'China sustains border disputes to win concessions from neighbours'2 min read . Updated: 19 Nov 2020, 05:09 PM IST
- Bertil Lintner states that amid the approaching winter season in the Himalayan region, Beijing may not be interested in escalating the situation, however, it is not looking for a permanent solution for border either.
BEIJING : China has long stoked and sustained borderland disputes as a tactic to win concessions on wider issues with its neighbours, according to strategic expert Bertil Lintner.
While recalling the 1962 India-China war and recent cash in Ladakh region, Lintner, in an opinion piece for Asia Times, questions "whether China is really looking for a solution to that long-standing and often bitter border dispute, or if maintaining fuzzy borders is a deliberate tool in Beijing's foreign policy to negotiate better terms on trade, security and other issues with its neighbours."
The analyst says that with Beijing's recent rise from a developing world backwater to a superpower competing for global influence with the United States, China's borders have appeared to become more tumultuous, adding that those issues are now arguably most acute with India.
"Apart from controlling a western Himalayan area known as Aksai Chin, which India considers its territory, China lays claims to most of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. After China annexed Tibet in the early 1950s, it has also had border disputes with Bhutan, the only neighbouring country with which Beijing does not maintain formal diplomatic relations," Lintner writes.
Citing another example of China's smaller neighbour Nepal, Lintner writes that "Until now, China and Nepal had only one major boundary dispute, namely over the height of Mt Everest, which China says is 8,844 meters, while Nepal claims it is 8,848 meters. But, in September, the two countries became engaged in a boundary row after the Chinese erected 11 buildings inside what Nepal claims is its territory and part of the western district of Humla."
Lintner, argues that Beijing won't shy away from picking a fight with the likes of Russia. "A border dispute in China's north led to a brief war in 1969 with the then Soviet Union. Ostensibly, the conflict was over some islands on the Ussuri River, but it was really about China flexing its muscles against what was then its main adversary and rival within the communist camp," he says.
He further recalls, "In July this year, Chinese diplomats, journalists and assorted nationalists took to the Internet to remind people of the fact that the Russian city of Vladivostok once was Chinese, known as Haishenwai. It became Russian only after "an unequal treaty" -- China's name for old treaties which it believes were to its disadvantage --concluded in the 1860s."
The report in Asia Times by Lintner further states that China wants to stir up a border dispute with Moscow to assert leverage in negotiations on several issues including import of gas from the Russian Far East.
Coming back to India, the strategic thinker states that amid the approaching winter season in the Himalayan region, Beijing may not be interested in escalating the situation, however, it is not looking for a permanent solution for border either.
Lintner says that "border disputes is how China flexes its regional hegemony and wins diplomatic leverage in wider negotiations with its various neighbours. And while tensions may flare up from time to time, the disputes are seldom actually about territory but rather an expression of power in a worldview where China sees itself as the Middle Kingdom."