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Track Two Efforts Needed to Reduce China-India Frontier Tensions

Prof. René Wadlow* sees in India’s current chairmanship of the G20 grouping of states an opportunity for Track Two discussions towards the resolution of the border dispute with China which could otherwise only worsen in future as the two sides grow in their power.

(TibetanReview.net, Jun26’23)

There has been a constant buildup of military forces by the governments of both India and China along their common frontiers. The Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh (called Zangman by the Chinese) with Itanagar as its capital is claimed by the Chinese. The frontier was drawn in 1914 and is called the McMahon Line. The frontier dispute led to the October-November 1962 India-China armed conflict with important consequences especially for Indian foreign-policy making.

In recent years there have been flashes of tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the military of both China and India have built new roads and observation posts along the LAC. Such tensions could grow as the relative political power of India and China grows and takes the form of a struggle for power. Currently there are no public negotiations between the Chinese and Indian governments. India, this year, is the chair of the G20 grouping of states. The Indian government has organized a number of G20 seminars on different issues in a number of Indian cities. However, for the moment, China has not sent representatives to these seminars.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has expressed its active concern with these tensions on the India-China frontier and the possibility that the tensions will increase. With the lack of formal India-China negotiations, the AWC raises the possibility of strong Track Two discussions.

Adam Curle

The term Track Two was coined by the U.S. diplomat Joseph Montville in his book The Arrow and the Olive Branch. Track Two discussions are organized by nongovernmental organizations often with the help of academic institutions. Track Two discussions among non-officials of conflicting parties aim to clarify outstanding disputes and see on what issues negotiations might progress.

As Adam Curle, experienced in Quaker mediation efforts, has written, “In general, governments achieve their results because they have power to influence events, including the ability to reward or to punish. Paradoxically, the strength of civilian peacemaking resides specifically in their lack of power. They are neither feared nor courted for what they can do. Instead, they are trusted and so may sometimes be enabled to play a part in peacemaking denied to more official diplomats.”

Thus, it will be important to follow as closely as possible the results of the G20 seminars in India and then build upon them in a Track Two pattern. Concerning the China-India frontier issues, both governments must be convinced that there is a considerable desire for peace among their citizens. There is also a need for some involved in Track Two efforts to have an integrated perspective of peacebuilding techniques and a long-term view of possibilities for transforming political relations.

* Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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