PRIME minister’s visit to China was significant amid border tensions, a number of issues including Terrorism, Pakistan and trade liberalization and dispute over Border Rivers. The visit was optimistic but fell short to achieve anything ice-breaking. The emerging agreements over commercial and business sectors are definitely fulfilling but as far as the border and other conventional issues are concerned, India did not achieve anything substantial. As a matter of fact, besides military and diplomatic implications, the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) and Border River agreement were the significant ones during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing. Although, the BDCA didn’t prove anything inventing, what it did was to standardize the border defense mechanisms. For the Indian bureaucracy it was an achievement, but for the defense services it didn’t achieve anything. Such agreements and concerns have been deliberated and exchanged at various levels of discussion between India and China but the real concern of by-passing the agreements by covert military intrusions is very high. Under such circumstances, agreements remain void and unrealistic. If the Indian bureaucrats are doing this paper work from the legalistic point of view, then it’s an advice that the border conflict with China is more than signing those. The war ethics and morals prevail when trust is built and followed. The flag meetings, exchanging information, and meetings between the officials will not change the actual scene existing along the LAC. BDCA is not effective and may not help resolve the issue.
As far as the border river issue is concerned, India and China have signed an agreement on understanding, sharing the information and maintaining the transparency. Water conflicts would be much serious than the boundaries, rivers can play a critical role in changing the human geography, for example if Brahmaputra’s flow is diverted or affected, it would escalate social tensions and may trigger major conflict. India and China share more than 16 major rivers. The agreement does not even mention anything on Brahmaputra deliberately. What seems a small victory for the Indian side is, at least China has taken up the issue from the environmental perspective. Indian diplomacy on the Brahmaputra has got to somewhere from nowhere. It is a good start but the real challenge would be to convince the Chinese and protect the interests of the Indian side. It is not a secret that Chinese do have vested interest in this river and once tapped the river would let China accomplish agricultural needs, help using rivers as a form of perennial in-land transports and hydroelectric projects. China has termed the incident as the case of their upstream activities as ‘developing the Tibetan water resources’. China knows that for India, water of Brahmaputra is very important and India needs to take a clear decisive stand on the same.
Strategically, the meetings at prime ministerial level are certainly helpful to mature the cooperation and let both parties show their confidence as a part of ‘active engagement’. While on his trip to China, Chinese knew that this would be his last official trip to China. Chinese newspapers are calling the end of Manmohan Singh’s era after the elections. The way Chinese leaders gave him a welcome and formalized the agreements, it looked like a farewell treat to Indian prime minister. In the last decade, more than what India achieved against its rival neighbor, China has earned what we couldn’t give away that easily. China has become a strong trade partner of SAARC members. It also excelled well in its trade with India, India is having negative trade balance with China. China knows that the parliamentary elections are to be held in the mid 2014 and as the domestic political shifts are gaining pace, the dynamics are changing rapidly on the international front as well and the Chinese cautious about it. Chinese would not wish to trigger anti-Chinese sentiments during the elections. In short, Manmohan Singh did his best to write a China chapter by not relenting to them. Post-Pokhran and post-Vajpayee, he consolidated India’s relations with China. We need more firm policies and clear understanding on how to cope with China.