Namo-xi Jin­ping meet sets the tone for fine-tuned bi­lat­eral ties

Namo-xi Jin­ping meet sets the tone for fine-tuned bi­lat­eral ties

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - Ajay Singh A ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle ap­peared in First­post.com

The over­hang of the doka la con­fronta­tion was such that the meet­ing be­tween prime min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping dur­ing the Brics summit in Xi­a­men on septem­ber 5 was seen purely in that con­text. While an­a­lysts on both sides heaved a sigh of re­lief, the con­sid­ered wis­dom was that doka la would leave deep scars and that in­dia-china re­la­tions would take a while to mend.

But the in­dian del­e­ga­tion that has come back from Xi­a­men is fully up­beat about the out­come. Their un­der­stand­ing of how things went is that Bei­jing is will­ing to see be­yond doka la. The take­away from the meet­ing was that china gave un­am­bigu­ous sig­nals that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two Asian giants will find a new equi­lib­rium af­ter the 19th Na­tional congress of the com­mu­nist Party of china (cpc) to be held in Bei­jing, be­gin­ning oc­to­ber 18.

at the congress, Xi is ex­pected to get a sec­ond term as gen­eral sec­re­tary and firm up his grip on the party as many top polit­buro mem­bers will re­tire mak­ing way for new mem­bers.

The first hint of the com­ing change is the re­moval of two gen­er­als of the Peo­ple’s lib­er­a­tion army (Pla) – Feng Fenghui and Zhang Yang – from the list of at­ten­dees at the party congress. This is seen as the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship firm­ing its grip over the mil­i­tary and un­der­scores Xi’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to carry out po­lit­i­cal re­forms in civil­ian and mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ments as a log­i­cal se­quel to eco­nomic re­forms.

in in­dia’s con­text, this de­vel­op­ment is par­tic­u­larly en­cour­ag­ing. Though the re­moval of the Pla gen­er­als may not be di­rectly linked to the Doka La stand-off, the per­ceived dis­so­nance be­tween china’s po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity and the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship has a di­rect bear­ing on in­dia. This first came to light dur­ing Xi’s first visit to in­dia, when he was hosted by Modi in ahmedabad.

even as the two were meet­ing, the

Pla made a foray into in­dian ter­ri­tory in ladakh. Home min­is­ter ra­j­nath singh is learnt to have per­son­ally called up Modi to in­form him about the bel­liger­ence of the Pla. The sit­u­a­tion be­came par­tic­u­larly awk­ward for Modi as he was play­ing a per­fect host on the banks of the sabar­mati. He, how­ever, broached the is­sue sub­tly with Xi, won­der­ing if it was more than a mere co­in­ci­dence that high-pro­file vis­its were of­ten marred with the PLA’S mus­cle-flex­ing. Upon his

re­turn, Xi ini­ti­ated con­crete ac­tion to the sat­is­fac­tion of the in­dian gov­ern­ment.

The bon­homie be­tween the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly be­tween Modi and Xi, there­fore be­gan with trust. But the his­tor­i­cal bag­gage of dis­trust and subter­ranean hos­til­ity is so enor­mous that each side is wary of the other. There were in­stances when Modi jet­ti­soned con­ven­tional diplo­matic ad­vice to reach out to Xi. and on his part, Xi has al­ways played the role of a leader who is not only un­en­cum­bered by his­tory but is also keen to chart a new re­la­tion­ship be­tween in­dia and china.

While every­body is talk­ing about in­dia vs china, Modi seems to sug­gest a joint des­tiny. “There can be (a) dif­fer­ence of opin­ion about whether in­dia will be a su­per­power or china will be (the one), but there is no doubt that this is the asian cen­tury,” he said at a func­tion in New delhi on septem­ber 11, un­der­lin­ing the need for Asian coun­tries to seize the opportunity.

Highly placed sources say that it would not be apt to de­scribe the meet­ing be­tween Modi and Xi and his Brics tour merely as “very good”. They say it was “ex­cel­lent” for many rea­sons. one, both the lead­ers left the shadow of doka la far be­hind and agreed to a con­struc­tive fu­tur­is­tic re­la­tion­ship. Modi is learnt to have ef­fec­tively dis­abused the no­tion that in­dia had any in­ter­est in “con­tain­ing china”. Far from it, in­dia has shown a keen in­ter­est to learn a lot from china, par­tic­u­larly the man­ner in which Xi ush­ered in po­lit­i­cal re­forms in his coun­try.

in the 19th Na­tional congress of cpc, a large num­ber of se­nior lead­ers (around five) cross­ing the age of 69 would be shown the door. Fang Fenghui, con­sid­ered to be close to Xi’s pre­de­ces­sor Hu Jin Tao and a pow­er­ful gen­eral, has been sud­denly dropped from the congress osten­si­bly on charges of cor­rup­tion. of course, Xi’s de­ter­mined drive against cor­rup­tion in china’s power su­per­struc­ture has seen many purges of top lead­ers like Bo Xi­lai and his wife gu Kailai, fol­low­ing their im­pli­ca­tion in the mur­der of a Bri­tish busi­ness­man and a se­ries of cor­rup­tion cases. in to­day’s china, Xi has par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on the elim­i­na­tion of cor­rup­tion and a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion of pol­lu­tion that plagues china’s ur­ban cen­tres due to reck­less pur­suit of growth and in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. on the do­mes­tic front, Xi has been grap­pling with a lot of vari­ables to set the coun­try on a right course.

in­ci­den­tally, in­dia’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, which has also been grap­pling with an al­most sim­i­lar set of prob­lems is also cog­nisant of and sym­pa­thetic to­wards china’s com­pul­sions. un­like china, in­dia has a multi-party democ­racy, though the BJP has got into the po­si­tion of the dom­i­nant prin­ci­pal pole. The tra­jec­tory of the BJP’S or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture which ex­panded phe­nom­e­nally in the re­cent past has fea­tures which are quite sim­i­lar to those of cpc. For­mer us trea­sury sec­re­tary Henry M Paul­son, in his au­thor­i­ta­tive book, Deal­ing with China, quotes Jin­ping as telling him about the one-party sys­tem: “Be­cause we have one-party rule, we need to be a good party. So, we have three tasks: self-im­prove­ment, self-pu­rifi­ca­tion and self-reg­u­la­tion.”

Af­ter Modi’s re­cent visit, In­dia is keep­ing her fin­gers crossed for a pos­i­tive out­come af­ter the con­clu­sion of the 19th Na­tional congress of the cpc. given the bur­den of his­tory, both the sides are hid­ing their op­ti­mism, and are guided, per­haps, by deng Xiaop­ing’s mem­o­rable quote about “cross­ing the river while feel­ing the stones”.

Highly placed sources say that it would not be apt to de­scribe the meet­ing be­tween Modi and Xi and his BRICS tour merely as “very good”. They say it was “ex­cel­lent” for many rea­sons.

PM Naren­dra

Modi meet­ing Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on the side­lines of the 9th BRICS Summit in China on Septem­ber 5

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