For considerable time a question related to Beijing’s policy towards India posed by this scribe remained unanswered. The question was: Is Beijing double-faced or two-headed? It was occasioned by the mixed signals that repeatedly emanated from Beijing. Did these mixed signals reflect a diabolical approach to confuse, or did they reflect serious division within Beijing’s ruling establishment? Well, the question gained relevance once again this week from two simultaneous moves by Beijing.
Last Thursday Beijing refused to grant a visa to Lt-General BS Jaiswal who was slated for a high level exchange visit to Beijing. Because General Jaiswal holds command in the Jammu and Kashmir area Beijing refused to grant him a visa. Beijing described the J&K area disputed territory and therefore declined the visa. New Delhi protested and cancelled several future exchange visits by both Indian and Chinese defence personnel.
However, on the same day this happened China sought information on India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGA) to draw lessons for its own poverty alleviation schemes. A Chinese delegation led by the head of China’s poverty alleviation schemes, Fan Xiaojian, called on Union Rural Development Minister C P Joshi at his office. The Chinese delegation praised India for weathering the economic meltdown successfully. Mr Fan Xiaojian said both China and India faced similar challenges for tackling poverty, and China was willing to learn from India’s experience. It was all very flattering. No doubt UPA hearts are bursting with pride.
So which mouthful should India swallow
- Sweet Chinese or Sour Chinese?
Media reactions on TV were predictably pathetic. Responding to the denial of visa one retired General cautioned that India should not over react but keep the political dialogue on. Political dialogue? Surely he meant the economic dialogue which has put a halter on the government’s mouth. Another retired General protested that India should not be treated like a banana republic. Oh, really? Then the government better do something about it, shouldn’t it General? A reputed defence analyst was the most surprising. He said Beijing was playing into Islamabad’s hands! One always thought that Islamabad was the Beijing puppet on a string.
Ignore these standard reactions. At the end of the day New Delhi’s protests will not lead to any meaningful action despite conditions in Tibet and despite Beijing’s brazen betrayal of its written assurance that it would not in the border dispute disturb settled populations. Is that why Beijing attempts to unsettle the population in Arunachal Pradesh? The question that seems to confuse New Delhi remains. Is Beijing double-faced or two-headed?
The answer to that is simple. It doesn’t matter one way or the other. Even if Premier Wen Jiabao’s intentions and overtures towards India are sincere they remain irrelevant as long as sections in Beijing continue to play the spoiler. New Delhi must insist on results. The same holds good for both Beijing and Islamabad. Our government takes a firmer stand against Islamabad than it does against Beijing. Most likely it is because money talks. Beijing has a lot. Islamabad has little.
India should learn to exploit its own strength and not drift along its self-defeating trade policy with China. New Delhi should seriously consider the hard line option advocated earlier through these columns. Unless attitudes change New Delhi should minimize diplomatic contact with Islamabad and cut trade ties with Beijing. It will hurt them more than it will hurt us. Blowing hot and cold is no answer to sweet and sour.