2006: C.V. Ranganathan, IFS on “Emerging India and China: Perspectives & Prospects”

C. V. Ranganathan, IFS (Retd.)

December 2nd, 2006

The Gen. K. S. Thimayya Memorial Lecture series is an Old-Boys-of-Cottons endeavour, to commemorate the memory of General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya, Padma Vibhushan, DSO, ADC, Chief of Army Staff from May 07, 1957 to May 07, 1961, and Old Cottonian (1918-1922).
The Lecture series is instituted to pay tribute to an exemplary Cottonian, Indian and human being, by inviting a distinguished Old Cottonian to render a keynote address to Old & present Cottonians, Masters & Teachers, and other well-wishers of the School. The underlying tribute is to Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, Bangalore – Alma Mater to innumerable distinguished and loyal Old Boys.

The 2nd Gen. K. S. Thimayya Memorial Lecture was held on Saturday, December 2, 2006 at the Bishop George Edward Lynch Cotton Auditorium, Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, St. Mark’s Road, Bangalore 560 001 at 6:00 p.m., and was delivered by C. V. Ranganathan, IFS (Retd.), OC, on “Emerging India and China: Perspectives & Prospects”
Mr. Ranganathan – the keynote speaker – was India’s Ambassador to China from 1987 to 1991 and is widely regarded as an authority on Sino-Indian relations. During a sparkling career spanning almost 35 years in the IFS, he has served as Ambassador to France, and High Commissioner to Ethiopia & Moscow. Post-retirement, Mr. Ranganathan has served as the Convenor of the prestigious National Security Advisory Board and has co-authored India and China – The Way Ahead. He is an Old Cottonian of the 1948 vintage.
Col. John Ellis, (Retd.), Principal of the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School delivered the Introductory Address. Over 300 Old Cottonians, Present Cottonians, former Principals, masters & teachers, and members from the Armed Forces were in attendance. Mr Ranganathan’s riveting talk was followed by a robust Q & A session, and a Fellowship dinner. For the text of the keynote address, click here.
Nec Dextrorsum Nec Sinistrorsum

Lecture Transcript

Col Ellis & Mrs. Ellis, Principal of Bishop Cottons Boys’ School, Members of the Faculty of Bishop Cottons, Distinguished former Members of the Armed Forces, Alumni, so many people who were referred to- may be I won’t go down the list, Ladies & Gentlemen it is a great honour to be asked to give this General KS Thimayya Memorial Lecture, in what I understand is the centenary year of his birth. I profoundly thank the Old Boys who are in charge of remembering a great native of Coorg and a very great Indian. I have not been in Cottons very long as you have heard, just for a brief 2 years but I hope I am seen as one of those who have imbibed the spirit to which, you sir, Principal of Bishop Cottons gave such eloquent expression. But more than that I was here long enough to make a few friends, with whom I have kept up with now well over 60 odd years and I am absolutely moved to see them here today – Mr. Vijay Kapoor, Mr. Jagan Muthanna and there was a reference made to Akbar Khaleeli, although I did not know him here. We became colleagues across the Tennis Courts and later in the Foreign service.
The General has quite rightly been a legend. In 1959 when I joined the Service, I was aware obviously of his great struggle against inequality in Sandhurst, a small expression of which we heard from the Principal right here and, his great military exploits in Kargil in 1947-48. This was a fantastic contribution with the not terribly powerful arms in those years to safeguard the Leh – Srinagar link which is vital. Also his contribution to the rehabilitation which followed the Post Partition carnage. But more than that, what I took particular interest in was General Thimayya as a Diplomat. His contributions soon after the Korean War Armistice, in the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission. Mind you, he was dealing with very difficult people, the North Koreans, who continue to be difficult even today and cause problems to the international community. So he served with great distinction in one Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission. He was known for his impartiality, not an easy task in those years. Soon thereafter he became the most popular UN Peace Keeper in the world in his time- serving in many missions in Africa, in West Asia, even in Europe. So he was an accomplished diplomat, obviously a superb soldier and all in all a very inspiring human being.
Today’s subject – ‘India and China – Perspectives and Prospects’, I am afraid is a dull title chosen by me and I am entirely responsible. But Aditya Sondhi in his very flattering introductory remarks, with his own embellishments about what I did here or there, has also quite rightly referred to the context in which even this rather matter of fact title assumes great significance. While I would like to place before you are my views and I am delighted that there will be a Question and Answer session. Now, mine is not going to be a statistical approach. Whenever one talks about China it is extremely mind boggling: figures in trillions, GDP in billions, ranking in the first five in International trade so on and so forth but that to my mind is what any of you will read in the newspaper.
I will look at certain periods, particularly since the death of Mao Zedong. All of you have heard of him, he died in 1976. Particularly from that period, it can be seen as the period of the emergence of China, I would like to concentrate on a few of the features which I think have made China emerge. The first factor and considering the great chaos Mao Zedong left China in, after the great Proletarian cultural Revolution, so called. That was nothing but an invitation for chaos and destruction of almost anything that the Chinese held civilized. After that, so in a period after that – the emphasis by another leader called Deng Xiaoping was primarily on economic growth of the State, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. The second thing was to nurture amicable relations with a pragmatic conciliatory approach without of course sacrificing China’s core interests. Within this outward looking approach there was a neighborhood policy to maintain a peaceful neighborhood surrounding China.
For those of you familiar with the geography of China, it would come as no surprise that China has more than double the countries as its neighbors compared to India. If we have 7, she has 18. The third feature was restraint in the use of force while making sure, while making actually strenuous efforts, and my friends here from the armed forces would appreciate what I am saying, to create a modernized military. One of the biggest shocks to China was what happened in the I Gulf War in 1990 and of course followed by the II Gulf War, what happened in Iraq, what happened in 9/11 and the huge technological superiority of the US and those countries allied with the US who could just use push button methods to utterly vanquish their enemies. China realized it was utterly backward, in fact more than 50 years backward, compared to this hitech warfare, and made strenuous efforts to try and catch up. Not that she has caught up, but she is making strenuous efforts. Many of my friends in India do not seem to realize, when looking at China in comparison to India, that China is surrounded by a much more difficult security situation than India. There is the problem of Taiwan. There is the overwhelming presence of the US. There is now a new feature after North.Korea had a Nuclear Test, self proclaimed Nuclear test. What will happen about this Nuclear weaponisation in the Korean peninsula and the surroundings, particularly Japan’s reaction and so on and so forth. In other words, China’s security situation in that part of the world has to be kept in mind.
The fourth factor is that in keeping with this self image, as a responsible member of the international community, who is required to play a responsible role in the international stage, who is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China started actively participating in regional and global institutions, whether they are regional institutions / multilateral institutions. Examples of this are all the related UN agencies, the ASEAN which is a regional association in South East Asia, the APEC, which is the Asia Pacific Economic Community- US to Peru, both flanks of the pacific are covered by this and, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which includes Russia, India, China and 4 newly independent Asian nations. The WTO, the World Trade Organisation, membership for which China made enormous concessions to its own domestic economic policies in order to have more transparency, to allow more foreign investment, to allow more open market conditions is another example of China’s policy. In fact, in a comparison one could quite safely assert that China had to make far more concessions to become a member of the WTO than India did. If you take these 4 factors in sum, China adopted the policy of:
a)Emphasis on economic growth
b)Working towards a peaceful neighbourhood plus reconciling with major powers who are opposed to China in order to have a large environment of peace surrounding China so that she could concentrate on economic growth.
(c) To show restraint in the use of force, although there have been exceptions, particularly Vietnam in 1979.
(d) To become an active member of the international community and its various international organizations.
Now this is the sort of thing that made China an attraction for foreign investment and achieving export surplus. Another example is the way China brought American bonds which if she withdraws, America will go bankrupt and so on and so forth. I could go on. But what I would like to say is that this is the China that India has to deal with.
We clearly benefitted from these post Mao changes of policies brought about by Deng Xiaoping in China’s domestic and external policies. In other words, always its domestic development and international policies have complimented themselves and India benefited from China’s policy of seeking peace in the neighborhood. And in 1988, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited and I had the privilege of being India’s Ambassador in China. During his visit there was one particular statement that has stuck to my mind made by Deng Xiaoping. He told Rajiv Gandhi (and mind you this is in 1988), that many westerners talk about the 21st century being the Asian century. He did not believe this statement, because if India and China do not develop then it cannot be said that the 21st century will be an Asian century. Now it is not even 20 years since he made this statement but you would have to agree that it was prophetic. The successive growth of China followed by India has indeed become a much talked about subject by investors, by bankers, by statesman, by politicians and others. I mean you cannot look at the daily paper without the sort of comparison between India and China and the international implications of their rise. Comparing India and China has become a growth industry. But the point is in all this is that today people no longer have a unilinear focus on China as the only country of growth, with a continental sized economy, as a civilizational state, but India is talked about in the same breath. And I think this is a tremendously important change in the international scene of which of course the Indian Foreign Policy Establishment have been very conscious.
This in turn has led to India being extremely well poised in its relationship with all the major powers, with all the important regional associations and with important groupings all across the world. I refer to our relations with the USA, our relationships with the European Union, our relations with Japan, our relation with ASEAN, which I talked about a few minutes ago and so on and so forth. I am not saying this in a self congratulatory way, but I think one of the challenges of Indian foreign policy is to maintain good relations with each and every major power, while of course developing neighbourhood relations, where we have problems, to which I will come to presently. And the diplomatic challenge here is not to allow any single compartment of our relations to affect the other. I am not talking of any mathematical equidistance or what used to be non-alignment in the earlier day. What I am trying to say is that India can prove to the world that without being particularly allied or tied to any major power, it is possible given our civilizational status, given our continental sized economy. given our demographic advantages, given our technological progress which I hope we can sustain, and given our economic achievements, that we too are a desirable partner. Therefore, we can maintain relations with each of the major powers without endangering any particular compartment of our Chinese relations.
Now, coming back to China, if you look at a map and look at Asia, there is a very wide arc, roughly from Iraq, Iran extending upto Japan, which includes West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, of which we are a major component, South-East Asia and its regional group. Commencing from Myanamar and extending upto Philippines and all the countries in between and East Asia which consists of the divided Koreas, Japan and China. In this huge arc, Indian and Chinese interests intersect. China is a neighbour of many of these countries, in Central Asia. Then if you look at Afghanistan, India is separated from it and Central Asia by Pakistan. This, of course is a very important area because it is not only the source of our resources, such as energy, but it is also the source of many problems such as unstable states, home to international terrorist outfits, religious extremism etc. If you take South Asia, China is a neighbour of Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan and has strong links with each one of our neighbours. I will try to answer the questions that Aditya raised. And then you go to South East Asia and East Asia. Now this is the huge geographical arc where more than two millennia ago there was the most peaceful interaction between the India and Sinic civilizations spread through Buddhism but took on so many aspects such as trade, culture, fine arts etc. All of you have heard of the silk route, influencing a large swathe of continental Asia including its maritime regions. So the challenge today is despite all the political problems that we face in our neighbourhood, for all the complex situations that Aditya talked about, is it impossible to revisit the ancient peregrinations of our ancestors and have the sort of connectivity which our ancestors enjoyed? I think it is a vision, but I do not think it is such a hopeless vision.
Now let me turn to some of the specifics of India China relations. First of all, the leaders of both India and China, particularly following the rapid improvement of relations between India and USA, have gone out of the way to try and assuage not just their public but each other that this is not a zero-sum game. That India is not going to be a junior partner of the USA and is not trying to stymie China. And I think our Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh said and I am quoting – ‘The World has enough space to have India and China develop together. I do not believe that having a good relationship with USA means we are opposed to China.’
And the Chinese President who recently visited India, more or less said the same things and said that China has complete confidence and in fact applauds the growth of Indo-US relations and is confident that it is not aimed at China. Infact, objectively speaking, the USA has such a rich density of relations with China, that it is not going to jeopardize it by trying to put up a big country like India to oppose China. In other words – I mentioned just one factor that USA will go bankrupt if the Chinese withdraw their treasury bonds. It’s the Chinese, Korean and Japanese treasury bonds that keep the US consumer afloat and the US, as we all know is permanently in debt, living off practically the rest of the international community. But I am giving you just one small example. If the Chinese trade with the USA suffers, the average consumer in USA will scream and so on. So, what is important is that this is not to be seen as a zero-sum game. But if you look at the Asian Continent, I think it is here that India and China should co-operate for the stability of the sub-regions which are neighbours. It is also exactly what this region, is expecting of us. The Prime Minister of Singapore put this extremely well when India was invited to join the ASEAN Forum. He said – ‘Asia is like a huge Boeing 747 and if one wing is China and the other wing is India, its only with the help of these two wings can this plane ever take off.’ I do not think anything more graphic has been said about this particular aspect and the expectations of South East Asian countries.
This coincides with a time where both India and China have certain common expectations from the evolving world order, as well as more or less similar, certainly not identical, approaches in various international situations. What are these common approaches? By and large it is anti-unilateralism where there is an unwarranted use of force. It is very much pro dialogue whereas the only Super Power in the world does not believe in dialogue any more. In fact many problems could have been solved if only the Americans agree to dialogue, rather than the use of force. So in a world which is really becoming multi-dimensional, in a world where there is so much out of the control of the sole Super Power, obviously only dialogue and conciliation will help.
Coming back to South East Asia, their leaders look on India and China and their coming together as friends, not as adversaries, as a new feature where the world is becoming far more multi-dimensional and no longer based on a single power axis, As was the case, of course, during the Cold War and with the demise of the Soviet Union. It is this regional architecture of co-operation that is a challenge to build in the interest of stability. And when the East Asian Summit was held where India was invited along with the 10 members of the ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh put this very well when he shared the vision of India. This was in Dec. 2005. He envisaged an integrated market from the Himalayas to the Pacific Ocean linked by road, rail, air and shipping services. If such a situation ever comes into existence there would be an Asian community which would constitute an arc of advantage across which there could be large scale movements of people, capital, ideas and creativity. For such a vision to be realized it is necessary for India and China to cooperate along with other countries.
It is also very obvious that today the problems of the world go through seamless, barrierless boundaries. And this particularly affects security, where obviously terrorism is one example. We also have disease, even natural disasters and I am glad to say that the ASEAN has developed certain norms to handle these traditional security threats, and to face all sorts of non traditional threats to security.
Now, turning to certain other areas in our immediate neighbourhood, I think what is important is to realize and Aditya mentioned Myanmar, we often think of China Myanmar relations as being aimed against India, as indeed we think that in the case of Sino-Pakistan relations. The first point we have to remember when we talk of other people’s relations, is that they are also independent countries. And it was Myanmar who invited the Chinese. It has a military regime, the whole world is sanctioning Myanmar and she has no where else to turn except the great neighbour China, which unfortunately is neutral as far as the regime is concerned. China is not at all ashamed, being itself a mono party dictatorship, of helping military rulers Its relationships in Pakistan is well known for its support to the military rulers there. So, Myanamar is solely dependent on China and unfortunately India neglected Myanamar for far too long. It is only over the last few years that we are doing some infrastructural projects such as connecting a road from North East India and other areas into Myanamar. I myself am a member of a rather interesting exercise which involves Bangladesh, China, India and Myanamar. And with China the exercise is dealing with a particular province, namely the Western most province of China which adjoins Myanamar called Yunnan. We are trying to put up ideas which Govt. can adopt, which will result in connectivity in this sub-region, which is highly populated and where we really suffer from a lot of insurgency in our North East. Our North Eastern people feel very isolated and cut off from the mainstream of India. Now it is very fashionable to talk about a ‘Look-East’ policy and it has been greatly successful as far as ASEAN is concerned – I mentioned some instances. But I do not think this ‘Look-East’ policy can take off unless a vast populated section of our country is connected with the East. And when you think of South East Asia, connections through Myanmar to Thailand, and Indo-China and other countries it would be a natural phenomena for the North East to be involved. I am glad to say that the Government. has started supporting this idea although it had its initial hesitations. But of course we need to stabilize the politics of the North East region where at any given time, there are a million mutinies, so we need to look at that.
Then if you look at East Asia, literally after the nuclearisation of North Korea, well we have or course had a nuclear test, we seem to adopt a policy which I can put very humorously which says that ‘Do as I say, but do not do as I do’. In other words, I can have a test, but you Iran and you North Korea cannot. And it is a very serious problem in the sense that we are for very strict adherence to the norms of non-proliferation and we seek to justify the fact of our nuclear weapons test by very special circumstances, namely Pakistan was already going ahead in this field and Pakistan was supported by China and others. So, what I am trying to say is that as a region East Asiahas been prone to not just instability but a worsening situation from the point of view of the emergence of nuclear weapons. So we are vitally interested in how this sort of dilemma can be solved there.
India has also been invited, I have already talked about Central Asia, as observer of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization which consists of Russia, China and 4 of the Central Asian states– Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – quite a mouthful. If you look at our region and that region, there are common problems and what are these problems? The problems are that we have unstable regimes, not all democratic who either are incapable or unwilling, which is more likely, of curbing extremism and allied violence of one type or the other. It could be religious extremism, it could be something else and this is the seed bed of a phenomenon, which as I said can go across borders. It is also the home of ethnic disputes. We know that very well from our southern neighbour, it is also the home of very backward development, it is also the home of governments which refuse to take advantage of the growing economic clout of India. And so we struggle along with the South Asian Regional Co-operation Association- acronym SAARC. And because of our adversarial relations with Pakistan, which is mending at a very slow snail’s pace, we are held hostage to the fact. We do not seem to repeat the examples, successful examples that we can witness in Europe, in Latin America, in ASEAN etc. etc.
Anyway, the fact is that China is a neighbour. Over the years with our interactions with China, roughly from 1988 when it intensified, we have got the Chinese to do two things. One, to say that she has a vested interest in the success of the SAARC experiment in economic and social co-operation and two, that it will no longer support Pakistan over Kashmir. Three, whatever future assistance it gives to Pakistan in the nuclear field (and we are in the cusp of seeing an Agreement with the Americans, where the parameters of future co-operation will be laid out and therefore, we hope that we are able to exploit nuclear energy in peaceful ways) and thus force the Chinese that it will have to be strictly under the same sort of internationally supervised safeguards that we will undertake.
Now where do the Americans come in? (Do stop me Aditya, if I go on for too long). The Americans come in because if you look at our region, these very ills that I talked about- unstable regimes, unwillingness or lack of capacity to curb terrorism, lack of economic development- it would be commonsensical to expect that the Americans also would like to see this eliminated. So would China, because instability on China’s westernmost periphery really spills over into China and this is because one of the largest land masses of China is covered by a province called Xinjiang, through which much of the old Silk Route used to pass. Xinjiang is a Muslim province and there has been enormous tension, not reported between Xinjiang and Pakistan, because many of these Xinjiang Muslims were trained in madrasas and other places. The point that I’m trying to make is that China commonsensically would have a vested interest in stability there. So there is broad common interest of the Americans, Chinese and Indians. Certainly while their interests are common, the approaches that each one adopts are not common. But it is a matter of gratification that both the Americans and the Chinese, who at different historical periods have assisted Pakistan much to our detriment are today encouraging General President Musharraf to continue the dialogue process with India and not just that, one has to acknowledge his movement away from dead centre, from the old position on Kashmir. President Musharraf, who I think is a bold man, has put forth the parameters of how it can solved. It is boiling down ultimately to the acceptance of a sort of autonomy for each half and the coming into existence of soft borders where people can interact. So what we need from the Chinese and the Americans in our region is not as in the past- fully regime strengthening policies, but far more people oriented policies.
Now just a couple of more problems that were referred to by Aditya- the Boundary. It is true that the boundary question is characterised first of all by the situation on the ground, where India is in complete control of Arunachal Pradesh- a state of India, which the Chinese claim, which of course is a vital interest to us. And the Chinese are in complete control of the area claimed by them in North East Kashmir, in Ladakh, through which they have built a road which connects Xinjiang with Tibet. Now this is the de facto situation. And ultimately the boundary dispute can only be solved by each side giving and taking or both sides making mutual adjustments to their long held positions. And this stage has not yet been reached, because there has to be a lot of public opinion building, which of course in our case, given our fractious polity, is far more difficult than in China.
However, some very important agreements have taken place over the last two decades – in 1993 and in 1996- where very firm confidence building measures have been agreed to between the two militaries. Unlike the days of my youth where I used to be grappling with casualties and prisoners and things like that, the fact remains that over two decades, not a single armed conflict has taken place over the boundary. Unless I’m contradicted by very senior members of the military that are present here today, I don’t think there has been a single loss of life across this border, over this time. In other words, peace and tranquility are being maintained and mechanisms are in place along the boundary for local commanders to meet if there is any suspicion of transgressions. So, while I think it will take a long time for the boundary question to be solved, two things are important: one- peace and tranquility is maintained and no untoward incidents and gradually a thinning down of troops is done to deploy them more usefully- under supervised, agreed, verified conditions. Lastly a settlement will come at a time when the overall relationship develops to such an extent that both governments and peoples on both sides realise a vested interest in the continuance of this relationship and in an atmosphere where they can be less opposition to the eventual territorialconcessions that each side must make.
Pakistan, I have already referred to the particular nuclear dilemma. Now you see whether you talk of Pakistan or terrorism, in my opinion, the mistake that India has made is to always project this in terms of an age-old Indo- Pakistan quarrel. The moment an Indian opens his mouth about Pakistan, people shut their ears, because we’ve been talking about it for almost 50 years. But if we project it as an international problem, as an area which can be the seed bed of international terrorism of the most extremist type of Al-qaeda and the rest of it. It is an international problem. Again, the nuclear- it is an international problem. Why is it just an Indian problem? We have to take care of our problems. I’m glad where after repeated urgings, the Government of India is projecting these as international issues not just issues between India and Pakistan. We had a tremendous fear that issues will become internationalized or the fear that Kashmir will become internationalised- there will be a mediator between India and Pakistan. Nobody wants to mediate. It is too complicated for anybody to burn his fingers. Everybody’s encouraging direct dialogue now, so we should not be afraid of the so-called internationalisation, because the chips are in our favour. Let us show more self-confidence in this respect.
And energy- energy of course will be an area of great competition. But ways and means are under discussion to see that competition per se, which is natural, will not lead to divisiveness. I was very gratified just the other day, when I talked to one of the aides of President Hu Jintao- their energy expert- who said, ‘now the spectacle of India and China bidding for the same field in African countries only makes them much more greedy to raise the stakes. So we should have consultations, where if you are going to bid in a certain place then we will not go and similarly if we are bidding in a certain place, then you will not come. That way, we keep the greed at management levels.’ I think that is very good advice. And there is another area where we can co-operate and this is where Russia is extremely important. Both India and China are not insignificant investors in the Russian oil resources, which as you know is the world’s richest. In the easternmost corner of Siberia in Sakhalin oil field, which incidentally is not far from China, both India and China have invested and again the same gentleman said- ‘look trying to build a pipe line through Kazakhstan, though the Himalayas to India will be very difficult, environmentally also not good. But why don’t we get into small swap arrangements. For you to carry your oil from Sakhalin to India will be very difficult. For us to carry oil from Iran to China will be very difficult. So, suppose we consume your oil and you consume Chinese oil in Iran, don’t you think we can swap and save expenses?’ Now I’m giving you these examples and I’m not saying any of these have been achieved, but I’m giving you these as the extremely pragmatic, practical mindset of the Chinese. The sooner we are able to look at China in a pragmatic, objective way, the better. I’m not saying there won’t be difficulties- two civilisational states, two continental sized economies, near neighbours, huge populations, unsolved problems- certainly there will be problems and particularly on the trade and investment side. Here I think it is extremely important to understand the systemic differences between India and China and inherent age-old traditional cultures of India and China. The more youngsters, and I’m overwhelmed to see so many young students here, get into the field of India- China studies, the better., it is a very exciting field, I can hope there will be greater understanding between India and China through this process.
Thank you very much.