Amit Ranjan is a Research Scholar in South Asian Studies division of School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His other posts can be seen here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In international politics great powers and powerful countries always try to expand their territorial limits either by acquiring others land through war or by making use of their friendly relations to grab strategic areas on lease. Colonialism was the greatest example of this practice; European powers like United Kingdom, France, Spain, Netherland and Germany have conquered the colonial territories in Africa, Asia and Latin America for various reasons to meet their resource needs, defence and profitable markets.
The two world wars were result of the competition among the colonial masters to grab more and more colonies. Even during Cold War, USA and former USSR had engaged in this activity to establish their military bases around the world so that they can check each other.
As China is climbing up in power-ladder it is using this old age practice that had been used by almost all powers in past and in present time. Chinese policy makers since ancient time have a vision of ‘Middle Kingdom’, which gives it almost half of Asia under its suzerainty. This vision was reinvigorated after the successful Maoist Revolution in 1949 and today also this vision plays a dominant role in defence and strategic foreign policy making process of China.
Behaving as a powerful country or say ‘colonial power’, China has dispute with Japan over Senkaku Island that it wants to acquire. From time to time its navy patrol has violated the territorial limits. It has taken Coco Island on lease from Myanmar to keep an eye on India and also to have a virtual military base in Indian Ocean. After the end of Indo-china war in 1989, where China too entered to establish its hegemony in this region, three islands Paracel, Spartley and Nanasha are still matter of confrontation between China and Vietnam. In early 2011, Vietnamese forces fire power to assert their presence and power. It also invited USA and hold naval war exercise to assert its power in the area. Chinese are undeterred by it and still maintain their control over these three islands and not ready to accept any solution to it. China has also acquired Marao Island from Maldives to have a base. This base is near to Diego Gracia, US military base in Indian Ocean, and also a potential challenge to India. These small islands form parts of strings of pearl, which are helpful to China in securing its trade and defence interests in much important Malacca straits. In Central Asia also China has settled all its border disputes with the central Asian countries. These disputes were resolved under the banner of the SCO, which was formed under the guidance and leadership of China. Besides its peripheral areas, China too has been able to strongly set itself in Africa. There it has acquired resources through fair and foul means to fulfil its own national interest.
Coming to Kashmir, the area under China is the result of 1963 border demarcation agreement between Pakistan and China. Under this agreement China was given territory by Pakistan on lease. This area has been developed by China with good infrastructure and also has military post. Selig Harrison, writing in New York Times in August 2011 maintained that there are 12000 Chinese soldiers present in Kashmir and also tunnels with capacity to hide missiles. Recently COAS General VN Singh avowed that there are 4,000 PLA soldiers in Pakistan administrated Kashmir. In both statements the two were not clear what they mean by Pakistan Side of Kashmir-the areas under Pakistan or the leased areas under the Chinese. This is must because in their leased areas Chinese can do anything and India’s job is to be ready for any emergency within their own sovereign territory in Kashmir. Of course, it is critical situation because this equation makes China a claimant and powerful party for any future Indo-Pakistan settlement for resolution of Kashmir dispute.
It is not that this expansionist policy of China has not met with any challenge rather the countries have consistently challenged its presence in their neighbourhood but due to its might it has silenced all voices. In many cases extra-regional powers mainly USA has been brought in to check its threat but still China has not been mowed down because of various limitations of USA and growing power of China.
As a continental and also global rival to China, India has a problem with this expansionist’s policy. Though, India has been vociferous in opposing Chinese expansionist policies near its border but has literally done nothing to check it. In, September 2011 when earthquake hit the areas near Chinese border in Sikkim there was a complete lack of infrastructure to make the goods reach in affected areas. The dilapidated roads made the aid agencies unable to provide quick relief to the people. Same is the story in Arunachal Pradesh, which too borders China. This is mainly due to fear-psychosis running in minds of Indian policy makers that Chinese may make use of those infrastructures to get inside the Indian Territory. This mentality shows that 1962 still haunts in the minds of Indian policy makers and also despite various defence modernization programmes they still lack faith on their defence forces.
China will continue to follow its expansionist policy because it has an ambition to be a great power, also it has decades old dream to fulfil by establishing ‘Middle Kingdom’. The onus is on others to either check it or give way to it.