Cartographic initiative

This is the umpteenth time this has happened — a recent Chinese map shows Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. What has been India’s reaction? The MEA spokesman responded by saying that “cartographic depiction” does not change reality on the ground. And that “The fact that Arunachal Pradesh is integral and inalienable part of India has been conveyed to Chinese authority at several occasions including at the very highest level.”

The point about China emphasizing its outrageous claims soon after vouching for the 5 principles of Panchsheel and its continued relevance in the 21st Century is par for the course, but something New Delhi is simply unwilling to concede as other than the usual provocation the Indian govt has over the years gotten used to. It is a wrong tack to take because it is precisely the repetition that dulls the foreign policy sense of the adversary and conditions him to react as India has done — as only a map, etc., when actually the aim is to consolidate its international legal claims.

Soft words and caution will not do the trick that a like cartographic reaction can — such as depicting Tibet in a different colour and NOT as part of sovereign Chinese territory, as has been advocated by this analyst for over 25 years now. It will at once depict the fact of India’s accepting Tibet as Chinese ONLY when it is treated as a genuinely “autonomous” part of China voided of all PLA presence. This is the sort of “muscular” reaction one would have expected as follow-up to the formal invite to Lobsang Sangay, the elected PM of the Tibetan Government in Exile to Modi’s investiture on May 26, and the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s heartening statement that if Beijing wants India to support a “One China” concept Beijing should reciprocate by supporting “One India” principally inclusive of Arunachal Pradesh.

What is India frightened of? When India does not respond in like, tit-for-tat, fashion is when it makes everybody on China’s periphery doubt India’s druthers, leadership qualities, and its will to take on a natural rival in Asia, brings into question India’s ambitions, and encourages Beijing to become progressively more daring. That way lies not peace, but war.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, South Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Cartographic initiative

  1. Shaurya says:

    These things should and can be done. Even done at an “unofficial” level, let us say by groups like IDSA or CLAWS will send a message to the Chinese and that is what the game is about – sending a message. GoI can always do these things under the guise of deniability.

  2. Tama Shah says:

    I think the fundamental problem with India (and Indians) is that in a country of more than a billion people, probably a few hundred understand even the vaguest notions of strategy. Every time I have tried to explain the importance of military strength to people, I have been bombarded with semantically incomprehensible arguments of “peace”. Indians don’t understand the importance of strength. The Indian education system completely bypasses subjects like rhetorics and strategy. As far as I know, not a single university in India offers courses on political and/or military strategy at the bachelors level, and only about half a dozen places offer them as optional courses (only in disciplines such as ‘International Relations’) at the Masters level. Many US universities (e.g. Columbia), on the other hand, includes thought-provoking courses on military strategy as a part of their undergraduate curriculum in political science. It is obvious that the two countries are shaping their young minds differently. By which I mean that India is shaping her young minds at all.

    The country, therefore, suffers from the presence of multiple generations of a strategically blind population. In a democracy, when the people do not understand something, their representatives, too, tend to ignore it. After all, focusing on an important issue will not get votes unless the voter realized that importance. Chaanakya must be shedding tears in heaven!

    Unlike Indians, who have forgotten their past, and thereby suffer from the handicap of a nation trying to rebuild from ground zero, the Chinese have remained true to their tradition in many ways. When Confucius held office under the Duke of Lu, and a meeting was convened at Chia-ku, he said: “If pacific negotiations are in progress, warlike preparations should have been made beforehand.” That is exactly what China does. Every single time.

    Indians suffer from a utopian notion of peace. The truth is, Indians have mistaken weakness for peacefulness. Need I remind the readers that even the most prominent Sanskrit text advocating peace — the Bhagavad Gita, taken up by none other than Gandhi himself as the guiding text on non-violence — Krsna is justifying war as a means of future stability and prosperity. This comment is no place for a debate on that extraordinary text, but I would like to point out a very easy-to-understand philosopy hidden in the Sanskrit language itself:

    In Sanskrit, the word for forgiveness is ‘kshamaa’, and the word for power is ‘kshamataa’. Both share the same root, ‘ksham’. Those who have studied Paninian grammar can immediately see the reason behind this. Others, I hope, will trust me when I say this: they share the same root because only the powerful can forgive.

    The weak can only plead.

    • Root language as indication of strategic tendencies of a nation and people is a still unexplored field of research and study, unlike say, “strategic culture”. But your take on ksham, kshamata, and kshama is very insightful.

      • Tama Shah says:

        I think I managed to misrepresent my case. I didn’t mean to suggest language as an indication of any social tendencies, but only as anecdotal (and etymological) evidence of the philosophical relation between power and forgiveness.

    • RV says:

      A very sensible and thought provoking post. I wish it were available in an expanded form for circulation and more careful analysis.

      • @Tama Shah — your main point that “only the powerful can forgive” is nevertheless most relevant from the hard realpolitik viewpoint. Have always maintained that we tend to ride our moral hobby horse before triumphing in anything or even packing any of the wherewithal.

  3. RV says:

    Thought provoking article. India should also change its maps to depict (and rightly so) Baluchistan as “Pakistan occupied Baluchistan”, since Pakistan’s acquisition of Baluchistan is illegal. Another point. Why is India so concerned about Hamas terrorists (some of whose factions are ISIS linked) getting hammered by Israel, but neglects the plight of the Baluchi’s who have historically been pro-India? Why isn’t there an Indian sponsored motion in the UN concerning the sustained and large scale rape and murder committed by the Pakistani Army in Baluchistan?

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