China seems to be adopting a dual-track policy approach towards India. On the one side is being lauded the exponential growth in two way trade between the two countries crossing the $20 billion mark as evidence of the growing mutual trust and friendship. On the other hand what is coming to the fore are needling reassertions of issues which at best can be termed as antagonistic towards India and create suspicions of China's long term intentions.
The latter process started on the eve of the visit of the Chinese President to India last year-end when the Chinese Ambassador to India asserted that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh in India is part of Chinese Territory. Earlier the Chinese would assert claims to only the Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh. Following this the Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh has publicly stated that Chinese patrols have intruded into Indian territory which the Indian Government was at pains to cover up.
Lately, the Chinese Government denied visas to Indian officials from Arunachal Pradesh who were scheduled to visit China as part of a large IAS official delegation. The stand adopted by the Chinese Government was that since Arunachal Pradesh is part of China the issue was infructuous. Now comes the claim that India has built two bunkers in Chinese territory in the Dongchukla area and if they are not removed then the issue could be serious. The Chinese presence continues in the Sumdorong area of Arunachal Pradesh.
All of the above is reminiscent of China's postures pre-1998 which were aimed at needling India unnecessarily. Following India's nuclear weapons tests in 1998, for a year China was livid and gave vent to its spleen. The statements emanating from China then were rabid and venomous and went to the extent of pressurizing the United States to take pro-active steps to roll-back India's nuclear weapons program. In the absence of any such measures by the global powers beyond verbal condemnation, China settled down to accept the new realities and started friendly approaches in the form of high level visits to India by top Chinese leaders.
Much was made of the new approaches by China towards India by the Chinese lobby in India's polity and foreign policy establishment. They were oblivious to the persisting reality that China in tandem with its new approach had not ceased its proxy use of Pakistan to strategically destabilize India with new infusions of missiles in Pakistan's armory and also joint production of combat aircraft and weaponry.
India's China lobby also seemed to forget that China was stoutly opposing India's candidature for Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council as it wished to retain its significance and clout as the only Asian member of the UN Security Council.
Notwithstanding the above, India continued to maintain its friendly approaches towards China hoping that in time the jagged approaches by China towards India would smoothen as the new strategic realities dawned on her.
What were these new strategic realities? A lot of water had flowed down the Tawang River since 1962 when China inflicted a military debacle on India in Arunachal Pradesh. This debacle was not due to any lack of military prowess of the Indian Army but due to military un-preparedness inflicted by Nehru misreading China's intentions. In 2007 India stands as a budding entrant into the big power league. Its economy is booming and it has demonstrated sustained rates of high economic growth. It has become a nuclear weapons power with a second strike capability. India's Armed Forces stand modernized and combat ready to take on any eventuality. India is no longer the pushover of 1962.
Recognizing India's emerging profile the major powers of the world have started taking notice of India and seem engaged in establishing strategic partnerships with India. The most noticeable of these has been the United States-India Strategic Partnership which is under evolution and is acquiring more pronounced contours.
Significant in this process is the finalization of the US-India Civilian Nuclear Deal.
China stands rattled by these new strategic developments as inherent in them is the possibility of an impediment in China's quest for challenging the established status-quo of the global strategic power balance.
Chinese strategic community has been closely following and analyzing the emerging contours of the US-India Strategic Partnership and its implications for China in the long run. Their conclusions do betray a certain strategic uneasiness.
In view of the above, in India one can come to the conclusion that China's reassertion of its antagonistic approaches towards India arises from its strategic displeasure of the growing strategic proximity of India with the United States. Its earlier manifestations have been outlined above along with its latest needling.
India can now expect that China will overwhelmingly oppose the US-India Civilian Nuclear Deal's passage through the IAEA and the NSG both individually and lobbying against it amongst the other members of these bodies.
India should also expect that China would linger on the settlement of the boundary dispute and use it as a strategic pressure point against India. One can also expect a surge in China-Pakistan military cooperation China adding to the existing nuclear reactors in Pakistan as a consequence.
Should India get rattled by China's reassertions of its antagonistic approaches? Definitely not as India today stands poised that much more stronger and not susceptible to political or military coercion from any quarter.
India however needs to closely monitor Chinese counter-moves against India and not once again get bogged down in the Nehruvian mould of implicitly trusting China's friendship rhetoric.