India is well on its way to establishing a military hotline with its neighbour China. This is happening in spite of the tensions persisting between the countries in areas such as sanctions against terrorists and border disputes. China has supposedly reacted in a positive manner to the said idea. Manohar Parrikar, the Union Defence Minister of India, and Chang Wanquan, the Defence Minister of China, have had talks regarding the issue as well. Over the years, both these countries, regarded as rising superpowers in the context of Asian and global politics, have been locking horns, so to speak, in order to exert their control in the continent.
One of the major bones of contention between the two countries has been the border on either side of Himalayas. During 1962 the two countries engaged in a war over Arunachal Pradesh. Incidentally, China still regards parts of the state as South Tibet and its people as its own. There have been several incidents when athletes from this state have been issued stapled visas by China’s administration for sporting events being conducted in that country, thus effectively putting paid to their participation in the same. Even now, there are stray incidents where soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army often venture into the no man’s lands in Ladakh and get perilously close to India’s territory. According to China, India is presently controlling 90,000 sq km in the eastern part of the Himalayas. On the other hand, India says that China is occupying 38,000 sq km area in the Aksai Chin Plateau area.
What does India want from this?
Parrikar feels that as and when this hotline is up and running it will increase the levels of cooperation between the two countries and also lead to more bilateral exchanges in various sectors. He has also called for the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to be demarcated properly so that things are stable at the border. Incidentally, it was in 2015 that India had proposed such a hotline when Narendra Modi visited China. However, at that time the East Asian country had expressed some reservations regarding the same.
Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, one of the most dreaded terror groups in the Indian Subcontinent, has also been a major issue between India and China. Earlier during April 2016, India had wanted Masood to be placed in the sanctions blacklist of the UN, only for the move to be blocked by China, a permanent member of the Security Council. This had angered India no end, and if one may say justifiably so considering the terror activities carried out by the said group in India. The Indian Government has also accused Azhar of having plotted the recent Pathankot terror attacks. Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Minister of India, has also asked China to review its position against the terrorist in view of the said allegation.
China’s relations with Pakistan
This has also been an area that has contributed to the problems between India and China. Incidentally, China has great relations with Pakistan – who happen to have tumultuous relations with India – and is also investing in a number of infrastructure projects over there, all of which together are expected to be worth around several billions of dollars. During the recent meeting where the hotline was discussed Parrikar also took up the issue of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is supposed to stretch from Kashgar to Gwadar. India has told China in no uncertain terms that it is weary of the latter’s activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). China has, however, assured India that the corridor is only economic and does not have anything to do with military or defence.
The ray of light
Both India and China have substantial nuclear weapons in their arsenal and tensions between such countries are never good, irrespective of the angle you look at it from. This is why this hotline can be regarded as a ray of light, as a sign of the fact that both the countries are looking for ways to ease tensions between themselves. Incidentally, during May 2015 both countries had pledged to work in this regard. As of now, the hotline will only be focusing on border security. In fact, Chang has also suggested that both sides strengthen their defence-related exchanges and together maintain peace and tranquility in the region. Parrikar has also replied in the affirmative to the said suggestion.
Parrikar has also stated that the issue could be finalized in the next couple of months. In fact, this particular hotline is a key component of the confidence building measures (CBMs) initiated by the two countries. As part of the same, the countries are also looking to start more local border meeting points. Already 5 such points have started. As of now, China has expressed its willingness in taking part in more such CBMs but it has not shown much keenness in sorting out the LAC issue. China is also supposedly concerned by the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) between India and the US.
As may be seen from the above information, both India and China have plenty of issues that need to be sorted out. The hotline definitely seems to be a step in the right direction and it could solve some problems in the border areas that might result from improper communication, an area that can be addressed adequately by the hotline. However, one feels that what these countries really need to work on is faith and building trust in each other, because it is these qualities that will help them tide over bigger problems in future.