Scrutinizing the Indo-China Issue with Dr Madhumati Deshpande

Amid these times, we managed to have a video conference session with Madhumati Deshpande, the HOD of International Studies and History, Christ (to be deemed University)

She enlightened us with her thoughts on the recent quarrels between India and China.

Our session started off with a brief introduction of our guest, Madhumati Deshpande. She started off by telling us about the recent conditions and giving us an informative introduction on the topic. She stated, “As you mentioned the Indo-China dispute between the two countries, its not a new thing. What is happening today has been simmering for a long time. It’s nothing new at all. Why has it been simmering for so long? It's because in 1947 when we became independent, China also went through a similar period of revolution. China and Taiwan broke out. Separation and conflict occurred.” She discussed all the important points regarding the topic.

"Nehru initially thought that China being a huge country and going through revolution during that time, needed some time to settle down. Both needed time to settle down. Nehru thought to be friends with them instead of being enemies. Nehru being an ideal for Asian solidarity, so how could Asian country fight with another Asian country. This is similar to what Europeans had did. Europeans fought among themselves, UN had been formed. There were so many wars fought between them. But the problem was that the Chinese aspirations and their way of looking to the world is not the same as India's way of looking to the world. China wanted to be recognized as a leader in Asia. They wanted to be the most powerful country in Asia.

These three sectors had different maps and there were conflicts regarding those maps. When the first map was published in 1950 itself, the whole issue began. The border talks actually begun from 1950. The negotiations started off. Number of letters were exchanged within the two countries.

When we realized that the road was built, again Nehru raised a question that 'this border was already in dispute, how could you make a road here'. So at this time, they started talking again and the treaty between the two countries ended. Also, China attacked Tibet and there was a refugee situation happening, people from Tibet were flying into India and because Nehru has promised in the treaty that they will not interfere in internal affairs, Nehru didn't want to raise a question about Tibet at all but he said that he will question China and we will accept that China has 'suzerainty' over Tibet, not 'sovereignty'. There is a huge difference between the two terms. Suzerainty means 'an upper sovereign'. The difference between suzerainty and sovereignty is that the tributary state or person has all the benefits of independence and self-rule albeit limited to some extent. Nehru supposedly told that we will accept Chinese suzerainty over Tibet. Tibet will be given an autonomous status."

Without further adieu, we started with our interview by asking the following questions.

Question 1: Will India's FDI trade policy or those 59 apps banned by the authorities actually make any difference considering the recent privatisation policy?

Dr Madhumati Deshpande asseverated, "Economically, it’s not a huge deal for China, if you stop all the apps it's not a big deal for China. Actually we lose out more than the Chinese losing out on us and the communication becomes a problem for both of us. But Chinese aspiration for global reach, for making the apps globally successful depends on India because we have the population that is necessary. More number of Indians who access such kind of an app (communication apps), it becomes more popular, its reach becomes much bigger. If that is the aspiration the Chinese companies have then yes, there is a little bit of a dent that goes in the Chinese authorities. Financially, it doesn't make a much break for china. India's scholars are saying that India is standing up to China. India is not just 'buckling to' Chinese pressure, getting scared of Chinese. It shows India in a better image that, it's actually standing up to China. This is about the 'Image Building' for India, rather than making any dent on the Chinese economy.”

Question 2: What are your thoughts on the Economic Belt China is developing all over the globe? Could it be disadvantageous for India in the long run?

"China has already overtaken India in the influencing of different economic regions. China is already in South Africa, South America, Europe in a much larger way than India. Their investments are negligent as compared to what China is doing but it is a contender what China is doing in certain countries. You must have heard of the 'Two-Wheeler Industries' in Africa. So in Africa, the bikes were quite expensive. So what India did, was that the top Indian industries like Bajaj went over there and made bicycles less expensive than what Chinese made. They started producing bikes which were less expensive than China. You get readymade bikes which were much easier than the bikes which need to be assembled before. It was slightly advantageous for the Indian Motorcycle Industries. We don’t see as many Chinese bikes in Africa as we see the Indian bikes now. The same thing is done in Eastern Europe. Chinese investments in Africa is much larger than India's, it's not going to make much of a difference. To become completely successful, it may take them 50 years. But within that period of time, if India can increase the number of activities in other countries, it will be fine. It's just the strategical planning we have to do. China has done it already. We all are trying to catch up with China. Now the people are very sceptical about people coming from China. The building of the road will get affected."

Question 3: Will this different ideology and India's image with other authoritative leaders like Mr Trump and Johnson supporting the right-wing authorization create any situation like the Cold War again?

"There is a difference in ideology in all countries. All these countries are being more nationalist. The reason for the Cold war was ideologically oriented, today it is more in the opposition of the globalised influence that is coming in. Globalisation is the reason for this division of the ideology now. And the rise of populist regimes is happening in those countries where there is heavy globalisation, industrialisation and the inequality has grown up so much. Immigration, which is becoming the problem for these countries and those are the places where you see the rise of the right-wing authoritarian government. I don't think it's going to last because it usually goes through a cycle. It's a cyclical process. In today's scenario, it's not possible to not collaborate with other countries"

Question 4: Has China's already neo-colonist image and the pandemic has given an upper hand to India in terms of strengthening our relations?

"No doubt about that, everybody says that you should look for opportunities wherever they are available and make use of them and this is one of the opportunity we could've used instead of picking a war with China. Instead of making grand posture shift over, we should behold this opportunity. There were these talks that people are leaving China and we should get them to India, well you haven't even fixed the problem in India before. They won’t dump people from one firepit to another. Enough of this dumping. They will prefer going to Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country who has handled COVID much easily than India. They would rather go there than come to India. We didn't make any efforts in changing it, we could have but we didn't. COVID has given us the opportunity but we lost that opportunity."

Question 5 Can this incident see an upgrowth of nationalist sentiment in the youth?

“There is a difference between nationalist feeling and patriotic feeling. Patriotism is when you have love for your country. You’re ‘nationalist’ if you think in the ways where the country can progress. “Somebody insulted my flag!” That’s not nationalism, that’s an emotional outpouring of your love for the country. That shouldn’t stop you from actually looking at the betterment of your country. We started making the symbols for the test of your nationalism that’s when it becomes a problem and that’s where intolerance increases. “How dare you not say Vande Mataram!” , “How dare you not stand up for National Anthem!!”. All of these are issues which are very negligible. You should be worried about who is the most corrupt politician in India, who is harming India financially and not whether he’s respecting the flag. If you’re really nationalist and if you really love your country, that’s where you should be enraged not because of the flag or the anthem, that shouldn’t be your worry. That comes later and that comes for people who do not know what nationalism is. But for the rest of us, who do understand the meaning of nationalism, that should be the worry, not “How dare they speak like this!”. What is the use of going to war with China when we know for sure that we are not going to win? So why don’t we do a surgical strike against China? We did surgical strike against Pakistan but why not with China? Is this possible? And we were so proud of it. 20 people died and nothing happened. Why not? Because it’s not a possibility. We have to be patient to become successful in the world.”

Question 6: What do you think happens next in this dispute? What are the risks to broader Sino- Indian relations?

“The only thing which I think can happen maybe a few more days of ‘how could they do this’ and ‘we could show it to china’. But there is already diplomatic talks happening between the defence forces. It’s not going to be war, it cannot be a war and the government knows it. They’re trying to posture it right now, showing that we’re standing with China. Every day, discussion related to India and China are prevalent in newspapers and in televisions. It will end the negotiations without leading to any war.”

Question 7: Does the English Media and leaning towards ideologies create confusion in a situation like this? For eg, most of our TV channel portrays a more right-leaning ideology while our print media is more left inclined.

“The second most corrupt media is of India’s. Only the best part of it is the English newspapers and Channels are not majorly consumed which is good in a way that not many people have access to it. Because if they did, we would have a war by now. They go through these regional newspapers and coverage which is very limited to foreign policies. If the media would’ve taken the public’s opinion, then it would’ve been different.”

Our interview session with Dr Madhumati Deshpande went successful and we were thankful to have her as an esteemed guest.


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