Can Belt and Road Resolve India-China Boundary Unrest?

“It is possible only if India is not sucked into brewing Sino-US Cold War”

Indians have convinced themselves that if they declare a tract of territory to be Indian, it becomes Indian, which is nonsense, said former Australian journalist and scholar Neville Maxwell back in 2017.

Maxwell who authored “India’s China War” (1962), was posted in New Delhi in 1959 as a South Asia correspondent of the Times and therefore was on the scene prior to and at the time of the conflict. India banned his book.

BRI can resolve Indo-China territorial disputes

According to his book intro on Amazon, “In 1967, he returned as a senior fellow from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, this time as a scholar. Therefore, he had a unique perspective both as a journalist and as a scholar. His book set the record straight once and for all. Ironically, in a country claiming to be a democracy, India banned his book. The truth was just too inconvenient. However, it was read by Henry Kissinger, who recommended it to President Nixon. When Nixon met Premier Chou En-Lai in his historic visit to China in 1972, he told the Chinese Premier that he finally and fully understood the truth of the conflict”.

What makes Maxwell’s key observations and view pertinent several years later, is the latest standoff between India and China near Ladakh Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Several areas along the LAC in Ladakh and North Sikkim have witnessed major military build-up by both the Chinese and Indian armies recently, in a clear signal of escalating tension and hardening of respective positions by the two sides even two weeks after they were engaged in two separate face-offs.

Maxwell says, “the ownership of territory can only be decided by diplomatic discussion between the two parties concerned”.

“The devastating battle is (was) a humiliation for India’s political class,” he said regarding the 1962 Sino-Indian dispute.

According to Maxwell China’s multibillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could present solution to boundary unrest. The China-India border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC.

“Cooperation on infrastructure is at the heart of Belt and Road concept, isn’t it? So I think this could be a way ahead…if it comes off and is undisturbed by further conflicts”.

Last year, a similar proposal called the Middle East Peace Plan was put forward by President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The plan front-ended a regional economic solution to precede a political solution for the decades-old Palestine dispute.

It was objected to by several countries sympathetic with the Palestine cause. The Palestine Authority was the first to reject it.

Under President Trump, Washington has been raising alarm over Beijing’s BRI, including its flagship project the $62 billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC). “But it has struggled to offer governments in the region a more appealing economic vision, wrote the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) in January.

On being asked to comment on the Aussie journalist’s take vis-a-vis the ongoing Indo-China standoff in Ladakh and the BRI, a Pakistan defense analyst said, “BRI can soothe the LAC situation in Ladakh, but I think it won’t happen”.

“It is possible only if India is not sucked into brewing Sino-US Cold War”.

Last week, the first bulk-cargo ship “MV Manet” carrying wheat and urea of Afghan Transit trade arrived at Gwadar deepsea port in Balochistan province, the gateway of CPEC. The southern flank of the province touches Arabian Sea a few hundred miles east of the Strait of Hormuz.

Some regional players are not too happy about the CPEC. India is one of them.

When asked to elaborate, the analyst tells DesPardes that there are signs that US will seek to bring India onboard. According to him, “the postponement of G7 summit to a later part of the year and inviting India, Australia and South Korea under the banner of D10 (Democracies 10) points towards formation of “Asian NATO”.

In his opinion, a new cold war is inevitable due to the US-Sino ongoing spat, “coranavirus pandemic or no pandemic”.

China has become a beast technologically, economically, discipline-wise, efficiency-wise, innovation and scale-wise, says the analyst.

On Sunday, China’s state media and the government of Hong Kong lashed out at President Donald Trump’s vow to end Hong Kong’s special status if Beijing imposes new national security laws on the city. It said this would hurt the United States more than China.

“The baton of sanctions that the United States is brandishing will not scare Hong Kong and will not bring China down,” China’s Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, wrote in a commentary.

Experts are weighing in —deconstructing the developments with keen insights. So scholar “Maxwell’s views based on ground realities could be a thing frozen in the past, says a South Asia observer while mostly agreeing with the analyst’s views.

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