In­dia-China strate­gic di­a­logue – Hol­low­ness per­sists


On Fe­bru­ary 22, In­dia and China held their ‘up­graded’ strate­gic di­a­logue at Bei­jing. Just be­fore the di­a­logue, For­eign Sec­re­tary S. Jais­hankar held talks with Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi, who was to co-chair the di­a­logue. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the di­a­logue was be­ing held in the back­drop of: one, China con­sis­tently ve­to­ing the move at the United Na­tions to brand Pak­istan’s rad­i­cal mul­lah and Jaish-e-Mo­hammed chief Ma­sood Azhar as ter­ror­ist de­spite am­ple proof; two, con­sis­tently block­ing any move for In­dia to be given mem­ber­ship to the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group (NSG) un­less same is ac­corded to Pak­istan — that China is also smart­ing un­der In­dia be­ing ad­mit­ted to the Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime (MTCR) while China has been de­nied the same also be­ing a rea­son, and; three, China ex­hort­ing In­dia to join the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) even as it im­pinges heav­ily on In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity both on land and in the Ara­bian Sea be­ing China’s strate­gic high­way to the In­dian Ocean — since CPEC is not eco­nom­i­cally vi­able, lur­ing In­dia (de­spite ad­verse strate­gic ram­i­fi­ca­tions) is a move to make it eco­nom­i­cally vi­able.

But de­spite all this Wang Yi wore his fake smile and show­ered diplo­matic niceties while open­ing the ‘up­graded’ strate­gic di­a­logue re­ferred to high-level talks held by of­fi­cials from both sides on crit­i­cal is­sues ear­lier said, “We have to have fre­quent meet­ings….The of­fi­cial­level meet­ings made very good foun­da­tion for the ‘suc­cess­ful strate­gic di­a­logue.’” He added that the Chi­nese side at­taches im­por­tance to “this re­con­sti­tuted di­a­logue….I am cer­tain by rais­ing the level of this strate­gic di­a­logue the two sides will be able to en­hance their strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tion, re­duce mis­un­der­stand­ing and build more trust and deepen our strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion. This way we can bet­ter tap into the po­ten­tial of our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and live up to our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the re­gional sta­bil­ity”.

Later, Jais­hankar along with China’s Ex­ec­u­tive Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Zhang Ye­sui held the strate­gic di­a­logue. In his open­ing re­marks at the di­a­logue, Jais­hankar touched upon: hap­pen­ing be­tween In­dia and China hav­ing global and re­gional sig­nif­i­cance; bi­lat­eral re­la­tions have ac­quired steady mo­men­tum over many years; grow­ing eco­nomic en­gage­ment; co­op­er­a­tion on many in­ter­na­tional is­sues; and bor­der ar­eas have main­tained peace and tran­quil­lity. Zhang said: “I ex­pect that we dis­cuss the full range of is­sues that are im­por­tant to our coun­tries”. The strate­gic di­a­logue was up­graded dur­ing Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Yi’s visit to New Delhi last year. China has de­puted Zhang, also the head of the in­flu­en­tial Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry to co-chair the talks.

Jais­hankar coun­tered China’s de­mand for “solid ev­i­dence” against Ma­sood Azhar say­ing the “bur­den of proof” was not on In­dia as Azhar’s ac­tions were well doc­u­mented. He said, In­dia had over­whelm­ing sup­port from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for Azhar to be sanc­tioned by the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s (UNSC) 1267 com­mit­tee, and that Bei­jing’s may be a mi­nor­ity voice. “This time around, it’s not In­dia but other coun­tries (that moved the plea for sanc­tions). So, there’s a body of world opin­ion.” Re­fer­ring to a re­cent move by the US, France and the UK, Jais­hankar said these coun­tries “seem very well con­vinced, else they would not have taken the ini­tia­tive to move that pro­posal....The bur­den of proof is not on In­dia.”

An­other rea­son cited by China for stop­ping the UNSC com­mit­tee from cen­sur­ing the Jaish chief is what it de­scribes as a lack of con­sen­sus in the com­mit­tee. To this, Jais­hankar said, “There isn’t a con­sen­sus be­cause China hasn’t joined it.” There is no deny­ing the fact that China is a re­vi­sion­ist power which in its am­bi­tion to ‘Great Power’ sta­tus and su­per­sed­ing US as the global su­per­power gives scant re­gard to its neigh­bours less Pak­istan and North Korea that is her nu­clear talons. Chi­nese schol­ars like Minxin Pei have made state­ments like, “If In­dia thinks that China has a grand scheme of try­ing to con­tain In­dia or pre­vent In­dia from be­com­ing a great power (it’s not true)…It could be in some cir­cles but China is pre­oc­cu­pied with the US, which China sees as a much more se­ri­ous, ex­ter­nal ad­ver­sary.” What Pei fails to elu­ci­date are the “cir­cles” he de­scribes; are these not the Polit­buro and Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion (CMC)? Be­sides “much more se­ri­ous, ex­ter­nal ad­ver­sary” doesn’t rule out In­dia as an ad­ver­sary. The bound­ary talks have gone on end­lessly.

Now China in her devious ways has voiced an in­nocu­ous un­of­fi­cial state­ment through Dai Bing­guo (for­mer ne­go­tia­tor on the Sino-In­dian bound­ary) that if Tawang Plateau is ceded by In­dia, it could pave the way for a bound­ary set­tle­ment. Bing­guo refers to the im­por­tance of Tawang to Ti­betan Bud­dhists but it is much sig­nif­i­cant to Ti­betans and Bud­dhists re­sid­ing in In­dia. Bing­guo fails to out­line what will China cede of the 38,000 sq km Ak­sai Chin and the 5,180 sq km Shaks­gam Val­ley il­le­gally oc­cu­pied by China in­clud­ing Mount Kailash, so sa­cred to In­di­ans be­ing the abode of Lord Shiva? It cer­tainly can’t be in lieu of China’s il­le­gal claims in Eastern Ladakh and the cen­tral sec­tor. But get­ting back to the ‘up­graded’ strate­gic di­a­logue, it was a case of agree­ing to dis­agree. Fi­nally, as the Franken­stein of ter­ror de­vours mother Pak­istan, how it de­vours the CPEC re­mains to be seen.

China in her devious ways has voiced an in­nocu­ous un­of­fi­cial state­ment through Dai Bing­guo that if Tawang Plateau is ceded by In­dia, it could pave the way for a bound­ary set­tle­ment



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