India and China - II

THE ISSUE of the nuclearisation of South Asia has three aspects. On the one hand is the equal right of all sovereign countries to build nuclear weapons for self-defence. The second is the peace/war/stability/instability consequences of the exercise of this right any and everywhere. The third is to strengthen and pursue the goal of complete and universal nuclear disarmament. Since the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998, China has focussed its reactions and responses on the second aspect of the issue, but in doing so it has, in calling for a rollback, weakened the first aspect of the nuclear issue somewhat, and has been silent on the third which cannot be equated only with the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

There has been criticism within India to these tests. The Government's declaration that it needs, and will confine itself to building, only a minimum nuclear deterrent, that it does not target any country and, like China, its commitment that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, has provided its critics with some reassurance. India has also reiterated its commitment to a non-nuclear world but, like all nuclear weapon states including China, it will need to be prodded in that direction from time to time. Perhaps the forum of the security dialogue will be the appropriate locus for an in-depth exploration by India and China of all the dimensions of the nuclear issue to broaden understanding, and find common ground for jointly pursuing the twin goals of preserving the peace in South Asia, and pursuing seriously the goal of universal nuclear disarmament.

Neither resolution of outstanding problems nor a serious movement in the direction of building a cooperative and constructive relationship will be possible without India and China recovering the visionary and holistic approach which coloured and shaped the making of foreign policy in the two countries in the formative years. Looking back, it becomes evident that the friendship between India and China contributed to creating new hope and opportunities for the emerging countries and helped lessen regional and world tension.

Once again the two neighbours need to ``stand tall and look far'', to borrow a Chinese phrase. As the only two major powers to emerge in the post-World War II world, with a combined population of over two billion and a potential consumer class of at least that figure, India and China can no longer appear to be `victims' on the international stage. Instead both have to urgently realise that between them they have the future capacity to deplete the world of most of its resources. They will always have the capacity to destabilise their neighbours, their region, and the world, because of their sheer size and capabilities. They, therefore, have the responsibility and, in fact, in keeping with their cultural traditions, it can be said that they have a duty to contribute to keeping the peace and ensuring the stability of all their neighbouring societies. To do so, India and China have as their first task the mending and stabilisation of bilateral relations.

The present is a critical period of transition from the unipolar world of the post-Gulf War era to a new more democratic and multipolar world order, both economic and political. It is inevitably an equally critical period of change and transition of domestic systems within states where voices that had not been heard before need to be heard and their needs/demands accommodated without bloodshed and without grave disruption of social and state cohesion. This is a period in which power, states and Governments need to be tamed or constrained by the voluntary acceptance of new norms of governance and of state behaviour. This was the real significance and message of the Panchsheel or the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence that India and China announced jointly in 1954. These principles and the need for peaceful coexistence of states are acknowledged all over the world, even though states find it difficult to live up to them. Sadly, even India and China failed to do so. Yet it is a testament to the objective relevance and validity of these principles that they have survived. Today, both India and China consider them, once again, as the foundation on which state interaction should rest.

The changing world is also throwing up new challenges. Additional principles are needed to guide us through the uncertainties that lie ahead. India and China should together evolve new guiding principles based on their experience in dealing with each other and taking into account the changed circumstances of the evolving international situation in the 21st century. These principles are proposed on the understanding that though the state will continue to be the only recognised legitimate unit-actor on the international stage, it will nevertheless have to adjust to globalisation and the rise of sub-state and non-state actors. The principles proposed here are not exclusive to India and China. Like the Panchsheel they can have universal relevance, with India and China taking the lead.

The following principles are also based on the experience derived from the last five decades of Sino-Indian relations and take into account, the changing conditions in India, in China and in the world at large.The Ten Principles of Constructive Cooperation or the Ten Cs listed below are based on a reaffirmed commitment to the Five Principles as the foundational norms for inter-state relations:

1. Commitment that existing state limits, either de jure borders or de facto arrangements, will not be disputed by force.

2. Concern for the stability of states and societies especially in times of domestic unrest. Each state has the responsibility to resolve domestic problems by peaceful means.

3. Concern and respect for the legitimate interests of all states.

4. Commitment to no alliances or military arrangements directed against third states, and no use of the territory of one state to threaten, interfere with or commit aggression against another state.

5. Concern for the human rights of smaller or disaffected minorities, which can be taken up by and with Governments on a bilateral, non-intrusive basis.

6. Commitment on no-first-use of nuclear weapons against all states, as a first step to universal nuclear disarmament and a non-nuclear world.

7. Commitment to not supporting militarism, terrorism, interventionism and separatism.

8. Commitment to greater transparency and information sharing in military and security matters.

9. Commitment to encourage non-exclusive regional cooperative and sharing arrangements and to collective action to safeguard the interests and concerns of developing nations through the reform of the U.N. and other multilateral institutions.

10. Cooperation in the fight against drugs, disease, and environmental degradation and for an enhanced relationship in diverse fields such as trade, investments, exchanges in science and technology and culture.