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DEFEATING TERRORISM: Strategic Issue Analysis
Coalition Partners: China and India

by Andrew Scobell, Strategic Studies Institute

8:00 a.m. January 15, 2001 PDT

China's tacit support or at least non-opposition is crucial to the eventual success of the war on terrorism...While Pakistan may be the most pivotal coalition partner in the initial phase, a top U.S. priority in South Asia must be to keep India-Pakistan tensions at the lowest level possible.



CHINA
At a minimum, China's tacit support or at least non-opposition is crucial to the eventual success of the war on terrorism because Beijing holds one of the permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. China's active participation in the war is not essential. In fact, the United States should probably not expect much in the way of substantive Chinese support.

Officially, Beijing has offered supportive rhetoric for America's war on terrorism and has shared intelligence with the United States. Some Chinese analysts see the events of September 11, while tragic, as heralding a brighter future for U.S.-China relations. These analysts see significant potential for U.S.-China cooperation on counterterrorism efforts, which can contribute to an improvement in overall bilateral relations. Other Chinese analysts, however, expect that the United States will single-mindedly and unilaterally pursue its war on terrorism, which will result in a deterioration in relations.

Context.
China's leaders are very concerned about ethno-religious terrorism in their own country—especially from Islamic extremists seeking greater autonomy or independence from China in the western region of Xinjiang. Xinjiang shares an extended land border with central Asian states (including a short stretch with Afghanistan), Pakistan and Kashmir.

Beijing is also concerned about other "separatist" movements seeking independence in places such as Tibet and Taiwan. These are all seen as constituting serious threats to national security, and China's leaders are extremely sensitive to the point of paranoia about internal security. The issue of "separatism" tends to be on the agenda alongside the subject of "terrorism."br>
During his visit to Shanghai to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) meeting on October 20-21, President Bush got a qualified statement of support for the war from his Chinese counterpart. The first ever face-to-face meeting between the two national leaders went as well as could be expected. The Chinese did not want the issue of terrorism to monopolize the agenda or for President Bush to upstage the Chinese leader.

China's Strategy.
President Jiang told President Bush on October 8 that China supports efforts to combat terrorism but cautioned him to keep civilian casualties limited. However, as the U.S. and coalition forces continue to conduct limited military operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda, Beijing has heavily censored Chinese media reports of the war. China has sealed its approximately 50 mile-long border with Afghanistan and provided a small amount of humanitarian assistance for the resettlement of Afghan refugees. For now, the Chinese government is also denying visas to passport holders of countries in the Arab world and Southwest Asia, and Chinese airlines and travel agents are declining to sell air tickets to these same individuals.

China's main objectives are to:
  • Prevent terrorist acts and defeat secessionist movements in China;

  • Maintain good relations with the United States;

  • Ensure stability in Central Asia and cordial relations with the states of the region;

  • Secure a stable supply of foreign energy resources;

  • Continue economic growth which entails smooth entry into the World Trade Organization.
Prognosis.
As time goes on, Beijing could begin to express publicly reservations or condemnation, although Chinese leaders may privately be pleased that terrorist organizations that also pose a threat to China are being destroyed or greatly weakened.

However, if the United States pursues operations beyond the current limited U.S./coalition military action in Afghanistan, there will likely be strong official Chinese condemnation. China fears that the United States might undertake extensive military operations against other states in Southwest Asia or the Middle East (e.g., Iraq) or establish a long-term military presence in the region. This would damage U.S.-China relations and result in closer ties between China and Russia. Both countries would redouble their efforts to oppose U.S. actions via the United Nations and the recently established Shanghai Cooperation Organization (composed of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan).

Recommendations.
The United States should not expect much actual support from China and should probably be satisfied with no vocal opposition to the war on terrorism.

Nevertheless, Beijing could make some useful contributions, although Washington should not expend valuable political capital in pursuit of these. If the United States does seek substantial help from China in the war, Washington should anticipate Beijing insisting on a significant quid pro quo (e.g., regarding Taiwan). The United States should avoid going down this road. Instead, Washington should play up Beijing's sense of its status as a great power and Beijing's desire to be treated like a distinguished member of the community of nations.

If efforts in Afghanistan take place under U.N. auspices (once the Taliban is toppled), China may be willing to provide token military units for peacekeeping or humanitarian relief activities in Afghanistan. At the very least, China may be willing to offer some humanitarian aid. This Chinese involvement might be of considerable value in stressing the broad nature of the antiterrorism coalition and be useful in improving mil-mil relations between the People's Liberation Army and other armed forces (including U.S. military).

The United States should make every effort to ensure that bilateral relations with China improve. To this end we should:
  • Reactivate mil-mil ties with China across the board with a more comprehensive pro-active approach to promote our long-term war on terrorism. The existing "case-by-case" review of activities should be discarded;
  • Place the topic of counterterrorism prominently on the agenda in mil-mil exchanges;
  • Stress the importance of calm and stability in the Taiwan Strait and Korean Peninsula.
Conclusions:
  • Reactivate mil-mil ties with China across the board with a more comprehensive pro-active approach to promote our long-term war on terrorism. The existing "case-by-case" review of activities should be discarded.
  • Place the topic of counterterrorism prominently on the agenda in mil-mil exchanges.
  • Stress the importance of calm and stability in the Taiwan Strait and Korean Peninsula.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

INDIA
While Pakistan may be the most pivotal coalition partner in the initial phase in the war on terrorism, a top U.S. priority in South Asia must be to keep India-Pakistan tensions at the lowest level possible. A successful outcome in this phase of the war not only requires ongoing cooperation with Islamabad but also parallel U.S. engagement with New Delhi. Because of the decades-old animosity between India and Pakistan, especially concerning the territorial dispute over the region of Kashmir, a misstep by the United States, Pakistan, or India could easily lead to a dangerous heightening of tensions between the two nuclear armed South Asian neighbors and possibly escalate into war.

Rightly or wrongly, India continues to see Pakistan as "part of the problem" rather than "part of the solution" in the war. From New Delhi's perspective, Islamabad is a major exporter of terrorism—first to Afghanistan and then, since the late 1980s, to Kashmir. Indeed, Afghanistan is seen by many Indians as a virtual colony of Pakistan, with the Taliban serving as a proxy of Pakistan's military.

Context.
At independence from Great Britain in 1947, the subcontinent was partitioned into the predominantly Hindu state of India and predominantly Muslim state of Pakistan because Hindu and Muslim leaders could not agree on a political formula to keep their communities in one country. Although India remains officially a secular state, more than 80 percent of its one billion people are Hindu, and the dominant political party in New Delhi's current governing coalition is the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (or BJP). Nevertheless, approximately 12 percent of the country's population is Muslim. Numbering some 120 million, this gives India a Muslim community even larger than that of Pakistan and second only to that of Indonesia.

India today shares approximately a two thousand mile-long border with Pakistan, and it has fought three major wars and one mini-war with Pakistan. All but one of these was fought over Kashmir. The first was fought at Independence in 1947 when the Muslim majority in Kashmir sought to join Pakistan, and the Hindu hereditary ruler appealed for help from India. The result was a war that led to the division of Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani control sectors separated by the so-called Line of Control. A second Indo-Pakistan war was fought over Kashmir in 1965. Six years later the two countries fought another war, this time over the status of East Pakistan. India's victory meant East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh.

More recently, in 1999 Indian troops fought a small war against Pakistan irregulars in the remote Kargil region of Kashmir. It remains to be seen whether India's strikes against Pakistani-controlled Kashmir on October 15 of this year will escalate into another full-blown war or simply dissipate.

India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers and therefore the possibility exists of a nuclear conflict in South Asia. Moreover, there are serious questions about command and control mechanisms for nuclear weapons in both countries.

India's Strategy.
India views itself as a natural ally of the United States and an indispensable coalition member of the war. New Delhi is very eager to continue the rapprochement with Washington that began during the Clinton administration and continued in its view until the immediate aftermath of September 11.

India has expressed strong support for the war on terrorism. New Delhi has offered bases, airfields, and intelligence for U.S. forces involved in operations against targets in Afghanistan. India is extremely concerned about Pakistani support for terrorism particularly in the disputed area of Kashmir, especially in the wake of the October 1 car bombing outside the state parliament building in the capital of Srinagar. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee reportedly gave assurances to President Bush prior to October 1 that India would show restraint in Kashmir.

New Delhi supports ongoing U.S. military actions but remains wary about the closer ties developing between the United States and Pakistan. Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf spoke by telephone on October 8. Vajpayee insisted that Pakistan must end support for Islamic terrorists in Indian-controlled Kashmir, and he declined Musharraf's invitation to meet face-to-face with the Pakistani leader.

India's main objectives are:
  • Further improvement in bilateral relations with the United States;
  • The continued existence of a unified Pakistan;
  • The defeat of "terrorism" in Kashmir;
  • No significant impairment of India's impressive economic growth.
Prognosis.
India will continue to support strongly the war and will remain very interested in expanding security ties and defense cooperation with the United States. At the same time, New Delhi will continue to be extremely concerned about growing U.S.-Pakistan security cooperation.

India will also be extremely sensitive to further terrorist activities in Kashmir. It will be difficult for New Delhi not to retaliate with force in the event of further terrorist attacks in the disputed territory. Nevertheless, India's actions will be constrained by the sober recognition that sustained military action against Pakistan-controlled Kashmir would exacerbate the political challenges confronting Islamabad's military government and perhaps lead to its collapse—the last thing New Delhi wants.

If, for whatever reason, Pakistan's armed forces intervened in Afghanistan, India would vehemently condemn this, and Indo-Pakistani tensions would heighten.

Recommendations.
The United States must work very hard to prevent people from viewing the war on terrorism as a religious struggle between Islam and Hinduism by:
  • Continuing to develop and expand its relationship with India while being careful at the same time not to be viewed as leaning toward India at the expense of Pakistan;
  • Expanding mil-mil relations on a trajectory comparable with that planned for Pakistan;
  • Assisting India to improve command and control systems for its nuclear weapons;
  • Urging India to moderate its response to communal unrest and insurgency in Kashmir at least in the short term;
  • Encouraging India to seek over the longer term a negotiated solution in Kashmir with the help of an honest broker such as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan.
Conclusions:
The United States must work very hard to prevent people from viewing the war on terrorism as a religious struggle between Islam and Hinduism by:
  • Continuing to develop and expand its relationship with India while being careful at the same time not to be viewed as leaning toward India at the expense of Pakistan;
  • Expanding mil-mil relations on a trajectory comparable with that planned for Pakistan;
  • Assisting India to improve command and control systems for its nuclear weapons;
  • Urging India to moderate its response to communal unrest and insurgency in Kashmir at least in the short term;
  • Encouraging India to seek over the longer term a negotiated solution in Kashmir with the help of an honest broker such as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan.
For additional information, please visit the Strategic Studies Institute, or call (717) 245-4212.

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Article copyright © Andrew Scobell, Strategic Studies Institute; all rights reserved
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