Contrary to popular perception this writer considers President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have ended in disaster. China got everything it sought. India got nothing it needed.
China toyed with the Indian PM as a tiger would with a rabbit. But Beijing’s strategy was so subtle that our so-called experts in the foreign ministry and security establishment do not know how they were taken for a ride. President Xi came after Mr. Modi’s visit to Japan. The leverage earned by India through cooperation with America in the oceans and with Japan in business and security was squandered. During Mr. Modi’s Japan visit the Chinese media and officials were announcing a 100 billion investment by President Xi to dwarf Japan’s 35 billion. With the capitulation displayed by Prime Minister Modi on all substantive issues President Xi offered only 20 billion. There was no need to buy India’s cooperation. It was already bought.
Coinciding with President Xi’s visit was incursion by Chinese troops in Ladakh. President Xi is Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission and his wife is Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. It would be foolish to think the troops encroached without his blessing. This maneuver was adopted to test Indian will. At the extreme level India could have threatened cancellation of visit. Or at least India could have been blunt in the talks about Beijing’s policies threatening India’s national security. India was silent. The joint press conference of the two leaders at the end of talks was laughable.
Newspapers reported that the PM took a tough stand on the border. Really? How?
He demanded that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) be clarified. For umpteen years meetings between both nations have continued to address the border dispute. President Xi remarked that such incidents can always happen and should be settled peacefully. To end the controlled Chinese maneuver on the border the Chinese troops withdrew. Hurrah! We are moving towards peace. How does this change the status quo? The drama on the Ladakh border and indeed the entire issue on the LAC was a lollipop for the Indian public. The real concerns of this nation were ignored.
Did Mr. Modi demand why Beijing continues to claim Arunachal Pradesh despite its written undertaking given in 2005 to not disturb any settled population while discussing the boundary dispute? No he did not. Did Mr. Modi demand why Beijing arms Pakistan with nuclear weapons and missiles aimed against India? No he did not. Did Mr. Modi demand why Beijing arms other SAARC neighbours to encircle India? No he did not. Did Mr. Modi mention that Taiwan, Tibet and Xingjian are all disputed territories between Beijing and the inhabitants of these regions, and that unless Beijing stops meddling in Pakistan and other nations India will change its policy towards these territories? No he did not. Did Mr. Modi ask why Beijing provides sanctuary and arms to anti-India insurgents and separatists? He did not.
President Xi graciously invited India to become full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization dealing with Central Asia, dominated by Russia and China, but with a caveat. China will acquire a larger role in SAARC. With several SAARC nations already pressing for China’s inclusion to counter India will or will not the Indian government comply? Make a guess. Despite the brave talk by Foreign Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj about New Delhi’s One-India policy and Arunachal Pradesh, consider how the Modi government put its tail between its legs on this very issue. Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh was abroad in Nepal. In the delegation level talks and the President’s banquet in honour of President Xi the Home Ministry conspicuously was not represented! Why? It was because the Minister of State Home Affairs who was expected to attend happened to be Mr. Kiren Rijiju who hails from Arunachal Pradesh. He was kept out in order not annoy our honoured guests.
India supported China’s planned China-India-Myanmar road corridor but is mulling over the proposed maritime link that would allow Beijing to embrace the entire region. President Xi solemnly said he would support a larger role for India in the United Nations. He did not by any means endorse permanent membership for India in the UN Security Council. President Xi urged for greater cooperation and promised closer trade and business ties with entire South Asia of which India is of course just a part. And that is where Beijing’s long term trap lies.
Indians by and large would be greatly excited by increased investment and trade with China. Our foreign policy experts need to learn a lesson from how China successfully subverted America.
When business links are established between a dictatorship and a democracy one cardinal aspect should be kept in mind. In a dictatorship the government controls big business. In democracy it is big business that controls government. Political funding for elections ensures that. Therefore while an adverse security balance between a dictatorship and a democracy prevails and business continues to grow between them, what happens? The adverse situation for the democracy becomes frozen into perpetuity because big business as well a consumption prone public would not like to rock the economic boat. The dictatorship obtains a stranglehold over democracy’s big business which has a vested interest in the strategic status quo. In this manner may not Beijing in the long term ensnare India into its embrace as a virtual camp follower to help Beijing achieve its global ambitions?
Mr. Modi and Indians at large need to seriously think.