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China won't enter a war with India just because of the LAC standoff: Former NSA MK Narayanan

Former NSA MK Narayanan said that during his conversations with past Chinese leaders, including former Premier Wen Jiabao, he had gleamed that Beijing appreciates the soft power of India’s civilisational ethos

Dhairya Maheshwari Dhairya Maheshwari
New Delhi Updated on: May 29, 2020 21:52 IST
A representational image showing Indian and Chinese flags
Image Source : PTI

A representational image showing Indian and Chinese flags

While Beijing is unlikely to enter a war with New Delhi because of the border question, the Chinese leadership of late has been more aware of the India’s civilisational superiority over China’s, former National Security Advisor MK Narayanan said on Friday. Narayanan made the important observations during an online panel discussion "COVID-19 & India-China Global Dynamics", organised by the Chennai International Centre (CIC). 

A former Indian representative at the Sino-India border commission talks during his tenure as NSA, Narayanan said that the main obstacle between the two countries keeping the border dispute being resolved was “different perceptions” of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“We have our own perceptions about the un-demarcated border, while China has theirs. The problem is that each of China’s succesive leaderships, starting from different dynasties, have different maps of the Indo-China border,” explained the veteran diplomat.

He, however, cautioned that every border skirmish that took place at the border shouldn’t be viewed as the “beginning of another war.” “We have to be more careful in that respect,” he said.

The guiding political principals conceived of in 2005 by the leaderships of two countries at the time have been employed to ensure that border flare-ups don’t escalate into a full-fledged conflict, highlighted Narayanan. “But until the border is clearly defined, we will keep facing such situations,” he said.

Narayanan said that one definite (dis)advantage had been playing on the minds of the Chinese leaders was the civilisational edge that India possessed vis-à-vis China. He recounted that during his conversations with past Chinese leaders, including former Premier Wen Jiabao, he had gleamed that Beijing appreciates the soft power of India’s civilisational ethos.

Be it in terms of technology, soft power, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or culture, we possess a definite advantage over China when it comes to civilisational values, said Narayanan. India’s soft power gives it an edge over China, he said.

Former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, also part of the online panel, said the very fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had had two informal summits in the last few years had reduced the chances of mishaps at the border.

“The two summits created more trust between the leaderships of two countries,” said Gokhale, who has also served as India’s envoy to China during his diplomatic career.

Weighing in on the question of the way forward as far as bilateral relations were concerned, Gokhale said that it was imperative for India to maintain cordial relations with all the powers. Gokhale suggested that reviving India’s ties with Russia should be top on the government’s foreign policy agenda, as it was the only country that directly transferred technology to India.

“We can’t ignore the European Union (EU) either, since it is a large trading bloc with powerhouses such as Germany and France,” said Gokhale, adding that Indo-EU ties were still “an experiment in the making.”

Strategic affairs expert and senior fellow at Foreign Policy, Tanvi Madan, reckoned that India was unlikely to stop with ramping up its border infrastructure in the face of recurring border flare-ups. “The Chinese have been doing it for years on their side,” noted Madan.

She cautiously opined that China’s assertive behaviour at the LAC could be looked in the broader context of Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong (where it has pushed through a draconian security law which apparently violates the 1997 treaty with the United Kingdom) or projection of force in the Taiwan Strait.

Not showing weakness has been a Chinese tactic. China’s aggressive behaviour of late could be provoked by an underlying feeling that other countries are on the backfoot as they emerge from the disastrous consequences of COVID-19, said Madan.

(The article was last updated at 9:52 PM)

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