We were struck by a news-item in The Times of India (October 15, 2009) on an opinion poll in a Chinese website conducted by Global Times, a leading Chinese official newspaper that an “overwhelming majority” of visitors polled on its website—almost 96 per cent—were against Indian leaders visiting the “disputed area” of Arunachal Pradesh.
We did not know that there is some relevance to public opinion in China. Perhaps the Global Times would have got a more startling revelation if it had conducted a free poll on the total negation of democracy in that country. As for Arunachal Pradesh, on October 13, 2009, state assembly poll, an overwhelming 72 per cent voters enthusiastically participated expressing their solidarity with the Indian Union.
On what count China is making its expansionist claims on Indian territory is not clear. In fact, the neighbour might have got emboldened by the restrained, often defensive response of the Indian leadership. Till Dr Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister, by a quirk of destiny, we did not hear China making such exasperating boasts on Arunachal. The claims earlier used to be on certain parts of the state in the name of the association of the Tawang monastery with Tibetan Buddhism. India has not reconciled to the Chinese usurpation of the sovereign state of Tibet. Millions of Tibetans are exiled, His Holiness Dalai Lama with his disciples is in exile in India and the Tibetans have not given up their fight for independence. India has a declared moral duty on Tibet and hence it sounds oxymoron on the Chinese part to talk on behalf of the Tibetan links of Tawang.
China is acting like a regional bully. Like the Nazi bully Adolf Hitler in the last century, China has been making expansionist territorial claims on every country around it. It is a pity that despite its arguable success in the field of economics and diplomacy it is not able to act big and generous.
An editorial on China in The Economist (October 3, 2009) commented, “…the image that it would like to cultivate,… is constantly being undercut by two of its leaders’ habits. One is the knee-jerk resort to hysterical propaganda and reprisals when a foreign country displeases it by criticising its appalling treatment of political dissidents, or accepts a visit from the Dalai Lama or other objects of the Communist Party’s venom. The other is the readiness to put its perceived economic self-interest ahead of strategic common sense.” China has an unfinished business of Taiwan, towards which, according to this edit, China has pointed some 1,000 missiles. It has not reached an agreement with Japan over disputed islands; it has similar border disputes with Vietnam, Russia and all its other neighbours in the vicinity.
Indian media and politicians are mostly debating what China wants and what India can give. From a purely nationalist perspective it is time India made claims in its geopolitical interest and stopped playing a victim all the time.
Great countries live in the present and look to the future for the welfare of their people. Harking back on history to make expansionist moves is a dangerous game. If India is to take a lesson from China, it can also make a lot of unsettling noises on China. That Chinese emperors were beholden to Great Ashoka is well known. Less publicised are the facts that the Chinese emperors used to pay tributes and send emissaries with lavish gifts to the courts of the glorious Kushana emperor Kanishka in the second century AD, in the third and fourth century to the great Samudragupta and Chandragupta Vikramaditya and later emperor Harsha. At one point the great Kanishka even defeated and forced the Chinese ruler accept his suzerainty.
Today, as far as India is concerned, it is vowed by a unanimous resolution of Parliament to liberate 19,000 square kilometres of Indian territory forcefully occupied by the Red Army, in that treacherous war of 1962. Instead of forcing an armamental race in the region, China, which, its leaders rightly point out, is still a poor country, should concentrate on providing a better life to its people and help the region become a zone of peace