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India and China

Brass Tacks


Last spring, after Indian patrols had begun harassing Chinese posts in Ladakh, the Chinese expressed a willingness to negotiate the border dispute but rejected Nehru's demand that they withdraw from the disputed area before the talks opened.

At that time, the Chinese Communist government maintained that the McMahon Line boundary was also in dispute, and that Nehru should not expect the Chinese to allow Indians to occupy all the disputed territory as a prelude to negotiations. India still refused to negotiate while the Chinese were in Ladakh, and Indian patrols continued maneuvers against the Chinese posts there. It should, therefore, have caused little surprise when Chinese troops later crossed the McMahon Line and attacked the Indian North-East Frontier Agency.

However complex may be the motive which led China first to attack India in the NEFA and then to withdraw back to the McMahon Line, one Chinese objective seems clear--the continued possession of the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh. This area is only of little real importance to India, but through it runs the main road connecting Chinese Tibet with Chinese Sinkiang. This is the only problem over which Indian and Chinese statements indicate irreconcilable disagreement.

Any boundary settlement that left the Chinese in Ladakh would be bitter for India. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine how, even with massive foreign assistance, the Indian army would go about driving the Chinese out of Ladakh. One effect of the Chinese successes in the NEFA was to demonstrate that China had the capability of moving deep into India. Nehru will probably refuse to agree to allow the Chinese to stay in Ladakh, while at the same time being careful not to do anything which might make it look to them like he was trying to force them out.

At the same time, those who, like Time magazine, feel the Indian policy of nonalignment "has ceased to have any meaning" will probably be disappointed. The most they should expect will be the opportunity to deal with someone more tactfully nonaligned than Mr. Menon.

Dsepite its present troubles, India has on the whole profited from its nonalignment policy. By not orienting its foreign policy to the Cold War, India has gained the freedom to pursue goals which can do it more practical good. It gets foreign aid from both East and West, it has Goa, and it controls most of Kashmir. A foreign policy influence by gratitude for Western military aid would be a luxury India can hardly afford.

India's previous support for the Chinese interests in the United Nations has probably been motivated not so much by a real sympathy for the Chinese as by a desire to maintain Chinese good will. The need for assuaging the Chinese will hardly diminish in the future, so India will probably continue to vote in the U.N. just about as it always has. Their representative may not enjoy it so much as Mr. Menon, but he'll do it anyway.

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