Friday, November 18, 2005

Border Talks: From Tawang to the Indian Ocean

The Tribune has a report on the India-China border talks which presumably reflects a leak from the Indian side either intended to stiffen India's negotiating at the talks or simply to dampen expectations that anything might emerge from them.
At any rate the report indicates a fairly wide set of strategic disagreements. It says, in part:

The Sino-Indian border issue has entered the real phase. Two separate compartments, which will complement each other eventually, have become discernible.

One is the actual border demarcation. In the Chinese concept, the border length still remain, 2,000 km, while in the Indian concept, it is about 4,000 km. Tawang is repeatedly claimed, as the 6th Dalai Lama was born there. That is just one.

Other big issues include security of the Indian Ocean sea-lanes for their energy security as 70 per cent of China's oil imports traverse the Indian Ocean route. Chinese missiles cover these routes, and its navy will soon be flying its flag permanently in the Indian Ocean. On this issue China will not countenance any Indian resistance.

From the greater regional and global perspective, Beijing has put New Delhi's new active foreign policy under a microscope. How does India's growing military capabilities supplement its foreign policy objectives and can impact China's controlling interests in greater Asia. The Indian Navy's exercises with the US Navy, on the one side, and with Southeast Asian navies in China's backyard have raised eyebrows in Zhongnanhai.
What all of this suggests is, as one should expect, that as Chinese capabilities grow strategic friction will be spread over a larger set of issues. In response India will have to boost its capabilities with a much more specific focus on China. Historically, Indian defense spending has been disproportionately Pakistan-centric and so this correction will require some renegotiation of priorities between and within the services.
Readers interested in looking at maps of the disputed areas can find them here (western sector) and here (eastern sector). Tawang can be seen on the latter.


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