BOSTON: India and China have “vast differences” over the boundary issue which cannot be resolved in short duration with “easy fixes”, the India’s Foreign Secretary, Ms Nirupama Rao has said, while asserting that it is not a “primary obstacle” in normalisation of bilateral ties.
Ms Rao said the path of confrontation would not ease the “vast differences” India and China have on the issue.
“The complicated history of the outstanding boundary question entails that discussions to resolve it cannot be of short duration with easy fixes,” she said.
She said that both countries have not allowed the border issue to become a “primary obstacle” in terms of normalisation of relations.
“The reality is that India and China have worked hard over the last two decades to deepen dialogue and bilateral relations in a number of fields. Peace and tranquility have prevailed in the India-China border areas despite the unsettled boundary question,” Ms Rao said, delivering the Harish Mahindra memorial lecture at Harvard.
India’s relationship with China should not be seen as being only competitive but needs to be handled in a rationale and “cool-headed” manner, she said.
“Relationship with China, our large neighbour, has to be transacted in a very rationale, cool-headed and hard-nosed, not hard-lined (manner). Being hard-nosed is not (being) hard-lined. We can deal with this relationship. There is increasing confidence. This is the new India which is not hyperventilating in a way that introduces irrationality into our actions,” Ms Rao said.
“The question asked is whether our relationship with China will be one dominated by increasing competition for influence and for resources as our economic needs grow. I believe the proposition should not be exaggerated in a way that it overshadows all attempts to rationalise the relationship between India and China.”
She said the Sino-India relations need not be seen as “being only competitive.”
“As our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said, India and China will continue to grow simultaneously and our policies will have to cater to this emerging reality.”
Ms Rao said the rise of China is a reality that faces the entire world today. “China’s growing ability to project its military strength, its rapid military modernisation and its very visible economic capabilities introduce a new calculus in the security situation in our region,” she said.
India is also alert to the “continuing and close security relationship” between China and Pakistan. “These factors serve to further underscore the complexity of the India-China equation today.”
She said that India should focus on being more proactive in the region in terms of development work and improving its own infrastructure capabilities. It should also focus on strengthening relationship with other countries in the region such as Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and South Korea.
“One should not interpret it as ganging up against China because that is not the way the situation can be handled. We have to be able to deploy our power smartly that also involves ensuring communication and dialogue with China remains open,” Ms Rao said.
Demand on India today is to think “long term” and take strategic decisions to improve its own strengths while at the same time keeping dialogue with countries like China open, she said. On whether India has secured China’s support on getting a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, Ms Rao said “not yet.” China has said that it “understands India’s legitimate grounds to play a greater role in the Security Council,” she noted.
India has been seeking an enhanced global role as a permanent member of the reformed UNSC commensurate with its size, capabilities and “contribution to UN peacekeeping operations and impeccable track record in upholding the UN system,” Ms Rao said.