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End of Cold War and balance of power in South Asia
2/21/2021 11:20:32 PM

Dr. Rajkumar Singh

The end of Cold War and emergence of new powers have tested and stretched the theoretical framework. In the new context, too, international relations theorists have long analysed threat perception as the estimated intent and capabilities of the adversary state. Based on such analysis, not always wise or right states adopt countermeasures to cope with the perceived threat.
These have often taken the form of balancing, through internal strength, either military or economic or both, or external partnership with allies. Some other states try ‘band wagoning’ by joining another power while some others seek a constructive engagement through Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to reduce the threat. In the case of India-China relations misconception have developed over the years and they continued to remain in the forefront due to unresolved issues like the border dispute.
Such misconceptions may have grown from “images” formed towards the end of the colonial era, from self-images and convictions of righteousness, from ideology, from wishful thinking, or from errors in communication and mutual understanding in the years immediately preceding the 1962 conflict.
Status of India and China
In relations between India and China, all things apart, perceptions and images about each other have remained a dominant factor in determining the nature of their relationship. Neither conflict nor cooperation nor indifference between the two is an inevitable consequence of their geographical location or historical past. Rather, the tone and content of their bilateral relationship at any given time is a product of policies pursued by the two governments within the context of specific international and national environments that could and did change.
Thus, in case of India and China foreign or national security policies are shaped by many determining and variable factors, including objective resources, internal and external pressures, and the priorities and quality of national leadership. Perceptions and images-generally preconceived in leadership and public alike-are found to play important role : 1. in affirming (or not) the desirability and feasibility of a policy direction; 2. in interpreting history and delineating the lessons to be learned from it; 3. in reinforcing attitudes, and also making it difficult to change attitudes, by diluting attention paid to contradictory signals; 4. in simplifying complex or inexplicable phenomena by reducing them to something comprehensible within an existing mental framework; and 5.in consolidating a policy-making elite.
These theoretical perceptions and images towards each other apart, both India and China, the two of the most populous countries in the world, have been moving up the ladder, militarily, economically, and politically, but each has its own priorities, strategies, successes, and failures. In today’s world countries themselves are the masters of their own fate and are well on their way to take their rightful place as leading economic powers in the international comity of nations. China is undoubtedly ahead of India in the development success story.
The remarkable rise of China in the last three decades has had mixed global reactions. While many countries have welcomed this rise, some other nations, especially some of China’s neighbours and even the US have viewed it with concern. In the context both India and China as third world countries, share a mirror image perception of each other of encirclement. One prominent example of this perception is Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China. Many in India believe that a nuclear Pakistan is the creation of China to a large extent; and for China, the existence of a strong and confident Pakistan, able and willing to challenge India confers important strategic advantage by forcing India to spread its armed strengths in two fronts.
Military and strategic strength
The increasing gap in military and strategic strength between India and China is of concern to India. In comparison to China India is far less in a viable nuclear and conventional deterrence. At its present level of strategic strength India does not have the option of following a hostile and confrontational attitude towards China.
Contrast to the relative reasonable understanding of China’s economic growth, India's perception of China's military build-up, by and large is negative. China’s combination of rising nationalism, its key ideological role in regime stability, and the realpolitik strategic culture has made China’s military power build-up a potent factor for uncertainty, insecurity, and instability in Asia. In the circumstances the combination of Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) size, growing strategic and conventional capabilities, organisational restructuring and adoption of a new strategy of preparing for ‘high tech limited warfare are factors that its Asian neighbours have to take seriously. From the beginning the sense of China’s threat perception has been occupying the Indian strategic horizon with PLA’s entry in Tibet in the year 1950, through the Sino-Indian border war in 1962, Chinese nuclear test in 1964, and the strategic ties with Pakistan since 1965, right up to India’s nuclear test in 1998.
Indian negative perceptions of China’s military build up were obvious, especially during the event of India’s nuclear test. Since then, perceptions have become more positive as a result of the recent changes in Chinese Asian diplomacy, improved Sino-Indian relations and its greater sensitivity to some of Asian concerns.
Effects of Pakistan factors
Analysts of India view seriously China’s long-term and deepening military relations, nuclear and missile cooperation in particular, with Pakistan, the principal rival of India. They took notice of China’s adjustment of its South Asian Policy in recent years, characteristic of which is its dealing with India and Pakistan separately. In line China’s apparent neutral position in the Kargil conflict, and China’s continuing endeavour to improve its internal export control regulation and actively participate in international non-proliferation regime made them apprehensive of China’s words and deeds.
India is also anxious on China’s deepening and close defence relations with India’s immediate neighbours as an Indian analyst quote, 'While India hopes to surround Pakistan its immediate adversary and to contain China’s long term security threat, China and Pakistan are pursuing similar aims of strategically squeezing Delhi. In the context the reality of China’s supplying nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan, military ties with Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the building of the deep-water Gwadar Port in Baluchistan gave us clear indication.
China’s military ties in the region around India remain a matter of concern, including the fact that the bulk of its arms exports are to the region. In the sphere India’s regional strategic concern extends from the Persian Gulf in the west to Straits of Malacca in the east and from the Central Asian Republics in the north to near the equator in the south. In nutshell, both India and China are likely to see peaceful ties, but in the medium to longer run, a rising China as the most powerful state in Indian’s neighbourhood will affect India’s national interests politically, militarily and economically.
In comparison to military and strategic viewpoints, in economic sphere there is much to learn from China. Cooperation with China is the need of the hour to achieve India's objective of broad-based development.
In the journey towards prosperity in the 21st century China should be looked upon as India’s partner and both countries should work together to make transition from a unipolar to a multipolar as smooth as possible. India must understand China better and cooperate with it in international forums, and China on its part should accept the importance of India in tackling international issues of common interests. China knows it well that it would take decades to seriously compete with the US for global hegemony, it has focussed its strategic energies on Asia. Its foreign policy is aimed at enhancing its economic and military prowess to achieve regional hegemony in Asia.
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