New Delhi, June 24: India and China should work on mutual trust using their political and civilizational wisdom to de-escalate the border situation as neither should prepare for a military conflict, China’s influential daily Global Times reported on Wednesday quoting a senior advisor to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
India and China are not prepared nor should they prepare for a military conflict, the official daily quoted Sudheendra Kulkarni, an advisor to the then Prime Minister Vajpayee, and now a well-recognized political columnist, as having told the newspaper in an exclusive interview.
Both sides have held two rounds of military talks at a senior level to de-escalate the situation, particularly after a violent face-off in Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh barely a week ago in which 20 Indian Armymen, including a Colonel level officer, were killed. Both sides have agreed to push back but no time limit has been prescribed for it amid indications that the process could stretch for a considerable time as troops continue to face each other along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the tension-ridden sector.
Ultra-nationalism is bad for both India and China, he said, adding that, in India, it has unfortunately resulted in a “campaign” of boycotting Chinese goods. “As two developing countries and two large neighboring nations… we have responsibilities to cooperate with each other and contribute to the prosperity of our two countries, and to peace and development in the world,” Kulkarni was quoted by the Global Times as having told the newspaper.
The former senior advisor, who worked for many years in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said he firmly believes bilateral relations would suffer from a military conflict and an intensified standoff between the two sides could cause a severe setback that pushes back ties by several decades. If that happened, Kulkarni said, it would be extremely unfortunate for both India and China.
As China and India are two countries with a peace-loving nature shared and nurtured by their civilizations, and strengthened by their intrinsic connections, Kulkarni believes India and China can de-escalate the situation. In this context, he recalled the profound remark by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his conversation with the Chinese President Xi Jinping — “China and India are two bodies with one spirit.”
Kulkarni quoted from Xi’s speech in New Delhi during his first visit to India in September 2014, to emphasize the right approach to take in the present situation. “Neighbors may sometimes encounter problems. What is important is for China and India to face the boundary question and other issues left over from history and seek fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solutions at an early date through peaceful and friendly consultation.
‘In the meantime, we must not focus our attention only on our differences and forget about our friendship and cooperation, still less should we allow the differences to stand in the way of our development and interfere with the overall growth of bilateral relations. I am confident that as two time-honored civilizations, China and India have the ability and wisdom to embark on a path of good-neighborliness between two major countries.”
Referring to the recent all-party meeting held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kulkarni said, in the spirit of de-escalation, the more important is that the differences should not be allowed to become disputes.
“We should not allow any outside power to get into this problem for their own advantage, to fish into troubled waters,” he was quoted by the Global Times as having said.
He noted that even before the latest unfortunate confrontation at the border, there have been consistent efforts from the US in following its “grand strategy” to contain China’s rise and seeking a security alliance with other countries in the so-called “Quadrilateral” to achieve this goal.
“Unfortunately, some people in our own country believe that by joining hands with the US, we can contain China. This is a wrong thinking, a dangerous thinking, which is not in India’s interests at all,” he said.
The US is not going to stand with India in any military conflict, and to believe so is a complete illusion, Kulkarni said. “First of all, there should be no military conflict at all. If, hypothetically speaking, there is a military conflict, the US is not going to get involved,” he said.
He further noted that America has so many problems of its own to deal with, including serious internal problems, in addition to the many unjustified wars that it has fought over the years in many places across the world. It’s time for the US to review its policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and come out of its militarist mindset that is hurting itself and causing its decline.
For Kulkarni, the “Wuhan Spirit” achieved by Modi and President Xi is still extremely important as the two leaders have invested a lot of “political capital, time and energy in coming to this point of mutual trust and understanding.”
In order to prevent recurring problems on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Kulkarni observed that the longstanding boundary dispute should be resolved once and for all. To achieve this goal, both countries should take such steps that will promote mutual trust and remove misunderstanding.
“Instead of giving primacy to geo-strategic considerations, India and China should be guided by trust-promoting geo-economic, geo-cultural, geo-civilizational and geo-spiritual considerations,” he said.
Kulkarni praised Xi’s idea of “trilateral cooperation” involving India, China and Pakistan, and said this has the potential to open a new chapter of peace, stability and prosperity in the whole of South Asia.
He also opined that India should join the Belt and Road Initiative and become an equal partner in an expanded plan of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “There are sceptics in India who have not understood the BRI in the right perspective, he said, adding, “India and China should have a very ambitious vision for supporting each other’s national rejuvenation and also for creating a new and better world order.