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Time for India to rethink its One China Policy

Time for India to rethink its One China Policy

With tensions running high on the borders, Indian experts discussed an important subject, ‘<em>Revisiting <strong>One China policy</strong>: Economic and Political Options for India: Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjiang</em>,’ to see if India can exercise options to deal with China.

Organized by the Law and Society Alliance and Defense Capital, the webinar participants were: Jayadeva Ranade, President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy; Sheshadri Chari, Secretary General, Forum for Integrated National Security; Arvind Gupta, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation; Nitin Gokhale, Editor, <em>Strat News Global</em> and <em>Bharat Shakti</em>; and Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Senior Fellow, Peace and Conflict Studies.

Talking about One China Policy (OCP), Gupta said China should reciprocate India's concerns on similar lines. He said that India should follow a dynamic approach and revise its policy regarding China. He added that India should come out in support of Tibet and accord the Dalai Lama a higher position and more visibility in political circles. Besides, India must initiate economic, technological, and political engagement with Taiwan.

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Gupta was clear that India should not just support the democratic movement in Hong Kong but also raise issues of human rights violations in Xinjiang at global platforms. He emphasized on the need to build capacity to deal with China and anticipate steps that China would take in retaliation. Gupta suggested a rethink on the entire China policy, including the OCP, and said, “We also need to think whether we should go at once or gradually work towards it.”

Gokhale focused on Taiwan and Tibet. He said: “Taiwan is the low-hanging fruit… We should think of increasing our economic and technological relations with Taiwan. They are wonderful in electronic chip manufacturing, semiconductors, 5-G, etc.”

He highlighted the facts that India’s trade with Taiwan has gone up from $66 million to $6 billion in the past few years and 90 Taiwanese firms are operating in India. He felt that India has given a direction to its Taiwan policy, and has set up a desk in the Commerce Ministry to invest in Taiwan. Also, with Indian MPs attending the Taiwanese PM’s inauguration ceremony, India is on the verge of a major policy change on OCP. He said: "The straits nation can help us strategically—train students, government officials, technocrats and teach them Mandarin to help India understand China better.”

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On Tibet, Gokhale said that not just the Dalai Lama but the Central Tibetan Administration (CAT) and the Tibetan Government in Exile should also be provided greater visibility amongst media, academia, and government events. Besides, Buddhist diplomacy should be integral to India’s China policy.

“One of the strongest points with India is the roots and familiarity with Buddhist traditions. We should leverage it. Setting up Buddhist Alliance in countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia would be fruitful. India should think about passively helping Tibetans organize protests when Chinese leaders visit India,” he added. Talking about the worries of China, he said that three Ts bother China the most—Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen.

Ranade wants India to build up capabilities in countering China not only on the border but other fronts as well. He added that tensions between the US and China will certainly impact India and the country should be prepared for that. He recommended that instead of sending Indian students to China, who eventually come back with a bias in favor of Beijing, it would be better to send them to Taiwan. Ranade added that it is time the government thinks of Taiwan-based scholarships for Indian students.

Like the other speakers, he also felt that the Dalai Lama needs to be given more prominence, and should be photographed more with the Indian government. Ranade said that Tibet is close to us because of Buddhism and only the Dalai Lama can push back China on Buddhist leadership because China does not have a good track-record on this.

Ranade added that India should build its Buddhist sites as it is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world and will help foster travel and trade ties with other Asian countries. “India should link its historical Buddhist sites like Gaya, Sarnath, and others to Lumbini. We need to prevent China from building the Buddhist circuit connecting Lumbini with China through aerial connectivity,” said Ranade.

<img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-222" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/People-of-Gilgit-Baltistan-seek-autonomy-from-Pakistan-300×178.jpg" alt="People of Gilgit-Baltistan seek autonomy from Pakistan" />

Chari spoke about Xinjiang and explained the terminologies that China uses. He said that the country doesn’t use the OCP but the term, ‘One China Principle.’ Going deep into history, he said that in 1949, China annexed Uyghur and renamed it Xinjiang. According to Chari, the word Xinjiang means borderland or new frontier. Though the Chinese admit that Xinjiang is not their land, they nevertheless converted it into an ‘autonomous region’ in 1955. Chari said that Saifuddin Azizi, the chairman of the autonomous territory, opposed Mao Zedong over the terminology, after which it was renamed as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Questioning the strategic conquest of Xinjiang, Chari said: “By occupying Tibet, China got borders with India, Bhutan, and Nepal, which they did not have earlier. Because of Xinjiang, they got borders with India (Aksai Chin), Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan.”

He added that with the development of the Urumqi-Kashgar road, an all-weather road, China will get access to South Asia. The road goes through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) to Islamabad and by creating another road from Galwan valley to GB, it will join the Kashgar-Islamabad road in GB. However, all these areas are a part of Pakistan-occupied India.

Chari emphasized that China is essentially making a road on Indian land and will dominate the region, so India should be concerned about the scope of the OCP. “So, what can be done? We should not engage in a barter with China on One India and OCP. Whether you accept One India Policy or not, we will not accept the OCP,” Chari stressed.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra focused on three major problems that China poses for India—cutting off the Pakistan-China nexus, the need for a problem-free border, and China’s veto power at the United Nations Security Council. He posed two questions to policymakers: First, what can we do to them that they cannot do to us? Secondly, what can we do to them that they have done to us in the past?

He added that there would be consequences but is India ready to give nuclear weapons to Taiwan? “Can we support Taiwan strategically? Can we support the democracy movement in Hong Kong? Can we recognize Taiwan? Can we support the Uighurs? Can we support Manchuria and Inner Mongolia? Can we support the minority rebels in Mongolia? Can we sell them weapons? The answer is always covert, covert, and covert,” Mitra said.

Iyer Mitra advocated for a long-term policy, and said that it should not be used to negotiate. He also suggested developing intelligence cooperation with Taiwan, which has excellent counter-intelligence capabilities and technological intelligence. “We should encourage such ‘trade ties’ with Taiwan, in the guise of trade. Similarly, Taiwan has better technology than China. We should ensure that middle-level manufacturing moves away from China to Taiwan,” said Iyer Mitra.

He also recommended supporting countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, who are ready to take on China. He added that Vietnam needs Western technologies, but has a trust deficiency towards the West. Here India can be a platform for the transfer of Western tech to Vietnam and advocated building a doctrinal relationship with Japanese and US forces..