Post War Sino-India Relations

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By Dr. Rajkumar Singh

The recent stand-off at the Doklam plateau (has) resulted in China raising the war cry.

In contrast of India, the people’s Republic of China had a long history of a tacit but clear strategic military doctrine. However, for a brief period in pre-revolution phase China became weak and unstable because of warlordism and internal warfare between Nationalist and Communist forces. It was followed by the establishment of a strong central government in China which adopted a doctrine, combined with Soviet strategic thinking and the Communist party’s experience in fighting Japan and the Kuomintang armies for several decades. By 1949, the geopolitical situation had changed and the Soviet Union had become China’s ally, while the United States of America which had been China’s ally all along, had now become an enemy. Thus, the Chinese strategic military doctrine, in early fifties, identified US imperialism as the grand strategy to encircle China prior to invading it. Even India’s forward policy in the border area was interpreted as part of US imperialist encirclement of China.

How China views India

In formulating Chinese attitude towards India and the world at large Mao Zedong played a significant and decisive role. Mao’s theoretical analyses of formidable power, especially those written in his early years, and his old leadership of the peasants in China have earned for him a unique place in world history. But basically he was an outstanding Chinese figure, rooted in indigenous tradition. A hard-headed nationalist, he was determined to regain for his country not only equality among the nations but a prime position in Asia. He combined throughout his life the roles of both a revolutionary and a nationalist and at the start, each strengthened the other. Under his leadership and inspiration China became an ambitious nation and a skilled practice of a realpolitik. By the time India and China had awakened modern communication, broke down the physical barriers and brought them face to face in a period when they were going through an acute phase  of nationalist stirrings and hyper-sensitive responses to foreign countries, because of their experience with imperialism and rather late emergence as nation-states, abrasive responses that rubbed off against each other too.

In the years following China’s attack on India people felt a need to reassess the motives behind the aggression. It was a failure of diplomacy which is, in fact, meant management of international relations by means of negotiations; the method by which these relations are adjusted and managed by ambassadors and envoys; the business or art of the diplomat. Possible motives are important to be mentioned here not only because they are related to China’s general policy in foreign affairs but because they will reveal the extent to which those motives have determined the nature of Sino-Indian relations. Motives behind the attack were closely related to the Chinese anxiety to keep the Sino-Indian border issue alive. It also explained the causes of the series of Chinese intrusions into the Indian territories during the 1960s. Even hardening of the Chinese attitude towards India in late fifties and early sixties was based on country’s calculation of gain and loss. It is said to be a mixture of Chinese imperialism militant nationalism, and revolutionary zeal of militant communism.

Real motives behind 1962 attack

Desire for attainment of great power status, as considered by many, was the prime motive behind the Chinese attack. For several years in the beginning India introduced Communist China to the world, especially to Asia. After some years they knew that China is able to make more rapid and greater progress than India, former’s dependence on the latter for status became intolerable. As a first step China insisted on India accepting a subordinate status, renouncing non-alignment and generally moulding her foreign and domestic policies to suit China’s view of herself and of the world. Viewed in this perspective if the creation and non-recognition of India’s northern frontier was the expression of  independence in world politics, the aggression of 1962 was intended to show that China had not only the desire but also the capacity to be a great power.  However, a scholar, Neville Maxwell, considering the effects of India’s forward policy and its unilateral declaration of ceasefire argued that military action by China was decided on to bring India to the negotiating table and to show her that any attempt to achieve a settlement on her own terms, by moving into Chinese-held territory, was futile. On the other the Chinese showed their reasonableness in having border settlements with Nepal, Pakistan and Burma.

Other considerations

While dealing with the People’s Republic of China we can hardly overlook the strategic aspect of the issue. In fact, one other purpose of the Chinese military action was to hold on to the Aksaichin and the strategic highway which is so vital for controlling the difficult provinces of Tibet and Sinkiang. As the war was an expression of the politico-military strategy of China, Nehru, keeping it in view, said in November 1962, ‘I don’t see any real compromise. What they have in mind is different from our thinking. There is no bridge between us.” But later on he also added ‘India was not going to be one of the small fish which this huge crocodile in the pond of Asia was seeking to devour. In the face of China’s attitude that either one is for them or against’ a self-respecting nation like India could hope for no lasting friendship with her.

Ideological differences between China and the Soviet Union had also motivated the former to launch a massive attack on India. The Sino-Soviet rivalry at the time was centered in Asia and China regarded India as an ideological obstacle and sought a dominating position in Asia. In addition to this the Soviet influence of Asia has been much more than the Chinese influence. Obviously Chinese aggression was launched in the hope that the attack on India would compel the communist parties of Asian countries to come to the Chinese fold. It, however, realised a deeper objective, that was to find out what attitude would the Soviet Union take towards China after the aggression and it became clear that the Soviet Union could not be relied upon even in a conflict with a non-communist country. In international arena the behaviours of China was criticised widely and was based on the fact that it had forgotten the futility of war as a traditional means of the achievement of great power status. The Chinese behaviours in post-aggression period also testified that the attempt made on the part of China had been to build up her power and not bother about the settlement of the border question.


Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head P.G. Department of Political Science BNMU, West Campus, Saharsa- Bihar, India. He can be reached at: rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com


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