Tricks won’t earn Tsai over­seas sup­port

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

NewTai­wan leader Tsai Ing-wen is sched­uled to make tran­sit stops in Mi­ami and Los An­ge­les in theUnited States dur­ing her nine-day over­seas trip that will also take her to Panama and Paraguay. The over­seas trip start­ing on Fri­day will be her first since tak­ing of­fice more than a month ago.

Many of her pre­de­ces­sors have cho­sen a sim­i­lar itin­er­ary, but not all of them con­veyed good­will. Chen Shui-bian of the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party who was the is­land leader from 2000 to 2008, had a shame­ful record of tout­ing “Tai­wan’s for­mal in­de­pen­dence” to for­eign lead­ers dur­ing such vis­its and thus pos­ing a grave threat to cross-Straits re­la­tions.

Whether or not Tsai will re­sort to the same trick dur­ing her over­seas

Some ob­servers have read an ag­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal, even mil­i­tary role into an ex­panded Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion as both In­dia and Pak­istan are likely to be made full mem­bers at the 16th SCO sum­mit in Tashkent on June 23-24. A fe­whave even fan­ta­sized the SCO as a coun­ter­bal­ance to NATO. Noth­ing can be far­ther from the truth.

The SCO’s found­ing mem­bers have made it clear that the twin prin­ci­ples of open­ness and trans­parency will con­tinue to drive both its ethos and ac­tion.

But the SCO’s role can­not be iso­lated from the tu­mul­tuous in­ter­na­tional con­text. The US’ in­va­sions of Iraq and Afghanistan and its in­ter­fer­ence in Syria have desta­bi­lized large re­gions. Its role in the South China Sea has been un­wise. And its egging of NATO into as­sum­ing an anti-Rus­sia po­si­tion can only be de­scribed as reck­less. So by in­cor­po­rat­ing South Asia, the SCO will gather more mass, and thus more trac­tion, in mak­ing its moral voice and friendly ad­vice heard.

Re­gard­ing the risk of In­dia-Pak­istan ri­valry af­fect­ing the SCO, it is true re­la­tions be­tween the two trip will be closely watched, as she is yet to of­fer an un­equiv­o­cal an­swer to how she sees the 1992 Con­sen­sus, the po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tion of cross-Straits ties. The tra­di­tion of “lead­er­ship diplo­macy” dates back to the 1990s, when Lee Teng-hui, then Tai­wan leader, fla­grantly vi­o­lated the 1992 Con­sen­sus by try­ing to con­vince some “diplo­matic al­lies” that the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan were two sep­a­rate states. In re­turn, he was banned from en­ter­ing theUS dur­ing the rest of his ten­ure.

In stark con­trast, Kuom­intang lead­erMa Ying-jeou man­aged to make things right be­cause of his ad­her­ence to the 1992 Con­sen­sus. Dur­ing his eight-year ten­ure, Tai­wan en­joyed the div­i­dends of a se­ries of fruit­ful ex­changes with the main­land. He even at­tended coun­tries have not been smooth, but both have vowed to re­spect the SCO’s prin­ci­ples and cul­ture.

Bei­jing and Is­lam­abad have been drawn even closer thanks to China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor, and Pak­istan is bound to em­u­late both China and the ethos of the SCO in lever­ag­ing its unique geo­graph­i­cal po­si­tion to strengthen its econ­omy and fight ter­ror­ism. Also, the SCO will pro­vide Is­lam­abad with another plat­form to fur­ther de­velop its al­ready im­prov­ing ties with­Moscow.

For In­dia, the SCO will pro­vide equally pal­pa­ble ben­e­fits. In­dia has some bor­der dis­putes with China— mostly a legacy of its colo­nial his­tory— and the SCO will of­fer it a good op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with China, which is more than will­ing to part­ner it in its eco­nomic devel­op­ment. As a full mem­ber of the SCO, In­dia will also pon­der whether to join a fu­tile and self-de­feat­ing coali­tion of sorts be­ing formed by a third coun­try against China or to join hands with China in ame­lio­rat­ing the lives of its huge pop­u­la­tion.

China and Rus­sia are now two of the most im­por­tant poles in the newe­co­nomic and po­lit­i­cal world or­der. A mul­ti­po­lar world will be a safer and more pros­per­ous world than a unipo­lar one, and the strength­ened moral voice of an the fu­neral cer­e­mony of for­mer Sin­ga­pore prime min­is­ter Lee Kuan Yewthanks to the proper ar­range­ments agreed by both sides of the Straits.

Given the facts, Tsai’s first over­seas trip— and prob­a­bly many more to come— will prove to be a fool’s er­rand if she and the pro-in­de­pen­dence DPP re­frain from mak­ing their stance clear on the ex­panded SCO will be mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial for its cur­rent and new mem­bers, and for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Aamir Khan, based in Pak­istan, is a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Bei­jing Dublin In­ter­na­tional Col­lege at Bei­jing Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

There are con­cerns over the neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions of mak­ing In­dia and Pak­istan full mem­bers of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion given their con­tentious bi­lat­eral equa­tions. In­deed, there is some truth in these in­sin­u­a­tions, es­pe­cially be­cause the SCO works by con­sen­sus, with all mem­bers hav­ing veto pow­ers.

But de­spite the 25 years of hic­cups of the not-so-ro­bust South 1992 Con­sen­sus. The prospect of the so-called lead­er­ship diplo­macy is rather dim be­cause the is­land, in the face of an on­go­ing eco­nomic slow­down, can­not af­ford to play the end­less game of “buy­ing sup­port” of some coun­tries.

Since Tsai con­tacted some Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal heavy­weights right af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice, she got the green light to en­ter theUS via two tran­sit stops. Nev­er­the­less, this is un­likely to change the fact that such a civil in­ter­ac­tion is still un­der the frame­work of the Chi­naUS re­la­tion­ship.

TheUS, on its part, should not pro­vide the “soil” for some Tai­wan res­i­dents’ se­ces­sion­ist ac­tiv­i­ties, be­cause it has made solemn prom­ises to up­hold the one-China pol­icy. In fact, theUS’ awk­ward po­si­tion in the Tai­wan ques­tion Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion, In­dia and Pak­istan have co­op­er­ated on var­i­ous is­sues in the as­so­ci­a­tion, from cre­at­ing a South Asian Free Trade Area in 2006 to launch­ing a South Asian uni­ver­sity in 2009. SAARC was also the first (in 1987) to adopt a Re­gional Con­ven­tion for Sup­pres­sion of Ter­ror­ism, which was up­graded through an “Ad­di­tional Pro­to­col” in 2003.

More­over, the ex­ist­ing six mem­bers of the SCO have taken cog­nizance of the two South Asian coun­tries’ track record as ob­servers in the or­ga­ni­za­tion since 2006. Be­sides, the rig­or­ous process of their in­duc­tion, which started in July last year, will con­tinue for at least one more year and fur­ther fa­mil­iar­ize them with the SCO’s ro­bust sub­stance and style.

The bi­lat­eral equa­tions of In­dia and Pak­istan will ben­e­fit from the pos­i­tive en­ergy of the SCO but will the SCO gain any­thing by hav­ing them as full mem­bers? Yes, be­cause In­dia and Pak­istan both are ma­jor vic­tims of ter­ror­ism, which re­mains the most en­dur­ing fo­cus of the SCO ever since its in­cep­tion in 2001.

In fact, Tashkent that is host­ing the SCO sum­mit also houses the SCO’s Re­gional Anti-Ter­ror­ism Struc­ture and the in­duc­tion of has a lot to do with the wrong sig­nals it has sent out, such as sell­ing ad­vanced weapons to the is­land and ar­rang­ing high-level con­tacts. But it would be un­wise for theUS to re­play the old drama, for that will cer­tainly jeop­ar­dize China-US ties.

In ad­di­tion, the way Tsai clar­i­fies her stance, es­pe­cially her ad­min­is­tra­tion’s stance, on crossS­traits re­la­tions and the 1992 Con­sen­sus dur­ing her meet­ing with US of­fi­cials will ex­ert no­table in­flu­ence on the re­gional sit­u­a­tion. So it is im­por­tant that Tsai makes the right move and doesn’t pur­sue the so-called in­de­pen­dence through diplo­matic chan­nels.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the In­sti­tute of Tai­wan Stud­ies, Bei­jing Union Uni­ver­sity. In­di­aandPak­istan (and po­ten­tially Iran) will strengthen the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s re­mit to fight ter­ror­ism. In­dia has been work­ing since 1996 to evolve a “Com­pre­hen­siveCon­ven­tion onIn­ter­na­tion­alTer­ror­ism” and RATS­could pro­vide it with­anideal plat­form to build a shared un­der­stand­ing with Eurasian coun­tries, with­Rus­si­aandChina in the lead.

Pres­i­den­tXi Jin­ping’s three-na­tion tour has gen­er­ated fur­ther ex­cite­mentaboutChina’s BeltandRoad Ini­tia­tive, the SilkRoad­E­co­nomic Beltandthe 21st Cen­tu­ryMar­itime Silk Road, which could­promp­tIn­dia to ex­plore com­pre­hen­sive part­ner­ships with the ini­tia­tive­and­someof it­sown­sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives. More im­por­tant, theSCOwill en­able In­dia to bal­ance its grow­ing close­ness to theUS by strength­en­ing its en­gage­mentswith­Rus­si­aandChina.

ButPak­istan will ben­e­fit­much moreby its stronger in­te­gra­tion into the BeltandRoad­Ini­tia­tive, which will ex­pe­dite the build­ing of theChina-Pak­istanE­co­nomicCor­ri­dor, give it greater recog­ni­tion as be­ing crit­i­cal to Afghanistan’s sta­bi­liza­tion and, mostof all, help it re­turn to the hy­phen­ated re­la­tion­shipand­par­ity with In­dia.

SwaranSingh is pro­fes­sor of diplo­ma­cyand­dis­ar­ma­men­tat Jawa­har­lal Nehru Uni­ver­sity, New Delhi.

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