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Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Question of Diplomacy

Tensions between India and China have flared after the latter refused to grant a top Indian general a visa to visit the country as part of a defence exchange programme between the two countries. According to a BBC report, Chinese authorities refused entry into the country for Lieutenant General BS Jaswal, commander of Indian forces in Kashmir. China, Pakistan and India all claim parts of Kashmir, with Beijing maintaining its long-held belief that part of the territory should be part of Tibet. As a result of China's denial of a visa, the Indian government has cancelled further defence exchanges, which included the visit of several People's Liberation Army (PLA) generals to India.

Relations between the two countries have been precariously balanced since China and India clashed in the 1962 Sino-Indian Border Conflict, in which PLA forces launched offensives over the Himalayan border into India. Against an opponent vastly superior in resources, Indian forces were unable to resist China's aggressive military tactics

The breakdown in the dialogue between the two countries caused by this dispute should be of some concern to the international community. War is obviously out of the question, and in time it is not unreasonable to expect that relations get back on their previous footing. However, this incident highlights the continued volatility of the region. In the eyes of the Chinese, the reclaiming of lost territory is still a sensitive point, and it is unlikely that China will abandon its claims to parts of Kashmir any time soon. For Beijing, what is at stake is as much about national pride as physical territory, and with China's ever-increasing power in Asia its leaders could be inclined to try and further restore this pride.

Yet, we must not forget that the India of today is vastly better equipped to deal with the Chinese threat than the India of 1962. With both sides possessing nuclear weapons and strengthened military resources, the dynamic of international relations in Asia is much different. Some economists are already looking to India rather than China as the long-term economic superpower in the continent, a prediction which makes the chance of New Delhi and Beijing coming to a head more likely. Time will tell whether such estimates are correct, but the world community should be working to try and ensure that Sino-Indian relations improve significantly in the future.

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