India should rethink the ‘One China’ policy and exploit China’s fault lines: Experts

New Delhi: India should rethink and revise its ‘One China‘ policy and exploit the geographic, ethnic, and economic fault lines within the Asian giant, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, a group of experts have said

At a webinar jointly organised by Law and Society Alliance and Defence.Capital on “Revisiting ‘One China’ policy: Economic and Political Options for India: Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjiang“, the experts said India’s non-interference when Tibet was annexed by China 70 years ago, thereby changing its geographical boundaries, has come back to haunt India since 1962.

The experts at the webinar were Arvind Gupta, former deputy national security adviser of India and now director of Vivekananda International Foundation; Jayadeva Ranade, former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat and present day President of Centre for China Analysis and Strategy; Seshadri Chari, secretary-general of Forum for Integrated National Security; Nitin A. Gokhale, editor of StratNewsGlobal and BharatShakti; and Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, senior fellow at Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

In his remarks, Arvind Gupta said ‘One China’ policy was considered as a reciprocity to the ‘One India‘ policy. However, India gave up its influence on Tibet in the 1950s and accepted its annexation by China. This situation as far as Tibet is concerned continues till date.

However, India has taken a flexible approach in the past few years on Tibet, Gupta said and pointed out to the 2010 India-China joint statement that didn’t mention the ‘One China’ policy, then external affairs minister late Sushma Swaraj’s statement in 2014 on the reciprocity on the unity and sovereignty of each other, and the invite to the Taiwanese representative to join the 2014 Narendra Modi oath taking ceremony.

He expressed his concerns about not taking a dynamic approach and said that we have not moved very much in revising policy and taking forward what was said in the statements. On Tibet, Gupta suggested that India should be supporting the effort of the Tibetans to have self-rule and should give the Dalai Lama more recognition and position in diplomatic engagements, apart from visibility in India’s political circles.

Along with this, India must begin economic and technological engagements with Taiwan, besides supporting it politically. He also recommended garnering India’s support to the democratic movement in Hong Kong, even if we do not join the western countries’ joint efforts at isolating China in geopolitics. He also recommended Indian support to the voices against human rights violations in Xinjiang at global fora.

Gupta also stressed the need to build India’s capacity on dealing with China and be ready to anticipate the Chinese intentions and mind when we begin to revise our ‘One China’ policy.

Nitin Gokhale, in his arguments, said China’s actions regarding ‘One India’ policy such as stapled visas to Indian citizens from the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, denying visa to an Indian military commander who was heading the army in Jammu, and Kashmir and Beijing’s opposition to Indian prime minister visiting Arunachal Pradesh were all reasons enough for India to rethink the ‘One China’ policy.

“Taiwan is the low hanging fruit as far as a rethink on ‘One China’ Policy is concerned. We should think of increasing our economic and technological relations with Taiwan. They are wonderful in electronic chip manufacturing, semiconductors, and 5G technologies,” Gokhale said.

Taiwan has 90 companies operating in India, which has recently set up Taiwan Invest Organisation within the Ministry of Commerce. Also, in two instances, Indian Members of Parliament have attended the inauguration of Taiwanes prime ministers, the latest one last month. He also argued in favour of Indian students and government officials learning Mandarin from Taiwan instead of mainland China.

On Tibet, Gokhale said not only the Dalai Lama but the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan government in exile should be provided greater visibility among the media, academia, and government events/meetings. Besides, Buddhism diplomacy should be integral to India’s China policy.

“One of the strongest points India has is the roots and familiarity with Buddhist traditions. We should leverage it. Setting up Buddhist Alliance in countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia would be fruitful. India should think about not hindering Tibetans from organising political protests when Chinese leaders visit India,” he added.

“The world is looking towards India for support. It must not necessarily be in conjunction with the Western countries but standing with protesters will certainly mean a lot and send a message that India means business – democracy promotion is a game India is well versed in, We should keep talking about Xinjiang at global platforms and try to raise human rights issues. The issue of Xinjiang should be further explored.”

Photo: A representative map of China’s fault lines.

Talking about the worries of China, Gokhale said Taiwan, Tibet, and Tienanmen/Trade bothered Beijing the most. He further suggested that being the largest democracy, India must speak in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

“In total, India’s message must be loud and clear to China that if they can create issues for us in Ladakh, Kashmir, and Arunachal, India can compete with them on the three Ts and bring them to their knees,” Gokhale concluded.

Jayadeva Ranade stressed the need to build up India’s own capabilities in countering China – not only on the border, but on all fronts. He predicted that the tensions between the US and China will certainly either put India in a sweet spot or in a delicate position in the days to come. He said that the government should provide scholarships to those wanting to learn Madarin from Taiwan instead of China, where the visitors are brain-washing into becoming slaves of Chinese supremacy.

On Hong Kong, Ranade favoured greater engagement by India on democracy issues and human rights. On Taiwan, he wanted India to provide equal stature and opportunities to their businesses like it is currently being done for China.

“Why should we deny the same opportunities to and from Taiwan as compared to China? We can benefit from Taiwan by shifting their chip building and shipping companies here in India. It will tackle unemployment in India and help businesses to grow.”

On Tibet, Ranade noted that the Dalai Lama’s old age meant India needed to expand its Buddhist links with the Tibetans and strengthen the relationship. “China does not have a good track record on Buddhism. We need to build up our own Buddhist religious sites as it is one of the fastest-growing religions of the world, thereby, bringing all the Asian countries to India. We should also try to link Lumbini with Gaya and Sarnath, and other Buddhist sites in India. We need to prevent China from building the Buddhist circuit connecting Lumbini with China through aerial connectivity.”

Sheshadri Chari argued that India should never accept the ‘One China’ principle as propounded by Beijing. On Xinjiang, Chari pointed out that the region was annexed by China because of which it created borders for itself with Central Asian nations, Afghanistan, and India.

“Chinese admit themselves that it is not their land. In 1955, they converted the new province into the ‘Autonomous Region’. Saifuddin Azizi was the chairman of the autonomous territory and opposed Mao Zedong’s terminology of Xinjiang, which was later named Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).”

He said, “By occupying Tibet, China occupied an additional landmass and got borders with India, Bhutan, and Nepal, which they didn’t have. Because of occupation of Xinjiang, they got direct borders with India (Aksai Chin), Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan. It was an important strategic move by China.”

The development of Urumqi-Kashgar road, an all-weather road, China will get access to South Asia. Thus, China will be making a road in Indian territory to dominate the region, he added.

“In a changing world order, we have rejected the offer to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). We should tell the RCEP authority that if Hong Kong and Taiwan are made members of the RCEP, it would be more suitable for India to join it.”

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra began by classifying three major problems of India with China – cutting off the Pakistan-China nexus, the need for a problems free border, and China’s veto power at United Nations Security Council.

He gave food for thought by flagging a couple of questions including – are we ready to give nuclear weapons to Taiwan? Can we support Taiwan strategically? Can we support the democracy movement in Hong Kong, given the fact that we already have many protests in India? Can we recognise Taiwan? Can we support Uighurs? Can we support Manchuria and Inner Mongolia? Can we support the minority rebels in Mongolia? Can we sell them weapons?

Exploring policy options, he suggested developing Intelligence cooperation with Taiwanese, who have excellent counterintelligence capabilities and brilliant technological intelligence. He also recommended diverting Chinese attention to the South China Sea and other borders by providing resources and support to countries like Vietnam and Philippines, who are ready to take on China.

He said that Vietnam needs western technologies but has a trust deficiency towards the West. India should act as a platform for the transfer of Western tech to Vietnam. He also argued about the need to have clarity on alliances and suggested moving away from non-aligned movement’s different versions.

N. C. Bipindra, editor of Defence.Capital moderated the session and Law and Society Alliance secretary-general H. Kumar Vaidyanathan proposed a vote of thanks.

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