China plays its cards astutely

December 26, 2010

One did not have to be an expert on China to anticipate that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to India would be a flop and the one to Pakistan a success. There was no surprise either in New Delhi or in Islamabad.

The joint statements issued in the two countries say it all. India refused to accept the ‘one China' policy, which meant that it did not recognize Beijing's sovereignty over Tibet and Taiwan. Jiabao refused to mention in the joint statement that Kashmir was an integral part of India keeping in mind Pakistani sensitivities.
In sharp contrast, Pakistan not only enunciated ‘one China' policy, but also condemned “any attempt to undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Obviously, the sling was directed at India and to re-emphasize that China had in Pakistan a “trusted and reliable” friend.
Jiabao was, however, careful not to say anything on Kashmir in New Delhi as well as in Islamabad. At the banquet in honor of the Chinese premier, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that resolving the Kashmir issue would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in South Asia.
It was bait for Jiabao, but he preferred to stay silent. Even otherwise, Beijing has maintained that it wants India and Pakistan to resolve the question of Kashmir among themselves.
Before the Chinese Prime Minister's visit, the word from Beijing was that the matter of issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir was administrative, not political. New Delhi waited for Jiabao to mention the issue of stapled visas.
After Jiabao's return to Beijing, the Indian embassy has said that the matter has been entrusted to officials to sort out.
The point on which the two sides differed strongly was terrorism. India was keen on China mentioning the 26/11 attack on Mumbai in their joint statement. When Jiabao refused to do that, India merely wanted a reference to the word ‘terrorism', yet the Chinese Prime Minister did not agree. This was probably because he was to visit Pakistan a day later.
Jiabao, however, did mention terrorism during his stay in Islamabad while praising Pakistan for its efforts towards fighting it, countering criticism from many quarters that it is not doing enough. The reference was obviously to India and the U.S.
Neutral position
However, India should have known better when Beijing made it clear on the eve of Jiabao's departure that the Chinese government would play no role in pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups operating on its soil. Beijing reiterated its position that cross-border terrorism and Kashmir were issues for India and Pakistan to resolve.
India's real worry is over the nibbling at ‘its territory' by China. The media has extensively followed a story which appeared in one of the leading English dailies in Delhi.
The story said that China had shown the length of the border with India around 2,000 kilometers as against 3,500 kilometers it would mention earlier.
In an interview with the Indian ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, the Global Times, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, asked him about the reported tensions on the border.
In response Jaishankar said: “The reality contradicts any alarmist depiction of the situation on the border, whether in India or in China. We have a long common border of 3,488 kilometers.” While publishing the interview, the editors added in parenthesis. “There is no settled length of the common border. The Chinese government often refers to the border length as being about 2,000 kilometers.”
Probably, China has deducted the border along Kashmir and Tibet from the length it had mentioned earlier. This has come when India is already smarting under the Chinese ‘occupation' of nearly 5,000 square miles of Shakigam Valley in the Kashmir ceded by General Mohammad Ayub to Beijing.
To take a dig at India, the general did so in March 1963, less than six months after the Indo-China war in the third week of October 1962. New Delhi fears Beijing may push itself as a party in the Kashmir problem which is so far confined to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris.
It is apparent that relations between India and Pakistan have soured further. One is leaning towards America and the other towards China. In fact, both New Delhi and Islamabad may be sucked into the ensuing Cold War between the two big powers.
America has its own designs to serve in the region as the WikiLeaks disclosures show and China has its own interests. When will India and Pakistan realize — and they will do so one day — that South Asia is neither for America nor China to boss over. It is for the South Asians to develop into a common market as Europe has done, with soft borders and free trade. Only then can the region achieve its potential.
Being in a fairly better position than its immediate neighbors, India should ensure a level playing field is made level. India's technology should be available to the countries in the region.
Beijing can, however, play a role in persuading New Delhi and Islamabad to have sustainable dialogue for the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.
China has done well to enter into deals worth $16 billion in India and $12 billion in Pakistan. Strangely the trade between the two countries is only a fraction of their deals with China.
Even if these deals are to fructify in real sense of the term, New Delhi and Islamabad have to develop confidence in each other. This may not be possible if both continue to arm themselves because the presence of weapons indicates the absence of peace.
Kuldip Nayar is a former Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and a former Rajya Sabha member.
(Source: Gulf News)
Photo: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) waves to media as he walks with Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani (L) for a meeting at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad on December 17, 2010. (Getty Images)