Will Chinese Military Delegation's India Visit Resolve Boundary Dispute?

Shailesh Kumar
New Delhi, 15 November, 2015
A top level Chinese military delegation visits India from 15 November to 17th November. The purpose of the visit is to enhance confidence building measures along the line of actual control spanning over 4000 kilometers. There have been 18 rounds of special representatives meetings so far but no headway could be made to resolve the long-standing boundary dispute between the two nations. But as usual the visit of the delegation to New Delhi is via Pakistan! Once again China signaled India that Pakistan is an Iron brother, a good friend and a strategic partner.

The 26 member delegation is being led by General FanChanglong who is the vice-chairman of the PLA’s Central Military Commission. The CMC is the most powerful decision-making body of the Chinese military. While it is chaired by President Xi Jinping, the two vice-chairmen General Fan Changlong  and former PLA Air Force Commander, General Xu Qiliang, are the highest-ranking PLA Generals. The delegation includes Admiral Sun Jianguo, a submariner who is in line to become China’s next Navy chief in 2017, and Lt-Gen Zhu Fuxi, the political commissioner of the Chengdu Military Region that faces India.

It is the highest level delegation of Chinese People’s Liberation Army visiting India in a decade. The last visit by a CMC vice-chairman was in the year 2004, when General Cao Gangchuan, who was also the defence minister, travelled to India. General Fan’s visit is likely to expand confidence-building measures (CBMs) and ensure stability on the border. Recently, both sides reviewed existing CBMs as a border consultation and coordination mechanism met in Beijing and reviewed steps to expand border personnel meeting points and direct lines of communication between military commands.

In the recent past there have been many border face-offs between Indian Army and the PLA soldiers. The Border Defence CooperationAgreement, inked between India and China in October 2013, to ensure troop face-offs are effectively defused is yet to become fully operational. However, some defence experts believe that BDCA, which provides not to follow the patrols of each country, will give leverage to China only as we hardly go to their territory. According to sources, China also wants India to sign a new agreement for “Border Code of Conduct”, which would determine the behavior of force along the border.

There have been efforts to consolidate CBMs. In August, both sides held a first border personnel meeting at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the newest and fifth border personnel meeting point along the border, and the second in the Western sector. The four other meeting points are in Ladakh, Sikkim and two in Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern sector. By enhancing CBMs, a recurrence of stand-off incidents can be prevented to an extent.
However, it is to be seen as how Chinese delegation mitigates Indian concern of development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir at a time when Chinese General has pledged to support Pakistan on security of China Pakistan Economic Corridor just a day before lending in Delhi. China earlier has brushed aside Indian concern while investing 46 billion $ in China Pak Economic Corridor in PoK, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. In a latest, Pakistani Newspaper dawn has claimed that Pakistani officials believe that India has been threatening the project because it counterbalance Indian plan for exploiting Chinese weakness in the Indian Ocean by blocking the Strait of Malacca in times of conflict.
Pakistan only a few days before handed hundreds of hectares of land over to China for development of a free trade zone in Gwadar as part of the project. The CPEC will give Beijing greater access to the Middle East, Africa and Europe through Pakistan, via a new highway to Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea. Strategic experts believe Gwador is just a pearl in the “String of Pearls” unleashed by China to encircle India.

Another concern for India should be the constant supply of military hardware by the Chinese. Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, who is director of Foreign Affairs Office of China’s National Defense Ministry and also part of the delegation, reiterated military support to Pakistan. China is unmoved of its stand at a time when it realizes that Pakistan has been the breeding and hiding ground for East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants responsible for violent incidents in Uyghurs dominated Xinjiang. India needs to discuss the issue of Pakistan sponsored terrorism with the Chinese delegation.

Interestingly, Indian Army Chief Dalbit Singh Suhag will be in Japan during the Chinese delegation visit. Beijing has been apprehensive of India- Japan-America axis as it opposed the joint military exercises between the friendly countries. Beijing claims Senkaku or Diaoyudao Islands currently under administrative control of Japan. The People’s Republic of China not only has territorial dispute with India but also with Brunei, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia in South China Sea. China claims 90,000 kilometers area of India’s Arunachal Pradesh besides it disputes 38000 kilometer of area in western sector of Ladakh besides a few patches of border in the middle sector.

Given the complexity of the issues, General Fan’s visit may not forge a breakthrough but is expected to set the stage for the 19th round of border talks between the special representatives and the 8th annual Defence Dialogue between the two nations.

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