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India, China Conflict Is New Cold War In The Indian Ocean

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Bertil Lintner sheds light on the current status of Indo-China relations, his book and the dawn of a new cold war in Asia

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Swedish journalist and Author Bertil Lintner has spent almost 20 years of his career in Asia, writing extensively about the conflicts in the region. Recently Lintner has come out with his book "India's China War", which describes in explicit details, about the turbulent relationship between the two Asian Superpowers.

He believes the much talked about Doklam standoff between India and China should be seen as a Chinese strategy to expand its sphere of influence in the Himalayan region.

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Lintner sheds light on the current status of Indo-China relations, his book and the dawn of a new cold war in Asia.

Edited Excerpts from the interview:

About your book China India War. What part of the China India relationship does it prominently talk about?

My book talks about what happened before after, and during 1962 Sino-Indo war. And why there was a war in 1962.

For decades really, it's been Maxwell's theory that India provoked the war. Specially Prime minister Nehru that time through his forward policy. I am trying to show here that preparations for the conflicts with India began in 1959.

Years before that policy was announced and it had to with the issues other than border as well. Very few people knew what was happening inside China. It was also in 1959 that China's government started talking about the unresolved border issue, the foreign policy had nothing to do with it.

China decided to go against India in 1962 hence the war began.
Do you think the recent Doklam standoff between India and China has resolved or has it taken a backseat for now?
Look at China's foreign policy specially when it comes to border disputes with other countries. Very seldom about the actual border, where the border should be. China follows another agenda, and if you look at the Doklam stand-off keenly.  Why do they need a second road down towards Nathula. There is already a perfectly good road there with so much traffic on it. Why do they need another one and then the road went through a disputed with Bhutan.

It was an attempt by the Chinese to come in between Bhutan and India.

Heavily dependent upon India for years but Bhutan is rather skilful in managing to become more independent in the region. By provoking this incident, China forced India to contract, maybe to the embarrassment of the Bhutanese, India intervening on their behalf in the border conflict.

Interesting to note here is that Bhutan is the only country in the neighbourhood with which India does not maintain diplomatic relations.  

India has been claiming that the Doklam crisis was averted because of the really strong diplomacy. Do you think it was the Indian diplomacy that averted the crisis, or is there a backstory?
Well, it is hard to say, India showed its muscle in the conflicts,  we are not accepting that kind of nonsense, but I think China realized they can't do whatever they want to do on the border. There is no clear answer to this and it is not over.

India is the only country in the South-Asian neighbourhood that is not a participating in China's OBOR (One Border One Road). What would be the gains if India decided to ever participate and with the current stand doesn't it fear isolation? 
Well the one belt one road is probably the most ambitious project in any time in history by any country and there is a mega project to develop the infrastructure across the globe and it is part of Xi Jinping's vision of seeing China as the leading world power.

I think it is quite early to say. I don't think India would feel isolated in any way because it is not part of China's scheme of things.

 India has its own trade relations with every country the world. OBOR is not the European Union, it's not Brexit. India can continue trade with anyone, regardless of what China's plans are or China's visions are.

Can you call the Doklam standoff as the most significant milestone in India-China relations after the Sino-Indo war?
Not really, we see a lot of tension here because it was the Himalayas the two almost confronting each other. I think it should be seen as China's long-term strategy for expanding its influence into the Himalayan region. It was a part of a much grander scheme of things, which includes trying to make economic political inroads into Bhutan.
What is your take on the current Indo-china relations?

Trade between India and China is massive. It is in billions and billions of dollars. Nobody wants to disrupt that.

There is not going to be another war in the Himalayas and whatever happens in the Indian ocean, it's not going to lead to an armed conflict, but it would lead to a conflict of interest.

The tension between India and China is likely to increase, not to open conflict, but I would call it a new cold war in the Indian Ocean.

But China emerging as a maritime power. China developing a blue navy, is something countries in the same region should address with increasing concern because you don't really know what China is up to.

What China's long-term goals are and China is also planning its influence over vulnerable small Indian ocean countries like Mauritius but China is a new player in the Indian ocean game and that is something one should be very careful.

Also read: Pakistan’s Strategic Move at Chabahar Inauguration | Chabahar: India’s Golden Gate To Central Asia 'We Have To Make India More Visible To Mexican Traders'

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