Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India is, for many, was an important one. While no major changes or announcements were expected and none were made during the visit, it will undoubtedly lead to deepening the co-operation between the two countries. The previous Xi -Modi meeting was held in Wuhan in April last year; It was also an informal summit, it was so decided by both heads of state to have such informal meetings. May be, Narendra Modi is thinking that such meetings provide some results. The President or China arrived in India as per the decision at Wuhan. Moreover, he flew to Chennai with the realization that India is no more a nation that was five or ten years ago. Beijing also recognizes the fact that they require India’s consent or co-operation for their most ambitious projects in Pakistan.
It was during the days of the Vajpayee government that the major shift in Indo-China relations took place. Till then, India was not even willing to talk to Beijing. But AB Vajpayee was of the view that there may be problems between the two countries but some method has to be found to sort out those issues, slowly but steadily. At the same time, as there are few issues, two nations shouldn’t keep off from finding ways to co-operate in the various sectors in whatever possible manner. Vajpayee also was of the opinion that no country shall be alienated or kept off.
India was saying the same thing to Pakistan too; That is why India took the initiative for good relations between the two countries; the Lahore bus journey and the Agra Summit were part of such moves. We all know that among the major issues with China, the border dispute is the most important. There is a committee for deliberation in this regard. It is headed by National Security Advisors of both the countries. The indications are that these two teams have gone ahead much than what was expected.
But, even when some attempts are made to sort out issues, China is creating unnecessary issues; the one relating to Arunachal Pradesh is an example, Beijing’s opposition to the Indian President’s visit to that part of the country, on the construction of roads and helipads on the border in Arunachal Pradesh are also not to be ignored. The Doklam controversy is another one, which was unnecessarily created by the Chinese army. But in all these cases, the Indian position is so clear. We saw what India did in Doklam and on Arunachal issues. Our stand here is crystal clear, “they have every right to bark, let them do it, but here we will do what seems right”. Now, China has learnt that Narendra Modi’s India is not a country that can be threatened as was in the past. They also must be understanding that it is necessary for them to compromise and co-operate with Delhi.
India, now, is not a country dependent on anyone. Russia, China and the United States all want good relations with India. But India never surrendered its identity or rights to anyone. Only a strong country with strong leadership can think like this. Don’t forget that Narendra Modi had visited the United States just before the Chinese President’s visit. The respect, all-round reception that he got there no longer needs to be repeated here. That is the acceptability of Narendra Modi in the world stage. It’s with that image, Modi was there at Mahabalipuram to take on Xi Jinping.
It is not to be forgotten that China has been quite successful in protecting their interests over India in our early decades, that is the history of the Nehru-Indira era. It was also during those days that China has shown the courage to attack us. Many of them have still doubts as to whether that war against India was part of such a ‘communist plan’. Don’t forget that VK Krishna Menon was the then Defence Minister, who was a protege of the communists and the Soviet Union. China thought that it was the best occasion to attack India. Don’t ignore that India had done practically nothing during the early days of that war, it was a huge blow to India. The land they occupied in that war is still being debated, ie for nearly six decades.
It is also important to note that there was only one Communist party in India at the time. So, there was no Soviet line of China line in that party then. The stand taken by the Communists in India during the Chinese invasion has to be read with all these in mind. It was EMS Namboothirippad who had shamelessly said, “the territory that India says as India’s and China claims as theirs” was the statement of that comrade when the nation was facing a crucial war. Whether VK Krishna Menon was aware of the Chinese move well in advance but kept silent? We don’t know as to whether one can accuse the then defence minister in that manner, such a critical appraisal has never been seen done before.
But when one looks back at the history of communists and Krishna Menon, some kind of circumstantial evidence can be found, that lead to this conclusion or that supports such doubts. The Mitrokhin documents, which have come out already, explains what the KGB did here during Pandit Nehru’s era for the Soviet Union. It is also clear that VK Krishna Menon was a product of KGB.
Now India’s position is that China must make some tangible efforts to solve the existing problems, they should show that they are doing something positive, which would naturally include border disputes. At the same time, we all know China has some problems with their big projects in Pakistan, two of their China’s dream projects, the economic corridor and the port at Gwadar, are really in trouble due to one reason or the other. In fact, the Gwadar port was launched but it’s economically a major failure. The freight is not reaching the port as expected. This port is in Baluchistan, where strong anti-Pak protests are creating problems for the Chinese. Had the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was completed, things would have been better, but that has not reached anywhere. This delay was mainly because of the strong stand taken by India. China made themselves ready for the ambitious projects in Pakistan in 2013 and it was formally announced in April, 2015.
They must have expected that they could handle India effectively. That did not happen. The Prime Minister of India has already made it clear to China that it is improper for them to get involved in the activities in Pakistan occupied Kashmir without its consent, he also warned that it would lead to serious new problems. This is what Indian PM raised at Wuhan, earlier when Xi visited Ahmedabad too, this issue cropped up for discussion.
It should be remembered here that with the repeal of Article 370, India has strengthened its position on the PoK. Rajnath Singh has even said that if Pakistan wants to hold talks, it should be about the PoK. China, according to reports, has spent $1.62 billion on the Gwadar project. The CPEC costs them around $62 billion. This figure will naturally change when it gets delayed. So, for them, it is essential now to set things on the right track.
With these in mind, we have to expect that Xi came here with some realistic goals. They must be knowing that merely abusing Narendra Modi won’t help. That is what the Chinese Foreign Affairs representative said in Beijing a few days ago. It is true that China has been critical of India’s position on Article 370, they said it publicly, then raised it in UN too. But in India Xi didn’t raise the Kashmir issue. It is no doubt a diplomatic victory for Modi. Islamabad realizes this is a major problem for them, don’t forget that China is the only major country in the world that stood with Islamabad after the abrogation of Art 370.
Perhaps Pakistan was aware of such possibility. This must be one of the reasons for the urgent visit of Imran Khan and the Pakistan Army to Beijing just before the Chinese President’s India visit. But seems their visit was not successful.
For Xi, the Pak-China economic corridor is the most important issue now. But even Beijing seems to be convinced that it is impossible for them to move forward, without taking India into confidence. This must be one of the issues that came up during the meeting. Will they be able to convince India for a project that passes through the PoK? It remains to be seen as to what is there in the minds of China. But they have little option, I do think that Narendra Modi has made it clear that China can’t do anything in India’s land without its consent.
In that case, China has to do three things. One, it will have to accept or recognize that the PoK belongs to India. Second, China will have to have a new India-China-Pakistan agreement for the CPEC. Then, naturally, Pakistan also will have to accept the Indian position on the PoK. There are also some indications that Imran was summoned to Beijing last week to discuss this issue.
KVS HARIDAS, a Senior Journalist, Columnist and Political analyst from Kochi , Kerala. Formerly Editor of Janmabhumi daily.
Now handles columns in four Malayalam dailies, weeklies monthlies & online newspapers in Malayalam. As political analyst, he is a popular face in the Malayalam news channel debates.