“Big surprise,” commented the senior army officer on the fruitless India-China border talks.
“Did we really expect anything to happen at the 13th installment of a talkshop that has so far failed to yield anything concrete?” he asks.
“It’s great to talk about understandings over Sikkim and such like, but does it matter unless you get something in writing? China can change its mind whenever it feels,” he says.
Officials involved in planning for the security of the Indo-Tibetan border security have seen these talks as little more than ‘pro forma’. “We probably had this round for no reason other than that it was scheduled. Otherwise this is hardly a good time to talk to China and get something substantial out of the process. There are just too many issues between us,” explains the officer.
He rattles off a list of Chinese behaviors that are perceived as obstructionist and even unfriendly by India. “Their opposition to the waiver given by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to India, the claim over ‘southern Tibet’ (Arunachal Pradesh), the claim that the Mumbai attacks might have been perpetrated by Hindu extremists, blocking the ADB (Asian Development Bank) loan for Arunachal Pradesh, the opposition to imposing international sanctions on Hafeez Saeed, and then getting prickly over us trying to develop infrastructure and provide security to border areas in the northeast,” he recites, adding, “Not to mention their ‘string of pearls’ routine.”
“They are being difficult with us for quite some time now. This border-talks process is not going to come to anything. For the Chinese it is just a delaying tactic until they consider themselves in a position to act. And we’ve been playing along,” says the officer dismissively.
While the officer, who prefers anonymity, agrees ‘there is no reason not to talk’, he says India should ‘keep its head to the ground and quietly focus on capacity building, both in the northeast as well as in the Indian Ocean’.
“Fortunately, this is something we’re getting around to doing, even starting to see results. After all, the ATV isn’t meant for Pakistan or Bangladesh,” he shrugs, pointing out, “Talking is fine. But we have to remember there was Panchsheel and Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai earlier as well. These talks are meant to ensure no progress takes place and perhaps even to lull us into a false sense of security. So we need to be prepared for when the talking stops.”