Chinese president Xi Jinping’s maiden visit to India was supposed to give an unprecedented boost to the troubled relationship between India and China and an economic bonanza for both. But it was not so to be. Ranging from exotic settings of Xi Jingping and his wife Peng Liyuan swaying on a Sankheda swing on the Sabarmati waterfront to the delectable Gujarati cuisine, while Mr. Modi and the government left no stone unturned in extending warmth, hospitality, diplomatic decorum etc, the Chinese response was a bad mix of its culinary formula of sweet and sour. Because the sourness far exceeded the sweetness.
To some of us analysts, not without our share of cynicism, based on China’s track record of border transgressions punctuating tours/ talks, the announced itinerary and thirteen agreements planned to be inked sounded rather too good to be true. It is indeed a pity that we were not proved wrong, because this visit had all the potential for meaningfully giving a much needed fillip to the complex Sino-Indian relationship. But by the time the two leaders were sitting together to enunciate their presentations at Hyderabad House, New Delhi, two major intrusions by Chinese forces and civilians backed by them had already been made at Demchok and Chumar in Eastern Ladakh. While Mr Modi calmly conveyed India’s concerns to Xi Jinping saying that “peace and stability in our relations and along our borders are essential for us to realise the enormous potential in our relations,” the manner, extent and duration of the intrusions which exceeded two weeks leaves no doubt about Chinese intentions.
Timed after his India visit Xi, considered China’s most powerful leader after Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao, wanted the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be combat ready to win a “regional war” and make sure that all decisions from the central leadership are strictly followed.
In April 1974, Deng Xiaoping, in a special address to the UN General Assembly, declared that China is not a superpower, nor will she ever seek to be one. If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere, subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as (pursuing) social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.” The 2010s decade has seen China’s feverish military modernization and euphoria of its perceived economic progress making it only more belligerent and nuisance/threat to not only its land neighbours but also to those in the South China sea region. Its only close friends are Pakistan and North Korea. The economic package of $ 20 billion in 5 years falls far below what India expected and also just over half of Japan’s recent package of $ 33.6 billion. Of course India’s recent strides in ties with Japan and Vietnam as well as President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam just preceding Xi’s to India would certainly be major factors.
Anyhow, India’s response pattern following PLA’s repetitions at Demchok and Chumar and China’s past stapled visas is at least far different from the past. First, the government swiftly withdrew the “political clearance” granted to a high-profile Chinese media delegation to attend a conference in the capital. Second, while Indian forces encircled the Chinese in sufficient strength from dominating positions at Demchok and Chumar, they did not respond to Chinese request for a flag meeting for at least 48 hours till 25 September 2014.
If China claims to be a civilization it must also conduct diplomatic relations in a civilised manner and not in a goonbully mode. Indian diplomacy must work towards convincing China that there is much to be gained by both nations by China not becoming periodically hyper on the borders and that there is a limit to Indian troops patiently/restrainedly resolving border confrontations by verbal requests to pushing with hands. The author Lt Col Anil Bhat VSM (Retd) is the Associate Editor of Salute