India Insight

Is India downplaying Chinese border intrusions?

In response to recent reports that two Chinese helicopters intruded into Indian territory in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said he did get reports of Chinese intrusion but “this is not a new thing.”

“I want to tell you that the press sometimes hypes this but the numbers of intrusions which have taken place this year are on the same level as last year,” Kapoor said.

Soon after that the Indian media reported that Chinese soldiers had crossed the border in Ladakh last week and painted some rocks red.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said, “Let me go on record to say that border with China has been one of the most peaceful boundaries that we have had as compared to other boundary lines with other countries.”

Former Air Force Chief Fali Homi Major and Navy Chief Sureesh Mehta have repeatedly warned that China is a danger to India, and the hawks in the Indian security establishment fear that the Chinese had a strategic plan of encircling India.

India, China take a measure of each other at border row talks

China and India are sitting down for another round of talks this week on their unsettled border, a nearly 50-year festering row that in recent months seems to have gotten worse.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan are unlikely to announce any agreement on the 3,500 km border, even a small one, but their talks this week may well signal how they intend to move forward on a relationship marked by a  deep, deep “trust deficit”, as former Indian intelligence chief B. Raman puts it.

While the entire Himalayan border is disputed, including the Aksai Chin area, it is the row over large parts of India’s Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern stretch of the mountains that has strained ties in recent months.

India’s nuclear submarine dream, still miles to go

The unveiling of India’s top secret nuclear-powered submarine, three decades after it was conceived, has been greeted with much tub-thumping.

Even for a nation hungry for success and even more than that, global recognition, some of the adulation seems excessive and perhaps premature as many are starting to point out.

INS Arihant, or destroyer of enemies, has just made contact with water, as it were, with the navy flooding the dry dock at last weekend’s launch in the southern port city of Visakhapatnam.  It has to be tested in the harbour, then out at sea. The nuclear reactor, the heart of the new technology, has yet to be fitted. Perhaps a bigger moment will be when that reactor goes critical.

India encircled by China’s string of pearls?

Many in India believe that Beijing is building special relationships with India’s old foe Pakistan and Sri Lanka and is extending its reach down the Indian Ocean.

China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy seems to be surrounding India and has given food for thought to many in New Delhi for quite some time now.

At the G8 summit in L’Aquila recently, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a bid in front of the international community to include India in the United Nations Security Council, which would put it on par with China, which is one of the five permanent members.

Xinjiang – the spreading arc of instability

China’s troubled Xinjiang region shares borders with eight countries, which is perhaps one reason President Hu Jintao dropped out of the G8 summit to head home, underscoring the seriousness of the situation and the need to quickly bring the vast oil-rich region under control.

Xinjiang touches Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, besides the Tibet Autonomous Region.

China, as this piece for the Council on Foreign Relations points out, has long been concerned that these states on its periphery both in central and south Asia may be tempted to back a separatist movement in Xinjiang because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to its neighbours.

South Asia’s failing states

Foreign Policy magazine has just released its 2009 list of failing states or those at risk of failure and South Asia makes for sobering reading.

All of India’s neighbours, except for tiny Bhutan, figure in the list of top 25 states that are faltering, although their rankings have improved marginally over the previous year.

So Afghanistan remains at number 7 in the table of failing states topped by Somalia. Pakistan is ranked 10th, just marginally better than its 9th position in last year’s table which perhaps reflects the belief that the state has begun to fight back the militants who threaten its existence.

India, China leaders move to ease new strains in ties

While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia captured all the attention,  Singh’s talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao may turn out to be just as important in easing off renewed pressure on the complex relationship between the world’s rising powers.

India said this month it will bolster its defences on the unsettled China border, deploying up to 50,000 troops and its most latest Su-30 fighter aircraft at a base in the northeast.

While upgrading the defences has been a long-running objective, the timing seemed to suggest New Delhi’s renewed fears of “strategic encirclement” by China by deepening ties with all of its neighbours, not just Pakistan but also Sri Lanka and Nepal.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

More churning in South Asia : India bolsters defences on China border

Power play in South Asia is always a delicate dance and anything that happens between India and China will likely play itself out across the region, not the least in Pakistan, Beijing's all weather friend.

And things are starting to move on the India-China front. We carried a report this weekabout India's plan to increase troop levels and build more airstrips in the remote state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by China.  New Delhi planned to deploy two army divisions, the report quoted Arunachal governor J.J. Singh as saying.

Other reports in the Indian media said the air force was beefing up its base in Tejpur in the northeast with Su-30 fighter planes, the newest in its armoury. The HIndustan Times said it was part of a decision to move advanced assets close to the Chinese  border.  The IAF base in Tejpur which is in the state of Assam is within striking distance of the border with China in Arunachal Pradesh.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India, Pakistan and the rise of China

India has been fretting for months that it could be pushed into the background by the United States' economic dependence on China and by the renewed focus on Pakistan by President Barack Obama's administration.  That anxiety appears to have increased lately -- perhaps because the end of the country's lengthy election campaign has opened up space to think more about the external environment -- and is focusing on China.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Indian Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said China posed a greater threat than Pakistan.  “China is a totally different ballgame compared to Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying. “We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is … they are certainly a greater threat.”

The Mint newspaper followed up with a editorial calling China "perhaps the gravest external threat" to India's security. "That India is in an unstable neighbourhood is clearer than ever this summer," it said. "But troubles from Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Nepal pale when compared with China."

from MacroScope:

Victory for emerging BRICs?

Emerging market ministers, particularly those from the BRIC economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- are painting this weekend's G20 meeting as a victory in dragging them out of the shadows of global policy-making.

The finance ministers' statement included the promise of more money for the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks, on whom struggling emerging economies rely for support.

It accelerated a review of IMF quotas by two years to 2011, which should give emerging economies more say in the running of the multilateral lender. It also suggested that the headship of IFIs -- international financial institutions -- would no longer be guaranteed to Americans or Europeans. 

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