Why China Won’t Cede Aksai Chin to India

Aksai Chin: The Root Cause of India-China Border Conflict

Aksai Chin is one of the two major controversial border regions whose ownership is claimed by both India and China, with Arunachal Pradesh being the other one. The etymology of Aksai Chin is uncertain. Although aksai is a Turk term for white brooks, it is widely believed that the word chin has nothing to do with China.

Map of Jammu and KashmirAs per the Indian version of cartography, the region is marked under Ladakh district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, in reality China administers the region as a part of Hotan County of Xinjiang Autonomous Region and negates India’s claim to cede the land to India.

This high-tension India-China border dispute has led both the nations witness a short skirmish in 1962, which resulted into status quo ante bellum. In 1993 and 1996, India and China signed a treaty to respect the Line of Actual Control. However, there are reports about the Chinese military personnel involved in border infringement, especially in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Aksai Chin: Its Importance

To focus this discourse specifically over China’s desire to hold back Aksai Chin, we must understand the geographical importance of the area. Although topographically it is a tremendously inhospitable, high altitude desert area; strategically it has an enormous value.

Being situated at high altitude and in proximity to New Delhi, Aksai Chin makes Beijing a major threat to India’s sovereignty. During any event of India-China border dispute Aksai Chin can be used as gateway to run down the PLA forces well into the heart of India within a quick time. The territory is also well-positioned to check any infiltration from different parts of central Asia.

To put it into a single line Aksai Chin acts as China’s indestructible watch tower looking all over central Asia and India.

Aksai Chin: The Sword of Damocles Hanging Over India

Sino-India RelationsAksai Chin guarantees Beijing with all what it needs to secure the western and southwestern boundaries. More importantly, it has left the Indian strategists with no other option but to spend a major chunk of money and manpower on border security.

This has substantially refrained India from focussing into the core issues of development, while China had been busy with peaceful researches and innovations. Moreover, during any Indo-Pak war, China could also use this strategic location to provide logistic supply to the Pakistani troops.

China, being an all-weather friend of Pakistan and a hostile nation to India, such a possibility is very much on the cards.

Footnote

Hence, with no second thought, China truly savours an unquestionable strategic advantage over India due to their dominion over Aksai Chin. The sooner we wake up and smell the coffee, the better it will be for us. And people who make a hue and cry on the escalating defence budget, this discourse will probably make them understand why India cannot afford to loosen up.

Aero India 2013 – Welcome to India’s Premier Air Show

Come this February and Bangalore will host the 9th edition of Aero India in IAF’s Yelahanka Air Station.

Aero India 2013 Official LogoSince 1996 this biennial air show cum exhibition programme has been a gateway for both domestic and international defence aviation industry to market their products and services. Many well-reputed air fighter jets made their first public appearances on this show e.g., Mikoyan MiG-35, HAL Tejas, etc. Lasting for 5 days, the show has proved to be a prominent one-stop event to exhibit all the latest developments and trends in the aviation and aerospace industry.

During its last appearance in 2011, Aero India attracted participants from a total of 29 nations with more than 600 companies. This time too the numbers are expected to hit these levels if not more.

The largest overseas participation has been that from the USA followed by Israel and Russia. Some other notable ones are Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, UK, and Ukraine.

The event is also preparing to witness a valiant participation of different aerobatic teams – Flying Bulls from Czech Republic, Russian Knights from Russian Air Force, and  IAF’s very own Sarang aerobatic team. Several B2B meetings are expected to be held on the sidelines during this mega event with inking of ground-breaking deals to be finalised.

So, if you do not want to miss this opportunity to witness the maneuvers of some of the top-class machines flying high, you ought to be at Bangalore from 6 to 10 February, 2013.

String of Pearls Versus Iron Curtain

Sino-India RelationsLong ago the famous US Navy flag officer, strategist and historian, Alfred Mahan opined that the true power lies with the country that dominates the seas. His ideation has had an enormous influence in determining the naval powers across the world, with a special focus on the present day Indian Ocean Region.

With two of the most populated and nuclear armed major economies, India and China, vying to take control of the IOR, the region has truly been a global hotspot.

Threats to China

India’s growing international stature gives it strategic relevance in the area ranging from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca… India has exploited the fluidities of the emerging world order to forge new links through a combination of diplomatic re-positioning, economic resurgence and military firmness.

— Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister (India)

Today a major chunk of Chinese oil imports from the Persian Gulf pass through the Strait of Malacca, blocking of which will bring a terrible effect on Chinese economy. Hence, PRC has a vested interest in eliminating transnational (esp. India, USA, and Japan) threats in the waterway.

At present nearly 60 per cent of China’s energy imports pass through this seaway, which is expected to reach up to 75 per cent by 2015. Beijing knows the vulnerability of the passage, and therefore, is trying hard to take an unprecedented authority of the area.

China’s Answer: String of Pearls

String of Pearls Around IndiaTo act as per their ambitions and evade the challenges of their geostrategic rival India, Chinese defence experts came up with a plan that is perhaps best defined by Booz Allen consultants as String of Pearls. Under this initiative, China is making a significant strategic presence in the neighboring states of India.

Beijing is already well-known as an all-weather friend of India’s arch rival, Pakistan and is currently developing the Pakistani port in Gwadar. In addition to this, China has also made substantial investments in Chittagong in Bangladesh, Kyaukphyu in Myanmar, and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. It is also developing links with small nations like Nepal and Bhutan that are strategically located to India’s proximity.

With such a dominating presence encircling India, China has somewhat managed to thwart the Indian threat to their consignments in the IOR.

Threats to India

Like Germany in the late 19th century, China is also growing rapidly but uncertainly into a global system in which it feels it deserves more attention and honor. The Chinese military is a powerful political player, as was the Prussian officer corps. Like Wilhelmine Germany, the Chinese regime is trying to hold onto political power even as it unleashes forces in society that make its control increasingly shaky.

— Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek

String of Pearls is basically aimed to restrict India’s expansionist motives right on their backyard. The Chinese strategy of tying a noose around India means India has nothing to do but to acquiesce at the behest of Beijing. It is, therefore, a major threat to India’s sovereignty.

Apart from this, strategic positioning of PLA Navy en route Indian oil and gas imports is not at all desirable to ensure their safe passage. Any disruptions in the mid-ocean could bring devastating effects to the Great Indian Dream. And how can a disruption-free passage for the Indian imports in the IOR is guaranteed as long as Chinese dragon is caught flaring over there?

India’s Answer: Iron Curtain

IOR Bases of India and ChinaBacked by a burgeoning economy, New Delhi too aspires to be hailed as a true blue water navy, and they will always deter the Chinese aspirations in the IOR. To live up to this very notion, India too is answering boldly by juxtaposing its presence alongside that of China in the IOR — a strategy that has been termed as Iron Curtain.

India is presently exchanging dialogues with Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh to identify the areas of investments in these countries. In Myanmar, it is developing the Sittwe port. The Tripartite Technical Expert Group (TTEG) consisting of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore that administers the Malacca Straits has recently received substantial monetary aid from India. By the virtue of which the group has involved India’s naval expertise to survey shipwrecks in the area that has left China fuming for obvious reasons.

Militarily too India has expanded its presence in the IOR by setting up listening posts in Seychelles, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius. Recently India has also gained berthing rights in Oman and Vietnam, which again is sure to give the mighty Chinese dragon cold vibes.

End Note

The so-called China’s String of Pearls strategy is not yet advanced enough to put the Indian maritime security in question. Nevertheless, someday or the other India will have to find a suitable answer to the Chinese naval presence in its own backyard, be it by executing Iron Curtain or by implementing some other strategy.

Beijing too cannot afford its Achilles heel, i.e., its vulnerability to any disruption of crude oil flow for much longer. Both nations, therefore, should look forward to draft a Sino-India Maritime Agreement. It could be loosely modelled on INCSEA of the Cold-War era that has controlled a lot of US-Soviet naval encounters to go out of control.