Arunachal Pradesh Governor and former Chief of Army Staff, General (retired) J.J. Singh has said that military to military cooperation between India and China could form a pivot for enabling a secure and stable environment for the good of both nations and the region.
Addressing a seminar titled India-China Relationship: Remembering the Past to look into the Future, which was organized by The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), an autonomous think tank that focuses on strategic studies and land warfare in the Indian context, at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi, General (retired) Singh said there is tremendous scope for enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries.
He also said that both New Delhi and Beijing have the potential to reach a consensus on other vital global issues like maritime security climate, control, financial order and sustainable development.
He said that in the overall context, barring the border war of 1962, relations between the two Asian giants have been generally friendly.
"At times there has been friction on the border issue, but the mature and statesmanlike leadership of both nations, has seen to it that we resolve such problems in a peaceful manner through dialogue at the highest level. The landmark agreements of 1993, 1996, 2003 and the signing of the 'Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity' during the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2005, are aimed at maintaining peace and tranquility on the borders while addressing the border question, and enhancing mutual trust and understanding," General (retired) Singh said.
"China has become our largest trading partner with trade worth USD 61.7 bln taking place in 2010," he added.
From a security and military point of view, General (retired) Singh acknowledged the fact that many theorists have been predicting a second war between China and India, and added that on this aspect, his view was that the contention of arm chair strategists needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, as ground realities were starkly different.
"These arm-chair strategists need to understand that " no modern war can be fought unless it is thought through in its entirety, and more importantly, only if the initiator is convinced that it can be won. Further, to start a nuclear war, would be the height of folly," said General (retired) Singh.
He said that it was not his intention to give an impression that India can afford to be complacent or let its guard down.
"In fact, we should continue to modernize and enhance the capabilities of our armed forces and, improve the infrastructure, particularly in the remote border areas, strengthen the intelligence agencies and provide them state-of-the-art wherewithal for giving real-time intelligence, and thereby, enhance our capability to face the challenges of the future appropriately. We should not forget the truism that 'strength begets respect.', he added.
Governor Singh further said that there was no doubt that the Sino-Indian border issue needs to be addressed at a faster pace.
He said that it is a matter of satisfaction that both sides, despite adopting fixed positions on issue, have agreed that a border settlement must be fair and equitable.
"The question arises as to how to reconcile the known differences within a reasonable timeframe," General (retired) Singh said.
He said: "Well orchestrated military diplomacy can help in the achievement of our foreign policy goals and in addressing our national security concerns. I have been a great advocate of involving the armed forces during the evolution and formulation of our foreign policy with respect to our neighbouring countries. This will further our national interests, build mutual trust and confidence, and thereby engender peace and stability in the region. This is particularly true in the case of countries where the military has an over arching role in policy-making or governance."
"While formulating and conducting foreign policy, particularly in our fairly volatile neighbourhood and also in those countries where the military is all-powerful, military diplomacy and the views of the service chiefs would prove to be invaluable," he added.
General (retired) Singh said that timely advice can help in the prevention of a security situation from snowballing out of control.
He recalled that in a few security related situations in the past, the armed forces were not quite aware of the big picture, or were caught unprepared or without having the desired readiness levels when asked to execute a mission.
"Such instances are not in the best interests of the nation, and hence, should be scrupulously avoided as far as possible," General (retired) Singh said, adding, " An integrated team with officials from the services and the ministries of defence, external affairs, finance and home makes good sense.
"Equally important, is the need to have integrated teams within the army, navy and air force at the theatre commands and at the service HQs. Once this model has matured over a few years, we could have in place a chief of defence staff by 2020, with the operational responsibility of the armed forces and the accountability that goes with it, " he said.
As part of the confidence building exercise for ensuring peace and tranquility on the border, troops of both countries hold sports and cultural meets regularly, particularly during national day celebrations and flag meetings at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Governor Singh said, but simultaneously cautioned the need "to have a careful look at the existing structure of our national security apparatus and defence management at the strategic level."
"The institutionalization of the military component of this apparatus in the 'decision-making loop' is unexceptional. This would ensure that expert military advice is available to the national leadership and policy-makers, as is the case in other major democratic nations," he added.
He said that there were five challenges currently impacting relations between the two nations, and they were (1) An unresolved boundary along the Himalayan and the North Western mountain chains (2) A latent potential for unrest in Tibet, which comes to the surface from time to time (3) The reported possibility of diversion of waters of rivers emanating from Tibet (4) The political and economic dimensions of two rising powers of Asia - rivalry or competition for markets and resources and (5) A perception in Chinese thinking of an US-India strategy to contain China.
But he also said that there are seven key positive factors that would usher convergence of interests and cooperation.
These were (1) Improved bilateral relations due to Strategic and Cooperative Partnership agreement of 2005 between China and India (2) The new leadership in China will give great importance to relations with India, as stated by Wen Jiabao recently (3) Growing trade and commerce which could touch a 100 billion dollars by 2015, a phenomenal increase from 0.35 bln in 1992. Of necessity, the trade imbalance has to be set right, so that it is a win-win for both nations (3) A growing understanding amongst the leadership of the two nations that peace and stability is imperative to bring up the socio-economic conditions of millions of their people (4) Greater sense of responsibility coming in the wake of recognition of having acquired or in the process of acquiring the status of powerful nations in the region and globally (5) An understanding that there is 'enough space for growth', as stated by the leaderships of India and China, the respective PM's of both countries in particular (6) Enhancement of military power of both sides albeit, the Chinese having a definite edge at present, and the deterrence value of nuclear weapons capabilities (7) Challenge posed by the altitude and terrain obtaining in Tibet region that would inhibit the deployment of the full might of either side (an imperative to facilitate a decisive result in a conflict situation) and thereby, act as a restraining factor.
In conclusion, he recalled the words of a great captain of war, -- French Emperor Napoleon (1769-1821) -- "If I always appear prepared, it is because, before entering on an undertaking, I have thought about it for a long time and have foreseen what may occur. It is not genius which reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in a crisis. It is deliberation and forethought." (ANI)