‘Regional war’ remark warning to US: Chinese delegation Delegates call India-China boundary dispute a ‘complicated problem’, and that it required the creation of more favourable conditions for it to be solved

Elizabeth Roche
LiveMint
September 27, 2014

New Delhi: Recent remarks by Chinese president Xi Jinping that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) should be prepared for “a regional war” was not directed against southern neighbour India but should be seen a warning to the US, members of a senior Chinese diplomatic delegation on a three-day visit to India said on Friday.

The six-member delegation comprising Lv Fengding, member of the foreign policy advisory group of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, and Zhou Gang, a former ambassador to India, were also of the view that the India-China boundary dispute was a “complicated problem” and it required the creation of more favourable conditions for it to be solved.

The visit of the Chinese team follows close on the heels of the 17-19 September trip to India by Xi Jinping to India. The aim of both visits was to foster closer understanding between the world’s two most populous countries whose ties have been mired in suspicion since their brief but bitter border war in 1962.

“The Chinese government and the people attach great importance to the relations between China and India; we take India as our close neighbour and a very good friend, as a very good co-operator in developing economy and very good partner in international relations,” Lv said during an interaction with Indian journalists on Friday.

Developing good relations with India is a major strategic objective of China, he added. When asked about his views on a statement made by Xi that PLA should be combat ready for a regional war, Lv said “ it is very common” for Xi as the president of the powerful Chinese Military Commission—the highest state military organ with the responsibility of commanding the entire armed forces in the country—to make such remarks.

“It has nothing to do with India,” Lv said. Ye Hailin, editorial director of South Asia Studies, National Institute of International Strategy, agreed it was natural for Xi to make such a remark, given that he was addressing PLA.

“Such a statement is not a risk to any of our neighbours, especially not our very close friend…but we do want to send some signal to another country in another side of the Pacific Ocean because they talk too much and they do too much,” Ye said—in a possible reference to US attempts to “rebalance” its military attention and assets towards Asia to counter a rising China. The US, he said, had conducted military exercises a mere 12 miles from the Chinese coast recently.

Former ambassador to India Zhou Gang said “Common points far outweigh the differences” between India and China, despite differences about demarcation of borders.

Both India and China were enjoying “the best” phase of bilateral relations at the moment, he said.

According to Ye, despite the recent tensions at Chumar in Kashmir, where some Indian and Chinese were in a face-off for many days, “there was no conflict” though there was “contact” between the two sides. Such situations arise due to the inter-section of patrolling lines of Indian and Chinese troops in the absence of a demarcated border, he said. China claims 90,000 sq. km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and occupies around 38,000 sq. km in Jammu and Kashmir.

Also, under an agreement signed between Pakistan and China in March 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km of Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China. India and China regularly accuse each other of incursions, the latest being media reports of two face-offs in Kashmir over the past few days.

On the seeming lack of Chinese support to Indian ambitions to enter a revamped UN Security Council, Zhou said China was supportive of India’s candidature but given the large number of countries that wanted to be a member of the restructured UN body, it was difficult for China to express support in favour of one country.

On the question of Tibet and its exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama living in India and seeking merely the preservation of Tibetan culture and language and rejecting any idea of splitting Tibet from China, Zhou said there was no threat to Tibetan language and culture.

China would accept the Dalai Lama’s arguments as genuine if he publicly stated Tibet was part of China, Taiwan was part of Chin and that he would give up separatist activities directed against China, Zhou added.