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Research Report

Détente Between China and India The Delicate Balance of Geopolitics in Asia

Willem van Kemenade
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2008
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 230
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 5-12)

    Indian and Chinese statesmen of the 20th and early 21st century have ruminated at length on the grand vision of their two ancient Asian civilizations and now resurgent great neighboring countries, becoming close partners, leading Asia and the world at large.

    After Indian independence in 1947 India emerged as the new leading power of Asia with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as the authentic voice of the whole born-again Orient. Nehru had visited the Soviet Union in 1927 and China in 1939. He then told Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek: “More and more, I think of India and China pulling together in...

  2. (pp. 13-30)

    India is located in a troubled neighbourhood. It is surrounded by six fragile states, some of the worst governed countries in the world. The three Islamic countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – are in varying states of dysfunction because of poor governance, Islamic fundamentalism, jihadism and terrorism, with Pakistan a permanent strategic ally of China while simultaneously in a shaky alliance with the United States, and Bangladesh in a cooperative defence partnership with China. Of the remaining countries, Nepal is a fledgling Hindu republic following a long-drawn-out tripartite conflict of Maoist rebels, a downgraded autocratic monarch and democratic parties,...

  3. (pp. 31-54)

    During the early 1950s, Sino-Indian political relations had been tentative: actively friendly on the Indian side; and wait-and-see on the Chinese side. After their meeting at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the two prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou Enlai, exchanged official visits and a period of friendship on the basis of pancasila – the five principles of peaceful coexistence (1955-1959) – was initiated. The most onerous problem, the border, was not discussed at all, because neither side had studied the issues sufficiently or formulated a strategy about how to handle them. There are references in Selected Works of Jawaharlal...

  4. (pp. 55-84)

    Apart from the inconclusive bilateral Sino-Indian negotiations about a border settlement, there has been an on-off dialogue process about a final solution for Tibet. This is an issue between the Chinese government and the government-in-exile of the Dalai Lama, who since 1959 has been residing in Dharamsala as a guest of the Indian government.

    Negotiations between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have been undertaken in two phases, the first from 1979 until 1985 when Tibetan exile delegations visited China for six rounds of preparatory talks about talks. China was then in the first round of post-Mao...

  5. (pp. 85-114)

    China and Pakistan are perhaps the most incongruent allies in the world. China is an atheist, authoritarian, emerging superpower; Pakistan is an Islamic, equally undemocratic, unstable, medium-sized garrison-state that in recent decades has been using Islamism, jihadism and support for terrorism to achieve its goal of becoming the dominant Islamic power in the region. From the very beginning of the Cold War, the United States has been arming and aiding Pakistan as a highly dubious ally against communism and more recently against Islamist terrorism, but Pakistan has used most of the aid for wars against India over Kashmir. India responded...

  6. (pp. 115-140)

    Apart from the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, another major event made 1998 a watershed year: the Anglo-American bombing campaign on Iraq to punish Saddam Hussein for obstructing U.N. inspections of his alleged development of weapons of mass destruction elicited a much more dramatic response from Russia than international criticism of India’s nuclear tests. Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov called for the establishment of a ‘strategic triangle’ among India, Russia and China to ensure peace and stability in the world. Primakov strongly criticized the air strikes by the United States and the United Kingdom on Iraq as...

  7. (pp. 141-168)

    The end of the Cold War, dissolution of the Soviet Union, improving but still unpredictable relations between India and China, and China’s continuing alliance with Pakistan, were all (new) realities and complexities that offered the foundation for a growing strategic relationship between India and the United States at the end of the twentieth century. Former US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary had had a special interest in India from their student days, because the whole South Asia region seemed to be a laboratory for experiments in grass-roots democratization and social entrepreneurship, such as micro-credit banks and women’s self-help...

  8. (pp. 169-192)

    During summer 2007, Burma experienced its second explosion of popular discontent with its backward, inward-looking military rule, which has held the country in a suffocating grip of isolation and economic stagnation since 1962. It was the first mass protest movement since the major uprising of democracy forces against the military junta in 1988, which was suppressed by brute force with an estimated 3,000 people killed, leading to the semi-retirement of Burma’s ageing whimsical, xenophobic dictator Ne Win and his replacement by senior General Than Shwe. This time the movement was led by the country’s revered Buddhist clergy, the only organized...

  9. (pp. 193-218)

    China’s political economy has evolved from Maoist hardline communism (1949–1978), towards pragmatic ‘reform communism’ during the 1980s and 1990s and finally reached its current dynamic state-capitalism under a kind of neo-con communist party. India, meanwhile, proceeded from ‘Nehruvian’ stagnant soft-socialist multi-party democracy with its slow ‘Hindu rate of growth’ until the late 1980s, through liberal reform from the early 1990s towards entrepreneurial-led fast development since the outset of the twenty-first century.

    During the 1950s, China was a junior ally of the Soviet Union, copying and adapting the Stalinist model, only to be replaced by isolationist, ultra-leftist Maoism in the...

  10. (pp. 219-225)

    There is a belief in India among many academics, politicians and journalists that China, conscious of its centrality as the Middle Kingdom and the largest continuous empire – in Asian and world history – had a grand design from the early 1950s to reassert itself as Asia’s pre-eminent power. India, meanwhile, had a history of transient Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim empires, based more on ephemeral and mercenary conquests of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious periphery – like the Ottoman Empire – than on an ancient, homogeneous, cultural core, like China. By the eighteenth century, the last Indian ‘Mughal Empire’ was so weakened by tension between a...