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If India contests China’s Asian dominance, there will be no let-up in tensions: Shyam Saran

Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran says that as long as the power gap between India & China expands, it will be difficult to change the ‘strategic calculus’ driving Beijing’s policies today.

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New Delhi: Chinese President Xi Jinping views the world in a hierarchical fashion and this has major implications on the India-China relationship, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said Wednesday.

“China, under Xi Jinping, is reverting back to looking at the world in a hierarchical fashion,” he said. “If India is seen as not accepting its place in that hierarchy and contesting China’s dominance in Asia, that will mean the tensions between the two countries will continue.” 

Saran was speaking at a webinar hosted by the Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS).

The former foreign secretary also said that the new Chinese approach is at odds with what the country’s revolutionary leader Deng Xiaoping had advocated.   

Deng had famously told then PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 that an Asian century cannot be possible without the development of two pillars in the region — China and India.

“Today, China, under Xi Jinping, sees only one pillar… And that is the Chinese pillar,” Saran said.

Saran also said that a power gap exists between Beijing and New Delhi.   

“As long as this power gap between India and China continues to expand, it is very difficult to change the strategic calculus that drives China’s policies today,” he said.

His comments come a week after India and China completed troop disengagement from the Gogra area of Eastern Ladakh.

Also read: Tibet won’t remain a side issue for long between India, China. Xi’s policies indicate

Lessons from Soviet Union

Commenting on the recent celebrations in China of the Communist Party’s 100th year, Saran said the party has drawn lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Saran said that Xi noticed a lack of “ideological commitment of the cadres of the Soviet Communist party”.

International affairs analyst Kanti Bajpai has echoed the same sentiment in the past. 

“Xi Jinping studied what happened in the collapse of the Soviet Union and basically said, ‘never, not that. We don’t want that’,” Bajpai had said at ThePrint Off The Cuff last month.

Reversal of what Deng Xiaoping envisioned 

According to Saran, Xi has reversed three major aspects of Deng’s vision for China — moving away from a supervisory role of the party, building party committees, and laying ideological importance on army recruitment.

“After the end of the great proletarian cultural revolution in 1976, we saw some major shifts in terms of the role of the party,” he said. “Under Deng Xiaoping, we had a new emphasis on collective leadership instead of one individual leader. We also had the party taking on more of a supervisory role rather than a direct role.” 

Today, there is a more direct and central role of the party, he added. 

Under Deng, there was more emphasis on professionalism in the PLA but Xi has now emphasised the importance of “ideological credentials” and “patriotic education”, Saran said.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: ‘Will pull India into a vortex’ — why Delhi is unlikely to heed ‘Afghan demand for air support


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