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Second YB Chavan Memorial Lecture

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  • November 30, 2011
    Speeches and Lectures

    Speakers: Shri NN Vohra, Dr Arvind Gupta, Shri RD Pradhan, Prof Kanti Bajpai, Cdr SS Parmar

    IDSA in collaboration with Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan, Mumbai hosted the second lecture in memory of Shri YB Chavan, the founding President and guiding light for the Institute in its formative years, on 30 November 2011. Professor Kanti Bajpai delivered the lecture on “India and China: Can the Giants of Asia Cooperate? The Institute was privileged on the occasion by the presence of His Excellency Shri NN Vohra, Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Shri RD Pradhan and Mr. Ajit Nimbalkar from the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan. The lecture was chaired by Shri NN Vohra.

    Brief Overview

    Shri YB Chavan was born in the state of Maharashtra on March 12, 1913. He spent many years in jail as a freedom fighter and played a major role in the 1942 Quit India movement. Following India’s independence, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in 1946 and rose to become Chief Minister of the bi-lingual State of Bombay. In 1960, he became the first Chief Minister of the newly created state of Maharashtra. He was requested by the then Prime Minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru to become the Defence Minister in 1962. Subsequently, he held the offices of Union Home Minister from 1966 to 1970, Union Finance Minister from 1970 and Foreign Minister from 1974 to 1977. He was also the Chairman of the 8th Finance Commission. In memory of Shri YB Chavan, the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan has given a corpus to the IDSA to hold an annual eminent persons’ lecture series.

    Welcome Address by Dr Arvind Gupta

    Dr. Arvind Gupta, Lal Bahadur Shastri Chair and the officiating Director General, IDSA, acknowledged the support of the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan in organizing the event. He spoke about Shri K Subrahmanyam’s admiration for Shri YB Chavan and the pivotal role played by them in establishing IDSA and then mentoring it through its formative years. He brought out the role played by Shri YB Chavan by quoting Shri Subrahmanyam “if IDSA was not nursed at that time by late Y B Chavan, it would have been killed at the infancy itself.” Dr Gupta also noted that 2012 will mark the birth centenary of Y B Chavan and hence it would be an important year in the calendar of the IDSA. Dwelling on the title of Kanti Bajpai’s lecture India and China: Can the Giants of Asia Cooperate?, Dr Gupta said “that the rise of China is no more speculation; it is palpable.”

    Remarks by Shri RD Pradhan

    Shri RD Pradhan recalled his visit to London in 1962 along with late Shri K Subrahmanyam as a part of delegation that had accompanied Shri YB Chavan in his capacity as Defence Minster. It was during this visit that the idea to set up IDSA was concretized. Shri RD Pradhan appreciated IDSA’s tradition of holding talks on important issues impinging upon India’s national security.

    Second YB Chavan Memorial Lecture: Professor Kanti Bajpai

    Prof. Bajpai took the audience through the historical path of the relationship between the two countries and analyzed various facets of Sino-Indian relations that have a bearing on the present and future of these two giants of Asia. He concluded on a positive note that despite all odds it is in the interest of the two nations to forge closer ties as there exists sufficient ground for them to compete and cooperate simultaneously so as to achieve a mutually benefiting result.

    Click here for complete text of talk

    Observations by Shri NN Vohra

    The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, his Excellency Shri NN Vohra noted in his address that China and India are two very large and very populous countries and that we must not over emphasize good intents and should be cautious and pragmatic in our dealing with China. He stated that a proper understanding of the phrases like “national sensitivities,” “practical difficulties,” “reasonable concerns,” will go a long way in addressing the longstanding problems between the two countries in a mutually acceptable manner.

    Click here for complete text of his talk

    Discussion Points

    The talk by Prof Bajpai and observations by Shri NN Vohra evinced a lot of interest and the question and answer session generated a host of points.

    • US – India – China. A formal US-India tie up would send alarm bells in China but it seems unlikely given India’s robust sense of its own importance in the world and her independence. China acknowledges US importance and the major role it plays at the world stage and in particular on global economic issues and in East Asia. The Chinese know that US is on relative decline but they also seem to be quite concerned not to humiliate the Americans or to send out signals downgrading the Americans. The Chinese have a good sense of not overplaying India US relationship. President Obama’s coolness towards India if not coldness, given his other foreign policy priorities is also something which Chinese take note of. Beijing reads well that Indo-US relations have certain limits. China also feels that India is on course correction in last couple of years and is trying to strike a balance between China and US. So the question of China getting unnerved by Indo-US relationship seems to be overemphasized.
    • Intrusion and Transgression. Distinction between the terms “intrusion” and “transgression” that the Indian Government makes is only for public consumption and actually there is no difference between the two as far as the ground situation is concerned. This point was reiterated by many scholars.
    • G2 – India - China. China has taken full advantage of the 1993 and 1996 treaty and has paid scant regard to our sensitivities. Erosion of our diplomatic and military capabilities must be stopped. Following G-2 route means falling prey to Chinese trap, as has been evident in the Panchsheel and 1962, CBMs of 1993 and 1996, and present intrusion-transgression confusion. G-2 route may prove disastrous. However, in defence of G-2 it was argued that it is about signaling the world that we are interested in resolving our dispute bilaterally by some sort of charter. It’s like the Sino-US understanding in the 1970s based on three principles to announce to the international audience how they were going to agree on certain broader principles to improve their ties and indeed they actually succeeded in good measure. It was also pointed out that there may not be immediate gains at sight at the moment accruing from accords like the G-2 and the CBMs but in the long run they are bound to yield dividends. One cannot be too ambitious about these accords. These will be flouted, not observed. However, it is not to be forgotten that China seems to realize the importance of military stability along the borders. Importance of CBMs is recognised by both the military and the political establishment. 50 years of peace since 1962 along the borders between two of the largest countries is not too bad a record.
    • Assertiveness of China and Role of PLA. Externally and internally the assertiveness of PLA is a concern for India particularly since leadership changes are on the horizon in China. PLA is going to play important role in this since PLA historically plays an important role in transition. The last 20 years military build up showcases its prowess. PLA in recent times has become very active. However, it is to be remembered that PLA has always been a key player in Chinese politics and will remain so in the future too, particularly during transition period. There is more of the element of continuity in this than element of suddenness or surprise. PLAs importance has to be factored into the Sino-Indian relationship particularly with respect to border issues and Sino-Pak nexus since on these issues PLA almost enjoys monopoly in the decision making. There are groups within the PLA that do calculations with respect to India and Pakistan and weigh the gains and losses in each case in a fairly detailed and rationale manner, contrary to the public perception in India of an “all weather friendship” between China and Pakistan and that China is blind to developments inside Pakistan. However, ascribing every bit to PLA means attaching too much importance to it. The tendency to segregate PLA and the civilian leadership is faulty; at the highest level some kind of nexus between the two exits. PLA is aware of the military losses and gains in a war with India. It is very much aware of the pitfalls for China, particularly the mobility factor in the Tibetan plateau. Moreover, our aerial strength is also a good counterweight to any Chinese aggressive designs. One cannot downplay the role Tibetan militias would play in times of war. Seen in this backdrop troop deployment in Tibetan plateau has more to do with domestic issues than posing actual threat to India. A highly provocative behavior either on part of India or China is presumed to be one of the reasons for either of the two countries to wage a war. But what constitute “highly provocative behavior” is yet to be clearly spelt out and is largely ambiguous.
    • Dalai Lama and Tibet. The impact of presence of Dalai Lama and the presence o/f over one lalk Tibetans in India will always be an issue of concern for China and will have a bearing on the relations between the two countries. However, there seems to be a tendency of overemphasizing the India-China-Tibet issue. China seems to be quite at ease with Dalai Lama staying in India. The handling of the post Dalai Lama phase by India, China and the Tibetans will be crucial in deciding the fate of the relationship between the two countries. It is difficult at this stage to predict the shape of things to come but the past suggests that all the three parties will continue to act with wisdom and restraint.
    • Nuclear. India’s nuclear deterrent is currently weak, however, Agni, and Prithvi can fill the gap.
    • Economy. The gap between India and China is quite big. Their economy is 3-4 times our size. Therefore, to compare China with India at this juncture will not be appropriate.
    • LAC. LAC may not be hyper stable, yet it is stable partly because of nuclear weapons and partly because China is doing more of posturing than actually interested in waging a war.

    Vote of Thanks

    Commander Parmar thanked Shri NN Vohra for his invaluable observations on this important geo-strategic, political, and economic relationship and also sharing an insight into Shri YB Chavan’s futuristic outlook. Commander Parmar extended his thanks to Shri RD Pradhan for being present on the occasion and sharing his experience about Shri YB Chavan and IDSA. Parmar also thanked Ajit Nimbalkar for his long distance support and encouragement for this event. Last but not the least he expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the IDSA, to Prof. Kanti Bajpai for an enlightening talk. He also thanked the audience for their incisive comments and active participation in the event.

    (Report Prepared by Amit Kumar, Research Assistant)