinese citizen to criticize the Communist Party. But in contrast to views about the United States and Japan, he found negative views of India to be remarkably homogenous on liberal and nationalist discussion forums.

Chinese Ambassador Tells Indian Journalist to Shut up

Persistently questioned by an Indian journalist over a disputed map at an event in India in November 2011, the Chinese ambassador to India Zhang Yan finally lost his temper and told the correspondent to “Shut up.” snapped at the at an event in November 2011. The tense exchange arose from a map issued by a private Chinese company showing China’s long-standing claims to a huge swath of Indian territory. The map, in a Chinese brochure about an investment in India, showed the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and also challenged India's claims in the Kashmir region. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, December 1, 2011]

Wu Zhong wrote in the Asia Times, “No surprise, Zhang's behavior stirred up a hue and cry in India, though "Indian officials downplayed Thursday's incident, saying the map was not produced by the Chinese government." Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the second largest political party in India's parliament, demanded Zhang to apologize. BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay said that the Chinese envoy had used "undiplomatic and undemocratic language at a public function, in trying to 'shut up' an Indian media-person." He further said that the Indian government should also warn the Chinese ambassador "not to indulge in such unfriendly acts in future". "Obviously, the Chinese ambassador forgot that he is posted in a vibrant democracy where Tiananmen-like episodes are not allowed and the media is free and not a state-run apparatus taking orders from party bosses who can 'shut up' a journalist," Vijay said. [Source:Wu Zhong, Asia Times, November 9, 2011]

Interestingly, however, Zhang has also been bombarded with criticism at home by Chinese netizens or bloggers. Upon learning the news, Chinese netizens immediately began to discuss it in on major websites. So far, the vast majority of them are very critical of Zhang, accusing him for not behaving like a Chinese diplomat. One netizen wrote: "You may tell a reporter to shut up in China. It is a shame for a Chinese diplomat to show such arrogance of a Chinese official in a foreign country." "Even inside China today, many more sophisticated officials would refrain from shouting at reporters. How come such a career diplomat as Zhang Yan could have done this?" "By all means, a journalist has the right not to shut up. Otherwise, how could he get his job done?" "The root problem is that Chinese diplomats are also considered officials. And Chinese officials think themselves are to rule, treating other people as their subjects. Foreigners won't buy this."

China’s and India’s Policy of Encirclement and Counter-Encirclement

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “Some analysts say China and India are engaged in a new strategic contest in which each country has been increasingly active in what would once have been seen as the other’s “back yard” in a cat-and-mouse game of encirclement and counter-encirclement. “Both footprints are going to expand, the Chinese one much faster,” said C. Raja Mohan of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “There is going to be overlap, there is going to be friction. The challenge is how to manage it.” [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, November 26, 2011]

Indian fears of encirclement by China date back decades but have been heightened in recent years by Beijing’s tighter embrace of---and investment in---other South Asian countries, from India’s arch-rival Pakistan to traditional ally Nepal, from Sri Lanka to Bangladesh to Burma. China, in turn, has its own fear of encirclement, by what former president George W. Bush referred to as “the arc of Democracies”---India, Japan, Australia and the United States. Such fears were inflamed this month when President Obama announced that he would be stationing Marines in Australia to help protect U.S. interests in Asia.

Joint military exercises among the four democracies in recent years were widely interpreted as directed against China. But it is the growing warmth and strategic partnership between the United States and India, and at its heart a 2008 U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation deal, that has really strained Chinese-Indian ties.

“That was a taboo that was unacceptable to the Chinese,” said John Garver, a professor of international relations at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a leading academic on the new encirclement and counter-encirclement contest being waged in Asia. “If you expect friendship with China, you must not align with distant powers hostile to China.”As the People’s Daily warned New Delhi about “the price to be paid for taking what America offers,” the punishment began.

Widespread talk of war between China and India began to surface on Chinese Web sites. Signs of progress over a long-standing border dispute were thrown into reverse when China reasserted its claim to huge swathes of Indian territory. China also opposed the lifting of global sanctions against civilian nuclear trade with India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “China began expanding its ties with India’s neighbors, partly for economic and strategic reasons, but partly, in the eyes of many Indian analysts, to prevent India’s emergence as an Asian and global power. China helped Pakistan build two nuclear reactors and has more aggressively supported Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir. China has become Bangladesh’s leading trade partner, and investment has skyrocketed.

China has deepened ties with Nepal’s army and police, and is helping build a new road to the Tibetan frontier. In Sri Lanka, it supplied many of the arms that helped the government finally defeat the Tamil insurgency and end its 26-year civil war, and it built a major new port in the island’s south.

India’s “Look East” Policy Toward China

In a 2009 discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations , Singh first complained of “a certain amount of assertiveness on the part of the Chinese,” the reasons for which he said he did not fully understand. Jonathan Holslag of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies said that India was “starting to wake up to a world order which is going to be completely different, where they are going to have a lot of difficulty to defend their interests” against Chinese competition.

For years, India had talked of its intention to “Look East,” to forge closer ties with the fast-growing economies of East and Southeast Asia, but it had failed to put much meat on the bones of the policy. Finally, it began to act, albeit at its own pace, forging closer security and economic ties with countries such as Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

“India’s “Look East” policy, which originated in the 1990s, essentially had an economic logic, but now it has been given a geopolitical logic, in order to counter-encircle the encircler,” Garver said. Privately and now more publicly, the United States has been urging India on, declaring, in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s words, its support for New Delhi’s efforts to turn “Look East” into “Act East.”

Experts concede that it is unclear where the new estrangement between India and China could lead. Trade ties are booming, and the two countries are still talking the language of partnership and cooperation. “Competition could lead to confrontation, but I don’t think it will lead to conflict,” said Vikram Sood, a former intelligence chief turned analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

Not everyone is so confident. In a piece last year for the Asian Security journal, Garver and Fei-Ling Wang argued that the United States, Japan and India “are playing a high-risk game” by appearing to join together to contain China. “Germany’s road to war in 1914 and Japan’s road in 1941 were to a significant degree predicated on a sense of being encircled by a coalition of hostile powers. Both were determined to break out of that encirclement,” they wrote. “If leaders in Beijing conclude that the coalition congealing against China is becoming too powerful, too solid, too obvious, or simply too unfair, they might conclude it necessary to strike against one or another member of the “anti-China coalition.” “

China and India Moving Towards Armed Conflict?

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “India is the world’s largest arms importer, and as tensions with China have risen, it has embarked on a military-modernization plan that is expected to cost $100 billion over the next decade. In January, India selected France’s Rafale for a $15 billion contract to supply 126 new fighter jets, while the air force has been upgrading landing strips throughout the Himalayas. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, February 29, 2011]

The army has deployed about 36,000 additional troops near Arunachal Pradesh and plans to raise two more mountain divisions. At the annual Republic Day parade in January, India unveiled its latest and longest-range nuclear-capable missile, able to fly more than 2,000 miles and reach deep into China.

India’s navy has taken a Russian nuclear submarine on a 10-year lease, and it gathered maritime officers from 14 countries for exercises beside its strategically important Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, a meeting that conspicuously excluded China. India is also spending $2 billion to set up a military command on the islands to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

“The Indian military is strengthening its forces in preparation to fight a limited conflict along the disputed border and is working to balance Chinese power projection in the Indian Ocean,” James R. Clapper Jr., the U.S. director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee last month.

A full-blown war between India and China appears highly unlikely, but a small border skirmish can’t be ruled out unless the two sides arrest the slide in relations, some experts say. With China’s leadership embroiled in a succession contest and India’s government seen as paralyzed by a lack of leadership, they are pessimistic about the chances of that happening soon.

“The trajectory is all downwards, and there has been no significant attempt to address the issues that matter to both sides,” said Harsh Pant, a lecturer in the department of defense studies at King’s College London. “Before 2006, no one even talked of a Sino-Indian conflict, and economic relations were seen in a much more positive light. But that sense is gone now. “China is India’s biggest trading partner, but that does not preclude the possibility of some kind of border kerfuffle or minor skirmish in coming years,” he said.

China and India and Economics

For much of world history up until around 1800 or so, China and India made up half the world’s economy and many see that situation returning in the 21st century as the influence of the United States and Europe decline and China and India rise.

According to the Economist, “This is uncharted territory that should be seen in terms of decades, not years...Countries as huge and complicated as China can underachieve or collapse under its own contradictions...Caveats abound...As recently as the early 1900s, India was rich, in terms of national income per head. China then hurtled so far ahead that it seemed India would never catch up. But India’s long-term prospects now look stronger. While China is about to see its working age population shrink, India is enjoying a bulge in manpower which brought sustained booms elsewhere in Asia. It is no longer inconceivable that its growth could outpace China’s for a considerable time.”

Trade, Energy, China and India

Bilateral trade climbed from $3 billion in 2000 to $60 billion in 2010 (230 times the total in 1990) The two countries worked to together at the Doha trade talks and Copenhagen climate change conference and share similar goals of combating terrorism and Islamic extremists.

As tensions increase officials start taking more time, scrutinizing things more carefully, and all that means more delays and ultimately more denials, said Ravi Bhoothalingam, a former president of the Oberoi Group, the luxury hotel chain, and a member of the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi. That’s not good for business. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 3, 2009]

The China and India are major competitors in the global market and have a lot to gain through trade and cooperation with one another. Diplomatic and trade relations have taken off as their economies have expanded. China is India’s largest trading partner. China and India are trying hard to win market share in Africa and Central Asia. Their positions in the Middle East were strengthened by the intervention of the United States in Iraq.

India is vying with China for economic influence in Asia. The economy of China is three times the size of the economy of India. India depends on China for energy imports.

China has voiced its displeasure with India for forming a partnership with Vietnam to search for oil in the South China Sea. The areas being explored re well within Vietnam’s territorial waters. In August 2011, a China warship confronted an Indian naval vessel in waters off Vietnam demanding it identify itself.

Trade, Nathu La between India and China. See Places

India has restarted construction on the Stillwell Road between India and China after the project was abandoned six decades ago. Hundreds of workers and engineers have been put in the project. The 1,736-kilometer-long Stillwell was abandoned after India became independent in 1947. It begins in Ledo, a small town in Assam and extends westward through Myityina in Myanmar ro Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province. The Indian section fo the road is only 61 kilometers long while those in China extend for more 632 kilometers. More than 1,000 kilometers is on in Myanmar,, which is receiving financial aid from China to rebuild is sections Good transported along the road tale only two days to go between India and China. Currently travel along se routes between the two countries through the Malacca Straits takes at least a week.

See Trade

See Energy

Skilled Chinese Workers and Engineers in India

Rama Lakshmi wrote in the Washington Post, “Skilled Chinese workers are helping India expand its infrastructure at a frenetic pace, even as the two Asian giants compete for economic dominance. Their presence in a nation of more than a billion people with staggering unemployment may appear incongruent. But the government says Indian workers lack the technical skilled needed to transform the country into a 21st-century economic powerhouse.” [Source: Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, October 24, 2010]

“Until the gap is bridged, companies are relying on the expertise of Chinese workers to build mega infrastructure projects. Chinese workers have worked on ports, highways, power and steel plants in India. Chinese equipment and expertise have also been used in a crude oil refinery, a cable-supported bridge, the telecommunication networks and even the glass facade of the new airport terminal in New Delhi.” [Ibid]

"I have worked on building four new steel plants in the last 10 years in China, and I am here to teach Indian workers to do the same," Hulai Xiong, 38, told the Washington Post about the construction site in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. "In China, we build very fast. Indian workers are slow and sometimes lazy. They are not familiar with modern industrial construction processes." Clad in blue overalls, 1,600 Chinese supervisors, technicians and other laborers work at the 2,000-acre site. The $1.7 billion factory, which also relies on Chinese technology, employs 5,000 Indian workers. [Ibid]

China, Tibet and India

Tensions are rising between India and China over a variety of issues, including Tibet. Sophisticated hackers, traced to China, have penetrated computer systems in Dharamsala and at Indian government ministries.

See Karmapa Lama

Bringing Back the Burma Road Between India and China

On an effort to bring back the Burma Road, Los Angeles Times reported: “China now is working to resurrect it as the first major overland trade route since World War II with India, where business leaders, politicians and bureaucrats also are pressing their government to formally commit itself to the road as a link between the world's two most populous nations. [Source: Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2008]

Finding the money to pay for the upgrade, Indian proponents say, is the easy part. Overcoming the fear of more competition and the unwelcome visitors opponents say the road would bring is proving more difficult. India has already declared China a strategic partner, and New Delhi's "Look East" policy has held up increased trade with the rest of Asia as India's best hope for economic growth, [Ibid]

Mahesh K. Saharia, a leading backer in the powerful Indian Chamber of Commerce, and other supporters of the road say that connecting two of the most undeveloped regions in India and China could lift millions of people out of poverty. Indian opponents argue that the risk of insurgents and drug smugglers sneaking across a more open border is too high. "My own guess is that the benefit of the cooperation is so immense, and the cost of noncooperation is again so large, that everyone who looks into it will . . . have to agree to it," said Saharia, chairman of the business group's North-East Initiative, [Ibid]

In 2005, Indian and Chinese survey teams began mapping out plans to rebuild the road. So far China has done all the reconstruction work, paving dozens of miles with granite stones packed into dirt. When the monsoons end, the surface is watered, rolled and baked hard in the sun, making it almost as flat as asphalt, [Ibid]

The road's western end, close to the Indian state of Assam, has been swallowed up by the jungle, and portions of it can be traveled only on foot. In the east, the upgraded section near the Chinese border is busy, but most of the traffic consists of small traders and tourists on short visits to gamble, or to see transsexual burlesque shows in Myanmar. The rest of the road is usually so quiet that villagers stroll down the middle as if it was a sidewalk. When they hear the distant hum of an approaching vehicle, pedestrians choose a lane and let the pickups, stuffed with swaying passengers on wooden benches or stacked with rusty drums of gas, sputter past, [Ibid]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2013

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