Mr. Sushant Singh:
Good afternoon everyone. I am Sushant Singh, Senior Fellow of Centre for Policy Research India. We hardly hear any authentic voices from China. We have today on our show Senior Colonel Zhou Bo(retired), a senior fellow of Center of Strategy and Security of Tsinghua University and China forum expert. Senior Colonel Zhou Bo started his military service in 1979 and served in numerous appointments in the people's liberation army, including as director of the Center for Security Cooperation in the Office for International Military Cooperation, Ministry of national defense. Zhou Bo is an undergraduate of Air Force Engineering College and a postgraduate of St. Edmund College of Cambridge University. He has written more than 100 essays and articles in various western publications and speaks as a PLA delegate at Shangri- La Dialogue in Singapore and at Munich Security Conference. He's supervisor to foreign postgraduate office at PLA National Defense University. Zhou Bo, welcome to hear you speak.
Thank you, Sushant, thank you for having me.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Zhou Bo, we are speaking only four days after Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi's visit to New Delhi. He met the Indian foreign minister and Indian national security advisor when he was in Delhi. What do you make of Wang’s Visit to India and to South Asia in general? And what were the reasons, to your mind, for his visit to India in particular?
The direct reason for him to go to visit South Asia is to attend a meeting in Islamabad, that is 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and I think by making best use of this chance, he went to visit India, Nepal and Afghanistan as well. His visit to India was not very long, but it is self-evident that this kind of short, direct communication is badly needed because, I think, for at least two years this is the first time that a Chinese foreign minister visited India. Therefore, this kind of working visit, especially against the backdrop of the most unfortunate clash in Galwan valley in 2020, is extremely significant and useful.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
But were there any reasons, what were the motivations, that Wang had when he came to India, maybe looking for a breakthrough, maybe trying to win India? What were the reasons, what were the primary motivations for his visit?
After the most unpleasant clash between the soldiers of the two sides, there must be a kind of cooling down of bilateral relationship, and it takes some time for both sides to heal the wounds. Therefore, we can understand this kind of silence. But it should not last because China is such an important country, and not only in Asia but in the world. And so is India. China is the second largest economy in the world, and you are the sixth largest economy in the world. Therefore, for us, the two great neighbors, we cannot afford to keep this kind of relationship so cold and so remoted. It is in the interests of both sides to come into contact. Of course, I know they have a lot of contacts, and they even attended some kind of visual meetings. But of course, this kind of personal exchanges would be most important. It cannot be replaced by any virtual meetings at all.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
If you want a breakthrough, as you seem to suggest, during his visit, and reestablish the warmth in ties with India, why did he give those statements in Pakistan in the organization of Islamic conference summit that you spoke of, which involved Kashmir, and then statements along with the Pakistani foreign minister, where he spoke about Pakistan’s territory integrity. As you know, India, New Delhi came out and condemned those statements. Clearly that was not creating a very conducive environment for kind of a breakthrough if Wang was looking from breakthrough in India.
I think the most important is he has to be honest, to tell the truth, to tell how China feels about Pakistan’s concerns and also about India’s concerns. And these are not new issues between India and Pakistan. There is a longstanding issue of Kashmir. Actually China’s position on this is try to be as impartial as possible. Of course, neutrality is always a problem for people on the two sides, because they would consider your balance actually is a kind of expediency. But China is trying its best to strike a balance, because of course Pakistan is friendly with China, and this has certainly historical reasons. And China’s relationship with India basically is good apart from the border issue China’s position, at least on the Kashmir issue, has not changed. So, I don't think he has said a lot of things that are really new to Indian audience.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Yeah, I understand that Wang Yi said nothing new to the Indian audience, but the context in which it was said，and clearly, you know, there's an apprehension in India about a certain kind of collusion between China and Pakistan, which seems to drive a lot of Indian fears, Indian insecurities, that China and Pakistan can militarily collaborate and collude together. Would it not have been nice if China decided, or had Wang Yi decided to, in some ways reassure India or reassure the Indian government?
Well I won't use this word collusion to describe the relationship between China and Pakistan. China's relationship with Pakistan is not a secret, and actually Pakistan’s policy toward China is not a secret neither, because I believe Pakistan’s foreign policy is, rooted in, above all, a good relationship with China. I received many Pakistan delegations in the past, and I was impressed when one of the ministers told us that Pakistani basically could not agree on anything except on friendship with China. So that is a fact.
But then I have to consider what kind of cooperation between China and Pakistan could be such a concern to India. I assume probably China’s military assistance to Pakistan might be a major concern. But if we just look at this issue more thoroughly, what are they? They're basically trading on military hardware. Yes we sell them aircraft, we sell them ships. But these exports are totally justifiable in that they are just normal trading. For example, internationally speaking, you're not allowed to sell weapons of mass destruction and you're not allowed to sell missiles whose ranges and payloads go beyond the MTCR rules. Apart from these, you basically can sell whatever you want.
Let me ask you another question. India's military hardwares are mainly from Russia, which provided from 60- 70% military hardwares to India. Sometimes India’s relationship with China is not so good. But has China ever complained either to India or to Russia about this kind of military sales? Never, yeah, never. So in the same fashion, I believe that India should not complain about China’s military relationship with Pakistan, in part because India is much stronger militarily than Pakistan. So what's the fear of India of this kind of cooperation?
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Yeah, I agree with you about the fear. I meant to say that certain insecurity, certain fear, because a lot of discussion in India, which you are aware of， is about a two front military threat, so to speak, which comes with both China and Pakistan acting together against India. That was the only reason. But I understand and hear you clearly to the argument that you're making.
I want to say something more about this. In India, there are some strategies who are concerned with a kind of nightmare of China and Pakistan encircling India. This is totally wrong. This is absolutely wrong. Why should China do that? In human feelings, people always look up to another one more strong, more powerful for inspiration, for emulation. For example, China sometimes would compare itself with the United States, and Pakistan would compare itselff with India, and India would believeit is itself comparable to China.
It is really not in China’s interest to encircle India. Why? I give you an example. In 1998, India conducted nuclear tests first, followed by Pakistan. And India’s excuse is that China is a potential threat number one. I was staff officer in the Ministry of national defense at that time for South Asia. Everybody was shocked. Because we actually just had our chief of general staff visiting India. D uring his visit, everything was fine and all the sweet words were spoken. Not long after he came back, India suddenly announced China to be potential threat number one. how can that be? At that time, China’s attention was totally focused on Taiwan because at that time the Taiwanese authorities led by Li Denghui was making all the troubles, of calling for referendum and tose kind of things.
When we heard that we were potential threat number one, everybody was shocked. And later I thought about it. I thought, why was that? I thought that India wanted to develop nuclear weapons anyway, so it has to have a very, very big reason to justify it, because no small reasons could justify it. So defense minister George Fernandes raised China as potential threat number one. This is how I look at the issue.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Yeah, just going back to 1998 and the statement by George Fernandes. If you remember that, you would remember that the government of India had backtracked from the statement. And you would also remember the role of Washington DC, in leaking that letter, which then Indian prime minister had written to President Clinton and then released that letter to New York Times, putting India in a very embarrassing situation vis-à-vis Beijing. But that's all in the past. Now coming to the recent visit of Wang Yi’s Pakistan visit. So, as you rightly said, the visit was in a certain sense, in the backdrop of these border crises in Ladakh or in Siachen. The question I want to ask you is, why are the two countries, as you said two big Asian powers, why are they having so many crises at the borders in the past decade, the last ten years or so why are so many crises at the border between India and China? What are the drivers of this problem, which is happening more and more now?
My answer to you is very brief and straight. That is because the line of actual control is not demarcated, but the problem is we have different views as to how this issue should be resolved. That is the genuine problem.
Let's me first make it very clear that these most unfortunate problem is a leftover by colonialists, right? And so it's not something that really we have created, but we are really troubled by this. India's approach to the line of actual control is fundamentally different from that of China. Basically, India’s argument is let's have a bottom-up approach. We verify the line of actual control and resolve this issue. China， preferring a top-down approach, would say that, okay, let's first of all make a political decision about how we might a kind of swap land, for mutual accommodation and mutual understanding. And India disagrees.
And so India’s position looks reasonable superficially. Because this is created by line of actual control, so why don't we just verify it and then determine where the line of actual control lies, so we can avoid this kind of a problem of trespassing to the other side. But there is a danger in India’s approach, that is, if this kind of line of actual control, which is not really taken by China as border, is verified, it could be taken by India to say, this is the de facto border, and let's make it as it is.
Historically speaking, both China and India had a lot of talks on this issue, and I myself was an expert at the earliest day of such bilateral military talks. So I remember clearly what the differences are. And in the western sector actually India has more places that they believe are controversial. So in other words, China doesn't believe that there are many differences in the western sector, while India believes there are more problems there. But if you look at the whole Indo-China border, then there are so many differences, including the length of the border. China believe it's just 2000 kilometers while India believes it's 3488 kilometers. In the eastern sector and the middle sector of the China-Indian border, there aren't many incidences happening. Why? Because India has actually de facto control in these two sections. So we end up having more problems in the western sector.
So let me come back to what I said. Line of actual control is the fundamental root cause of our disagreement, of the standoffs, of the deadly clashes, but we should not let the line of actual control hijack the two governments, the two peoples.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Just to push you a bit on this, the issues with the line of actual control had been there as you said, starting from 1947 or 1948. But almost for two and a half decades, there were no major crises on the border. The question I wanted to ask you was, what changed in the last ten years or so, that despite the line of actual control not being defined, there have been so many problems at the border, whether it was the Doklam crisis,or the major unfortunate incident in Galwan in June 2020 as you rightly said or others. Virtually every one or two years, we are having this crisis. And the crisis on the border from both sides, where the troops are deployed, continues to remain. So what has changed in the last 10 years that the crisis have emerged, such strong, big, major crisis have come up?
Good question. When people talk about the deadly clashes, people actually are hooked with the results, without looking back into history, without looking at the opportunities actually in the crisis. When I talk about this, let me remind you that ever since Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in 1988, we have actually established a number of confidence building measures, both at the governmental level and at the military levels. I'm sure you are aware of these agreements. And if you compare these confidence building measures with any of those between China and foreign countries, for example the United States, we would conclude that these confidence building measures are much more substantive than those we have with the United States, and they outnumber those. We just have a couple of agreements with the United States, but with India we have more than any other agreements between China and other countries. And these confidence building measures are so good in that they are so substantive. And in that they are full of details. For example, in the border troops agreement, it stated clearly that when the troops on one side are in patrol, the other side should not follow them. So this is very detailed. And, near the line of actual control you should not hold exercise at the division level, that is more than 15,000 people, and if you hold the exercise at the brigade level, that is 5000 people, you should notify the other side in advance, and you should not fly a military aircraft within close proximity of 10 kilometers from the LAC. So these rules have played a role, I believe they did, ever since 1993 when we have the first agreement. So they have played a huge, huge role, in maintaining, by and large, peace and tranquility along the borders of actual control.
We only had a deadly clash in a couple of years ago. We still had a lot of standoffs because the line of actual control is not demarcated. So the only difference is it’s not so deadly.
The incident on the 15th of June 2020 is most unfortunate. There are of course accusations against the other side, we understand that whensuch deadly clashes or incidents happened,people always pointed fingers at each other. So, here I do not give you a long story about how it happened. You have your interpretation and I have my own story.
But the good thing still, in this incident, is that neither side tried to shoot at the other side. So, they were actually fighting against each other in a stone age manner with stones and clubs. That means deep in their minds, they know that they should not shoot at each other at any circumstances, although later the Indian troops did shoot into the skythey didn’t shoot directly at the Chinese soldiers. So, it tells that these kinds of confidence building measures have really worked to a great extent.
Yes, they haven't stopped such a kind of accident from happening. So, what should we do? There definitely will come the time when both sides sit down and start to explore possible confidence building measures. And you don't need to look elsewhere. You just need to look into these agreements we have already made. They are so, so detailed. They areso tangible. So, if you carry out all of them, you don't have problems at all. And then, what makes the difference (is), because we were right now in a in a deadlock because the troops have very much disengaged, but not completely satisfactory to the Indian side, I understand that.
So, actually my suggestion is the troops from both sides should disengage at all most dangerous sectors. Yeah, so just disengage from each other. This is what we did along Pangong Tso lake and this type of experience should be followed elsewhere, for us to maintain the Line of Actual Control to be peaceful and tranquil.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
I believe what you are saying is to an extent true. But the problem is that neither side trust each other, not after deaths have occurred, after people have died and you said, you know, clubs have been used, rounds have been fired even though in the air. There is no trust between the two sides and the fact that the Line of Actual Control is not defined, the fact that trust has broken down, the fact that you know both sides say that the agreements are not being followed by the other side. The Indian foreign minister is on record saying China is not following these agreements of 1993 and 1996. The Chinese side is saying the Indians are not following the agreements. How do you move forward? How do you, you know in theory it's fine, we should disengage, but how do you move forward in this kind of environment?
Okay, let's come to the worst scenarios, that China and India have no trust at all, with each other. This certainly is not the case, but let's assume, it's just an absolute black picture. Let me give an example of the cold war. During the cold war, the United States and Soviet Union did't trust each other at all, right? Because they were simply enemies, but out of such a kind of absolute mistrust of each other, they still were able to develop a lot of confidence building measures, primarily in nuclear fields. This is reflected in a number of important agreements, such as SALT, such as START, such as Open Skies Treaty. And they even had cooperation, for example, in two areas, one is joint efforts in eradicating smallpox, another is joint cooperation in outer space.
So, China’s relationship with India, apart from the border issue, I can hardly imagine there are serious problems elsewhere. Yes, you see, we in China are concerned with your concerns, but your concerns sometimes are not really justifiable, such as China’s close relationship with Pakistan. If I just raise your close relationship with Russia, what would you say? China is also friendly with Russia, which has great friendship with you. What I mean is that trust is of course important, but it's not that necessary for us to have effective confidence building measures. But between us, we still have trust in many other fields. I give you the latest example, the Russo-Ukrainain warDid you find the similarity in our positions? Yes, of course.
I believe this actually shows that India didn't say the right thing really wholeheartedly in the last few years. In the last few years, you would findIndia talking almost in an American tone about the free and open Indo-Pacific. But let me tell you, Indian position actually is more like that of China rather than that of the United States, because India has reservation for the same article in the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, that is article 298 for which China has reservation. When foreign military ships entered your exclusive economic zone to conduct military exercises, the Indian government would ask them for consent if it involves ammunitions and explosives. Well, if you compare your law on that with that of China, actually I would say that India’s is much more strict than that of China.
And let me give you another example, in April last year, the USS John Paul Jones sailed into the exclusive economic zone in the southwest of India, and the Seventh Fleet made a written declaration to say that in doing so, the United States would challenge India’s excessive maritime claim. India’s EEZ, I found, is actually one thirtieth of the whole Indian Ocean. That means if the United States challenged your claims, that means, at least in American’s eyes, 1/30 of the Indian Ocean is not free, not open because of India. So, how can India say, like the United States, that the Indo-Pacific has to be free and open ? This is wrong because the oceans themselves are interconnected naturally, so they are always free, they’re always open.
And if you look at the problems in the Indian Ocean, that is piracy. Piracy was rampant from 2008, basically to 2013. And thanks to joint efforts, including Chinese and Indian navy. We have solved this problem and the Indian navy has helped the Chinese merchant ships “Full City” in tandem with a Turkish ship under NATO’s command and a Chinese naval vessel. And I have been coordinator of the PLA on counter-piracy for quite a few years. I thank India on many occasions, including in Bahrain where international navy's efforts in counter-piracy were coordinated because the international military coordinations conferences about counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Somalia Basin are always there in Bahrain.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Yes, I'm hearing you. Bo the point I will push back on you, one point that you made about the Indian and Chinese position on the Russia-Ukraine war being similar. The Indian government has clearly come out saying, while the positions superficially look similar, the reasons driving them or the principles driving them are different in both cases. And even after Wang Yi’s visit, the Indian Foreign Minister Mr. Jaishankar actually came out and wanted to make it completely clear that India’s position is different from China’s. This is something which you heard from western capitals as well, and the position is not the same. So that's the only thing I would like to clarify to the listeners. But I get your argument, I'm not contesting your argument. I just wanted to make the Indian government's position clear.
But you spoke about concerns that India has from China and China has from India. What exactly are Chinese concerns with India? Are they geopolitical? Are the ideological? Are they driven by some other reasons? You know, I mean, is it the United States? Is it in the Indo-Pacific Strategy? Is it the Quad? What is it that the Chinese really are concerned with India about? What is something else about India, that is not publicly said? What exactly are those reasons?
I'm fully aware that the Indian government try to make a difference in terms of its position towards the Russian-Ukrainian war. But to be honest with you, I read them and I haven't found them to be particularly different from that of China. Because you see China is not trying to get closer to India by saying, “Okay, my position is really like yours and your position really like mine”. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't matter. But you see, we have been talking about the two sides of the same coin, the sovereignty of a sovereign states and the legitimate concerns of Russia over NATO's expansion. I think we basically talk about the same things. So I don't know what are the differences. Frankly speaking, I believe because of the current atmosphere between China- India relationship, therefore, the Indian government is trying to appeal to the public opinion, to look somewhat hard, you know, on China. But, well, that is kind of gesture only.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
What about the concerns, about the Chinese concerns with India? Is it the United States? Is it the Quad? Is it the Indo-Pacific? Is it ideological? Is it geopolitical? What exactly are the reasons, all the areas that concern China when it looks at India?
Actually, I do not have such worries. China is concerned with India’s so-called concerns. Let me put it in another way, we are only worried because you're worried for something and we don't know why you're worried at all. For example, a lot of people would say that China is worried about the Quad, and there are indeed some people even calling Quad “Asian’s NATO”. I don't think so. Why? Because I actually have confidence in India’s foreign policy. Because if I look at the history of Indian foreign policy, being one of the founders of the non-aligned movement and being a self-perceived great power, of course India will try its best to be impartial, to be neutral. And inQuad, I would say India is most important, because all the three other countries are already allies. India’s attitude really, really matters to the survival and development of Quad.
But India, like any other countries, would put its national interests as first priority. India cannot afford to even look too close to the United States， because of your good relation with Russia, because about 70% of your hardware comes from Russia, because you're still buying Russia’s S-400. So if you get too close to the United States, China and Russia won't be happy, and that is not in your interest.
If you look at the latest development of Quad, you would find that it is actually developing into many other directions rather than the military direction. In terms of its military content, that is only a military exercise called “Malabar” exercise, and that's it. And beside that, it is developing into a bit of everything, for example, like infrastructure building, climate change or joint distribution of vaccines to Southeast Asian countries. But I would argue that how successful can it be? For example, infrastructure. Joe Biden’s grandiose Build Back Better project basically is dead already. From what I read, it is described as a kind of ambitious memory, because of the strong opposition from the Republican parties. And then, how much money could actually United States contribute to this region in terms of infrastructure? It cannot be compared at all with China’s Belt & Road Initiative. And if we talk about climate change or joint distributional of vaccine, these are fine. But these are not exclusive issues for the four of you. It is for everybody. So, there's nothing particularly exclusive if it is not against China, well, I won't say it's against China. I believe AUKUS agreement is against China, and the Quad is because of China. But if the glue is, a kind of, anti-China sentiment, then Quad will never grow stronger. It can survive because of all the things I mentioned, but it won't thrive.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
But Bo the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States and even the latest military document, the rejected version that put out by the Pentagon, which was sent to the Congress. It clearly mentions China as an adversary, it mentions Indo-Pacific, it says, you know, Europe is the second resister, the primary contestation is with China. Even within that context, you don't think that Quad is directed towards China?
Well, I don't believe that Quad would be very useful if it is against China. Let me talk about the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States. I read the report, which was published sometime in February. I believe that this is a, how can I say, first of all the assumption of the whole Indo-Pacific strategy is wrong because it's assumed that China wants to create a kind of a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific. This is totally wrong. Why? Let me put it this way, even if China wants, China cannot achieve it, even in East Asia, where its influence is the strongest. In East Asia, there is DPRK who won't listen to China on nuclear proliferation issue right? That is why they develop nuclear weapon. And there are quite a few American allies. And even in South China sea issues, there are a few claimant who have their own claims. So, in spite of the fact that China’s influence is strongest in this region, we still have a huge major difference for me to say that it is China’s sphere of influence.
The problem is, people often make a mistake, they confuse two things. One is the influence, another is sphere of influence. If you talk about China’s influence, absolutely, China’s influence is global now, it is already global. It's almost overlapping with that of the United States, short of military influence, right? But China is not creating a sphere of influence, and that is why China’s military activities overseas, be it counter-piracy, be it peacekeeping, be it evacuation of personals from disaster relief. They are all humanitarian in nature. So that tells China doesn’t have a global military ambition. So apart from its own territory and its adjacent waters which is Chinese territorial water, China just wants to help other countries. So that is why we are only doing things that are humanitarian. Why should we create our own spheres of influence that are so costly and so difficult to maintain?
So, this kind of assumption, from very beginning, is wrong. Besides, the United States does not have enough tools to realize it's too many purposes in the Indo-Pacific strategy, because you have so many purposes, and how many countries would really follow the United States in the antagonizing in China? I really doubt, because even its allies are the largest trading partners of China, so it would be very difficult for them to make such a decision.
And we simply were thrown into this kind of great power competition without reasons at all. If you look at China’s policy towards the United States, it is very much consistent and stable. Yeah, and then we will talk about the same thing. But it's the United States that actually have to change its policy fundamentally because they realize eventually that they could not change China’s political system, China is getting stronger. So, they were panicking. And since Trump, he ushered in this kind of great power competition. And what happened? What's wrong with China, on China’s part in this kind of relationship? Well, I won't say we did nothing wrong, but at least we haven't created any special, very difficult situation for the United States. Yeah, so China’s policy, comparatively speaking, is much more stable, right?
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Yeah, Bo, just getting back to something which you said earlier, you said that China’s concerns about India are India’s concerns, essentially saying that there is nothing about India which concerns or worries China. Is it because China is so much bigger than India? Economically, militarily, geopolitically, the gap is so much dilated, the difference in related part is so much. Is it another way of saying that you're too small for us?
No, India is not small at all, and this economy is currently the sixth largest economy, and by 2030 you will become the second largest economy in Asia, overtaking Japan. So, we are fully aware of your magnitude, and we have full respect for that because, I, as an observer, found you were actually doing a lot of things that China did in the past. Basically, your way of reform started ten years behind that of China. But you are doing almost the same thing. So, you are also developing very fast. And we're happy to see that because the fact is the international political and economic shifts are just moving to Asia. That is for sure. China certainly is in the center, but India is also looming large. I won't talk about the so-called “Asian century”. But I believe there are really, really good reasons for our two countries to have good cooperation.
I myself in my working days, ten years of my working experiences are associated with South Asia. I went to Pakistan, I went to India, and I believe I'm among very few Chinese who at least know some Indian dishes by name. Those dishes make no sense to ordinary Chinese. When I was in India, I thought that this is a country which actually has benefited China a lot. Historically, the Buddhism, the exchange of cultures on The Silk Road... We are just not on a good term because of something left by the colonialists. Ah, it's very sad. I don't know how to resolve this, and I believe it's very difficult for us to resolve this. But I believe, yeah, with all those measures in place, and probably with some new ideas, such as a disengage each other from all the dangerous places. We can manage it. Probably you are more confident than me, because you talk about how very few accidental incidents happened before the clash.
So if we, with all this have maintained peace and stability with a cost of 20 Indian soldiers and 4 Chinese soldiers, probably with good lesson learned, we could make another 40 years peaceful and tranquil with even less casualty. I believe this is possible。 Because this is such a bloody and deadly lesson, both of us should have learned something from it. But if this is the price we paid, we should not pay it in the next 40 years.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Going back to your taste in Indian dishes, I must say you have good taste in Indian food. These are some of the nice dishes that India has. But to the more serious things, you mentioned the Indo-Pacific strategy. Is it possible for India to be a part of the Quad, to be an active member of the Quad, even though it's a non-security, non-military alliance and still be friendly with China?
Well, I think it depends on, first of all, what Quad is and how it is going to evolve. Because China certainly would pay attention to the evolution of Quad to see if if this is not really harmful to China's interests.
Frankly speaking, I believe India's attitude from now on will change gradually because I believe it will just stay back a bit from its pro-American policy in the past. And the latest comments on the Ukraine and Russia war demonstrated that. I should have known that. But I believe this time because India was somehow pushed to the corner, therefore it has to show its true color. Therefore we see it abstained from the vote, and it said something more or less similar to that of China. And this is true India. This is not India in pretension, I believe.
So in the days to come, then there is a grand picture of how the international order would look like, right? So basically, I believe in Europe definitely we are going to have another cold war after this hot war. But in Asia, the United States has already initiated a new cold war against China, although at the governmental level they would not call it a new cold war. But if you look at it carefully, Biden’s policy toward China is basically extreme competition short of war. If competition is already extreme, what else can it be， if it is not like a new cold war? It is only a few steps away from hot war theoretically, right? W hat else can it be? So we do not have any fanciful wishes that China-American relationship will improve tremendously. But of course we still wish for the best.
The fundamental thing is, China is a large beneficiary from the existing international order. So China is not like Russia, which resents the current international order with victimhood. China is grateful to the international order and China has benefited from international order. So that is why China vows to safeguard the international order. And we all call for multipolarity. It's not about how we can actually achieve it. It's because it is a fact that the strength of the United States is on the wane, however slowly. When I talked to americans, they would admit that. But they will say this is relative decline. But relative decline is also kind of decline, right? So I believe Americans’ focus in the Indo-Pacific actually reflects its decline in strength. Therefore, it has to retrench. And its withdrawal from Afghanistan from elsewhere into the Indo-Pacific is actually a reflection that it's not as strong as it was. Therefore, it has to stay focused on competition with China.
In this regard, what kind of role would India play is critical. So China, for all good reasons, wish it has good relationship with India. We do not wish you take the American side. It’s on the wrong side of history.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
I agree that India would not want to be in a situation where it is in conflict with China. But the situation, as we see today happens to be something evolving. So my final question to you is, in your objective assessment of the situation, not a hope or a wish. In your assessment, how do you see the future of China-India, relationship, China-India ties? Is it collaboration? Is it competition? Is it conflict or is it a mixture of the three?
Well, I think it's a mixture of three, but the only question is the proportion, right? Because of what had happened in the Galwan Valley, therefore I believe that the Indian government is still in a kind of resentmental， moody situation, because they say very much like in the old days that unless and until the border issue is resolved, we cannot expect the bilateral relationship to improve tremendously. Well, basically something like that. This is very much like how the Indian government before Karamchand Gandhi’s visit said. But the fact is the border issue cannot be resolved easily. And even if the Indian government wants to place this kind of relationship hostage to the border issue, they cannot. Because economically speaking, the two countries would still have tremendous, huge economic interactions, and these kinds of economic rules will break through such kind of man-made boundaries.
So the relationship definitely will get warmer and warmer, but slowly and slowly， because of what happened. I believe that time might just heal the wounds and the Chinese side also have casualties. I think we have to live with the reality. And I believe, generally speaking, the relationship will just move forward in despite of the problems.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
The question actually is in Indian position， it is not that the border issue should be resolved permanently. The Indian position is that the bilateral relationship can improve once the immediate crisis on the border, where the soldiers are facing each other whether at PP15 or Depsang or Demchok. Once that is resolved and disengagement happens, then some kind of normalcy can resume in the bilateral ties, which I think as you yourself said, a disengagement is definitely a possibility.
Yes, so if that is the condition of the government, I don't believe it's difficult to meet because the Chinese side also said something similar. Of course, there lies many details. So that is why we have held so far 15 rounds of talks at corps-commander level. But of course for talks to become successful, we have to have political and strategic guidance from the two capitals. I think things are improving gradually. Generally speaking, I'm optimistic about this relationship. Because apart from this border issue, I can see no other major issues in the bilateral relationship. I really cannot figure it out.
Mr. Sushant Singh:
Bo, you are more optimistic than most Indians or most Indian commentators or most Indian officials that I talk to, who are less optimistic than you. I would like to believe you and I hope that things would improve and there are no more conflicts anywhere. Anyway, Bo, thank you so much for your time. It was wonderful talking to you and listening to your thoughts. I really enjoy speaking to you.
Thank you Sushant for all this, thank you.