Not the border, nor the ocean

For India-China ties, China's nuclear assistance to Pakistan is the real problem

Some high-level exchanges between China and India at the BRICS summit have been in the news. The Chinese president has sounded off on five ideas to maintain peace between the Asian giants. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has put across the plea that China's ties with others must not hurt India. Both leaders have been sagacious in their demands. Because, if there is space, as the Chinese say, for two tigers on the same mountain, and India has to be convinced that China's rise is peaceful, Beijing is going to have to change its foreign policy in a major way.

It is not the boundary dispute that is worrying. Despite its length and the vagueness of the line in some areas, the boundary has been a line of peace and tranquillity for two decades. Neither side has any intention to disturb the peaceful status quo despite disputed claims. Nor is there a real worry that either side has plans to break the peace with a blitzkrieg. All the manoeuvring around with movements of troops, airfields and rocket batteries on either side of the line doesn't quite convince the other side that an attack is imminent or being seriously planned. If a permanent settlement is decades away, it doesn't really matter as the Chinese say, leave the dispute to the next generation.

China's presence in the Indian Ocean could have been another worry, but it has already taken place amidst some huge yawns. The Chinese task group off Somalia now has a refuelling base in the Seychelles instead of the Omani coast, but neither its size nor its activities are of concern to maritime strategists. True, one day when China has built its navy sufficiently to meet its needs in the west Pacific and has another aircraft carrier and, more importantly, a working carrier air group, it will come to the Indian Ocean and disturb the balance.

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