Chinese cuisine is renowned worldwide. One of the most popular recipes is Chinese sweet and sour. After tasting it most people become its slaves. Perhaps that is why the Beijing leaders have started to dish out sweet and sour to our Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). We have been long familiar with Chinese sour served by Beijing. Encroachments across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), stationing troops in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), granting stapled visas to Indian citizens from Kashmir, making bellicose noises on Arunachal Pradesh despite an earlier commitment not to question settled populations, building roads and massive infrastructure across the border, giving arms and sanctuary to Indian insurgents, making threats on the Indian Ocean, bullying India for its mining operations in the South China Sea, abusing the Dalai Lama, warning India on Tibet, impudently objecting to the internal troop deployments of the Indian army, arming Pakistan with missiles and nuclear weapons that can only be used against India, protecting Pakistan based terrorists like Hafiz Saeed from UN sanctions – the list of Beijing’s sour-bordering-on-bitter measures is very long. These have set our teeth on edge.
Now a dramatic change seems to be on its way. Beijing seems worried by the closer ties developing between America, Australia, India and Japan. It is worried by India cooperating with China’s littoral nations to question its status in the South China Sea. It frowns upon the closer ties being forged between India and Vietnam. It is alarmed by the growing US presence in the Pacific region. It is disturbed by closer ties developing between Washington and New Delhi. That is why Beijing has started to mix sweet with sour. And the MEA and the Sangh Parivar seem to love it!
Otherwise how might one justify the Indian Defence Ministry while expressing concern over the aggressive posturing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the one hand, is inviting senior PLA officers of Colonel and above rank to attend the Higher Defence Orientation Course (HDOC) that will be conducted by the Army War College in Mhow? One can confidently state that the visiting Chinese officers will learn much more about the Indian army and defence preparedness than what Indian instructors might teach them.
Even more so than the Defence Ministry headed by Mr. AK Anthony it is the Sangh Parivar that seems to have become the crucial Indian political coordinate of Beijing. To add sweet syrup for softening sour taste one needs a large spoon. In Hindi it is called chamcha. Well, Beijing has found its large chamcha in the person of Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.
Earlier attention had been drawn in these columns to Mr. Modi’s surprising statement during his visit to Beijing implying that Pakistan was directing Beijing’s India policy and not the other way around. It now seems there was calculated method in that madness. Beijing’s buildup of Mr. Modi is not limited to forging closer economic ties with Gujarat that are growing rapidly. Such economic ties are planned to develop much deeper Sino-Indian cultural bonding as is evident from the facilities for teaching Mandarin that have sprung up in Modi-land. But the latest dollop of sweet syrup delivered through remote control to Mr. Modi by Beijing is truly mind boggling.
Last Friday, December 9th, a visiting seventeen member Pakistani trade delegation representing the Karachi Chamber of Commerce invited Mr. Modi to visit Pakistan and educate Pakistani businessmen about the Gujarat model of development. This invitation could not have been extended without clearance by the Pakistan army. How on earth could the Pakistan army and ISI welcome Mr. Modi in Pakistan when even Indian Muslims and Indian liberals are chary of associating with him? The simple answer is that this can happen only through Beijing’s remote control.
From all the strategic and material help given by Beijing to the Pakistan army it has gained enormous leverage in Rawalapindi. This miraculous invitation to Modi to address businessmen in Karachi is demonstration of that leverage. Many Indians would welcome this development. They would ask what is wrong with China helping the Indian right wing and hardcore Pakistani elements to get together. On the face of it there is nothing wrong. It is just that we will become grateful and beholden to Beijing without resolving satisfactorily all the contentious issues that divide India and China. There is an even more compelling reason to be cautious about this development.
As explained above China’s growing isolation today and India s closer relationship with the West have persuaded Beijing to mix sweet with sour. Beijing therefore is astutely utilizing this necessary policy change to maximize its gains in South Asia.
For years earlier Beijing had frequently attempted to play the role of Big Brother brokering peace between mutually hostile India and Pakistan. I had repeatedly pointed out that for a stable regional peace that safeguards Indian national interest it was imperative that India must normalize with Pakistan first and settle with China subsequently on equal terms. On September 27, 1999, then on December 25, 2000, and then again on June 4, 2001 the identical warning was repeated in published articles.
I now repeat that same warning:
“China will now try settling with India on its own terms before Delhi can befriend Pakistan. That would make it the Big Brother friendly to two mutually hostile neighbours.”
There would be no dearth of Indians who would welcome peace even if that makes China the Big Brother of South Asia. If a nation of over a billion people, rich in natural resources, wants a Big Brother, who am I to complain? Instead one would rather enjoy some laughs provided by our political class in the surrounding gloom.
Just think what Big Brother in Beijing is achieving in the politics of our subcontinent. The RSS and ISI hate each other. Both love Big Brother in Beijing. So will not Big Brother persuade them to love each other too?
Comrades Karat and Yechury love their Big Brother in Beijing. In the anti-labour, high-intensity capitalist system created by Beijing they discovered socialism with Chinese characteristics. Now they can go a step further. Thanks to Big Brother they might soon discover secularism with Gujarati characteristics.
What can be more hilarious for Indians than to see Prakash Karat and Narendra Modi embrace each other? So why should it surprise if the so-called Left and the so-called Right both support Team Anna’s movement? The Gandhian too endorsed the Gujarat CM, didn’t he? Therefore nobody should complain. Nations seek what they want. They get what they deserve. If India deserves a Big Brother, so be it.