INFA Column


Prof. M.L. Sondhi

September 3, 1975

(Mr. M.L. Sondhi, who is Associate Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, reads in China’s latest international stance signs of a new coercive policy but he thinks India can meet it successfully)

Peking’s activation of its newly built nuclear missile testing range in Tibet can hardly be regarded as a gesture of reconciliation to India. The proposed experimental launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of 9,600 k.m. from Tibet over our national territory will, in fact, reveal Peking rulers as obsessed by an egoism which is a stumbling block in the way of international détente. A definitive assessment of the new situation which will be created by the experimental launching and the conditions of physical danger and psychological stress which it will involve must await systematic analysis of more detailed information. There is no reasons, however, why there should be conceptual fuzziness about the pattern which Chinese behaviour suggests seen from the vantage point of Indian national security.

Peking’s policy makers view the structure of their own political authority and their “influence” on the affairs of their neighbours with the help not so much of Marx’s theories as those of Clausewitz. Bearing this in mind, one can see that most of the Chinese advocacy of the rights of the Third World is part of a political strategy which accepts Clausewitz’s philosophy of war. Specifically, China claims a right to impose its will on India by making verbose statements putting forward propositions amounting to interference in India’s domestic affairs.

The Chinese leadership is using a language of ideas which makes political settlements of trouble spots a matter of perilous chance. Peking’s specific political acts become opportunities for precipitation of conflicts and for demonstrating its psychological advantages in using its power to coerce other states. This hostile and war-like attitude towards India partakes of the Clausewitzian injunction about the “continuation of politics by other means”, and has led China to adopt an offensive posture towards India which is characterized by an effort to sow the seeds of violence through Indian extremists and to sow the seeds of disruption and dismemberment by supporting so-called Naga and Mizo separatist demands. This “coercive” conception of international relations militates against practical diplomacy which could help to extend détente to the Asian continent.

The missile base in Tibet makes nonsense of the over-optimistic assessments of China’s foreign policy orientation. One has to recall the unparalleled violence inflicted on the Tibetan people and the high likelihood of nuclear disaster which a nuclear missile testing range implies for the peaceful community of Tibetans, to realize that, in spite of their Third World vocabulary, the Chinese practice is not on the lines of deepening of détente but constitutes a paradigm of coercion, violence and inter-societal tensions. Chinese diplomacy is making inroads in Asian countries by projecting Mao Tse-tung as the prophet of Asian unity and an apostle of anti-hegemonism. The history of Chinese foreign policy shows, however, that Peking’s rulers do not accept the wider and deeper community of Asian countries which could bargain as equals.

The grandeur of Maoism is not so impressive when one opens one’s eyes to the injustice and racial persecution through which the Han chauvinists have sought to obliterate the cultural identity of Tibet. If peaceful and constructive relations are to be set up between China and India, the need for a political détente in Asia must be accepted as part of a long-term cooperation between all Asian peoples. An important aspect of improving bilateral relations between India and China would be to ease tensions in Tibet. This cannot be achieved by using Tibetan territory to accumulate lethal weaponry and to fire an ICBM over Indian territory into the Indian Ocean. The failure of the US intervention in South-east Asia has produced a perverse effect on Peking’s policy-making. China is seeking a re-definition of goals and objectives through which it can use its politico-military power to generate pressures in its immediate geographical environment. It is not adopting a strategy of conflict resolution but is seeking inter-locking arrangements as a so-called champion of the Third World which will actually enable it to maximize Chinese coercive power and exploit the vulnerability of political societies whose problems of national integration are particularly intractable.
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