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C3S Dialogue: Xi-Modi October Summit in India

Image Courtesy: The Quint

Article No. 33/2019

The following is a text of a virtual dialogue conducted by C3S members from September 13-17 2019. The theme was based on “The sudden reorganization in Jammu & Kashmir by the Modi government and the process of Sino-Indian rapprochement after last year’s Wuhan informal summit”.

Mr. K. Subramanian:

Former Joint Secretary (Retd.)

Ministry of Finance, Government of India; Member C3S

Unfortunately, Kashmir has been at the center of India-Pakistan hostility with a long history and also, much to the angst, UN and other power involvement directly or indirectly. The implications of abrogating Article 370 will influence Chinese reaction vis-à-vis Ladakh. Some of the statements made by senior members of the government are uninitiated into diplomatic niceties or ignored by their nationalist zeal creating more problems for India. No wonder, Mr. Jaishankar, a diplomat with an impeccable record, finds himself in an uneasy situation. Sadly, the foreign minister may be treated a lightweight in the BJP dominated government. It is likely that the proposed Modi-Xi meeting in Mamallapuram may become a casualty.

Mr. M. R. Sivaraman:

IAS (Retd.)

 Former Revenue Secretary GOI, ED IMF and Adviser UN SC CTC; Member C3S.

As per the Indian Constitution, Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Similarly, Hong Kong is an integral part of China. It will be better if both sides accept this position and follow a policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of each other.

Mr. Subramanyam Sridharan:

Computer Scientist; Member C3S

By and Large, the trajectory of South Asia Monitor has been negative towards India and therefore, a discussion on merits and demerits of the report is not needed.

Mr. T.S. Krishnamurthy:

Member C3S

The Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on Aksai chin was certainly undiplomatic and out of line. Prime Minister Modi should not entertain such ill-advised pronouncements and convince Chinese President Xi Jinping that India does not make any new claims on the border and abide staunchly by the earlier agreements between India and China on border issues. Beijing’s antagonism if not outright enmity towards India as underlined by consistent anti-India stand on UNSC seat, NSG membership, unflinching support to Pakistan and their policy of encircling India should not go unnoticed as well. New Delhi needs to accept the Pakistan-China relationship and needs to work on finding a way to manage it. With regard to Article 370, the continuing arrangement has helped the separatists and jihadists in their policies against India. It is high time to find an alternative to the present situation. Considering the uncertainty in Afghanistan, dealing with Article 370 in the current situation will benefit India. Unless the situation shifts very drastically with large scale violence and shooting, most of the countries (other than Pakistan and China) will be indifferent to Islamabad’s claims. There is a need to position the right political leadership and civil servants in order to deal with the situation in the valley.

Another issue at hand is the economy. India’s economic performance in the past few decades, next only to China, has allowed it to play an important role in the international arena. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to give prime importance to the downfall in the economy and address it as soon as possible.

Cmde. R.S. Vasan IN (Retd.)

Director C3S

With the atrocities being committed in Hong Kong, TAR and Xinjiang, China has no locus standi on Kashmir. Every move of China has been to support Pakistan’s claims and challenge India. It is time for India to vociferously bring the attention of the world to the Human Rights violation in China and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. India-China Relations should be reciprocal and not on Beijing’s conditions.

No power big or small can ignore the market of 1.3 billion people or the talent and enterprise of young India. India faced the post-Pokhran situation with valour and needs to maintain self-belief while tackling such situations.

Mr. T.V. Krishnamurthy

Member C3S

Jishankar being a great diplomat with his knowledge and experience and cerebral power ,will know how to deal with matters that are sensitive in nature. No more a foreign secretary, Mr. Jaishankar is aware of the strong equation between Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah. There is less possibility of Mr. Jaishankar trying to persuade the Prime Minister against Amit Shah’s utterances averse to India’s geopolitical interests. The critical perception of South Asia Monitor is making it dwell on details based on a false premise. And India is capable of managing its relationship with the South Asian neighbours, particularly Bangladesh.

Mr. Subramanyam Sridharan

While breaking down key points from the article in the South Asian Monitor, there are facts which need to be analysed with utmost sincerity.

“The sharp Chinese reaction to the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir and its coming in strong support for its all-weather friend Pakistan . . . “

The consistent and long-standing Chinese support for Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism against India. It doesn’t matter if the Chinese reaction was sharp or blunt. By the very usage of the term, ‘all-weather friend’, it is obvious that China’s friendship is based on ‘realpolitik’. India’s actions will be determined by its own geopolitical and geostrategic interests. From a reading of the rest of the article, Subir Bhaumik is scare-mongering with adjectives like ‘sharp’ & ‘strong’. Let them be ‘sharp’ and ‘strong’. India has been at the receiving end for too long from China also.

“But much of his effort went in vain when Home Minister Amit Shah, Modi’s top lieutenant who fancies himself as a modern-day Sardar Patel (India’s legendary Iron Man who united the princely states), shot his mouth off rather loudly in parliament.”

Much of FM Jaishankar’s efforts might have gone in vain as per Subir Bhaumik. There are no facts to back this argument. This is not uncommon or rare in foreign affairs, rather, par for the course. But, the author goes on to thrust his opinions about Amit Shah as though they are universal truths. Has Amit Shah ever compared himself with Sardar Patel? And, what is this business of ‘he shot his mouth off’? There is a unanimous resolution in the Parliament, passed during PVNR’s time, which states that we have to regain these lands. Indian Constitution clearly denotes the geographical boundaries of the country. The Johnson-Ardagh Boundary Line is what India has consistently referred to as its boundary on the Western front and that includes Aksai Chin. Did Amit Shah state anything contrary to the 65-year-old Indian position? In China, they repeatedly claim the Tawang area as South Tibet. Do Indians say they are shooting their mouth off? Chinese law imposes death on anyone who forfeits Chinese land. If Wang Yi, Dai Bingguo and Hua Chunying can speak about Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh, then so can Amit Shah who is India’s Home Minister and J&K is his remit, isn’t it?

“Shah promised not to rest until all Indian territories of the erstwhile princely state of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and the Aksai Chin region in Chinese control, are not regained and added to India.”

Did Amit Shah actually say all those words?

Home Minister Shah simply said, “When I say Jammu and Kashmir, it includes PoK. Both Indian and J&K constitutions also say that the state is an integral part of India and this gives us the right to form laws for the state, which includes PoK and Aksai Chin”

So, these extra attributions to Amit Shah emanate from Subir Bhaumik’s fertile imagination.

“The Chinese, not used to double rhetoric so characteristic of South Asian populist politicians . . .”

Not sure about the ‘double rhetoric’ involved here. It is not too late for the Chinese to learn the Indian ropes even now because they will have to have more interactions on an equal footing with so-called South Asia in future. The nagging curiosity is why didn’t they learn it from their Pakistani taller-than-the-tallest-mountain friends so far? After all, the Pakistanis are exactly of the same stock as Indians, aren’t they? And the Chinese have had very close interactions with them since 1963. By the way, the Chinese have different characteristics of their own, like speaking in convoluted, oblique and layered ways which make it very difficult for Indians to understand their intentions. Or, the sleight of hand that Chou-en-Lai played upon Nehru on the maps with his wordplay, for example.

“That was a rude shock to the Indian establishment because it was expecting to make some ‘definite progress’ on the border issue ahead of the Xi-Modi summit.”

All news reports so far have suggested that it was India which asked Wang Yi to reschedule the visit. Only Subir Bhaumik has a contrary piece of information!

“Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) insiders told South Asian Monitor that the border was marked as top priority by the Modi government which was keen on a breakthrough over this festering problem.”

Of course, from Nehru’s days, the border issue had been a top priority. Since the agreement in c. 2005 of the principles on which to resolve the border dispute, it is only India which has given China some maps of its claims. China is keeping quiet unwilling to reveal its intentions. So, what progress is being talked about here? Every Indian government sincerely wants a ‘breakthrough’, but, why should it be at the cost of anything for Indians?

“Modi’s J&K reorganisation and Shah’s verbal heroics have upset the Chinese and Jaishanker’s retrieval effort was in vain.”

If the Home Minister of the country does not stake India’s geographical claims, who else will do it?

Besides, why should Subir Bhaumik or anybody else for that matter, try to sweep everything under the carpet lest it might anger China? Do the Chinese show similar sensitivity towards Indians?

“MEA insiders say this has not gone down well with their boss (the Foreign Minister) who, as a former professional diplomat, is not in the least appreciative of the rhetoric of his Saffron colleagues. The Delhi grapevine has it that the suave diplomat-turned-minister has complained to Modi and warned him of adverse consequences if the Sino-Indian rapprochement is stymied by needless rhetoric.”

Why should one believe Subir Bhaumik? Such decisions as scrapping Article 370 would not have been taken without gaming the whole issue. Clearly, the author, is trying sow seeds of dissension. Going by his past record, this is not an unreasonable conclusion.

“Jaishanker had to rush to Dhaka to assuage the Hasina government that the NRC is an ‘internal affair’ . . .”

In every country, such statements are made when situations so demand. It was only ‘illegal migrants’ who were compared, rightly, to ‘termites’. Subir Bhaumik writes as though he was physically present with Jaishankar assuaging the ‘ruffled feathers’ of Sheikh Hasina. Is there even any doubt about illegal Bangladeshis residing in India? Why should Hasina be miffed?

Going by the earlier point, Subir Bhaumik is clearly bent upon driving a wedge in the Indian Cabinet.

“On the border, we have to first clarify the consequences of the J&LK reorganization to Beijing’s satisfaction before we expect any breakthrough,” said a senior former Indian diplomat.

Why should India get China’s concurrence on an internal matter? Why wasn’t there any breakthrough in the last 14 years? Did anyone shoot off his/her mouth during this long period also?

“He did not expect the summit, even if it were to be held in October on schedule, to produce anything dramatic.”

No summit with China (Modi and Xi have already had a dozen summits) has produced anything dramatic so far.

Cmde.R.S. Vasan

Bhaumik seems to have let his imagination run wild by assuming a lot and even giving his unsolicited verdict on unfounded facts. India is unduly perturbed about China. With a trade deficit touching 100 billion who will face the heat if relations worsen?. With the ongoing trade war China needs India and other economies to offset the ill effects of the trade war.

India needs to identify alternate sources knowing fully well that many of the high end technology products have the origins in the west and was imported, bought, copied by China. The need to diversify the sourcing becomes even more critical as India cannot continue to increase the dependence on China and weaken its position.

Col. R. Hariharan

VSM (Retd.), Retired Officer of Intelligence Corps, Government of India; Member C3S

While one agrees that India should avoid irritants that could jeopardize the Summit, it’s equally necessary for China to understand not only the sensitivities but also how democracy works in India. Leaders make statements not for a foreign audience but for their local constituency and at times they may shoot off their mouth. Of course, that should be curbed but there is no need for Chinese advice on it. China is notorious for similar hot & cold therapy. That’s what makes India- China ex a difficult one.

India should not be surprised at China using Article 370 issue to further its strategic aims in Pakistan. Even if it had kowtowed to China’s sensitivity on the border, China would have probably behaved as its doing now because of strategic developments in Afghanistan- Pakistan region. With imminent downscaling of US forces in Afghanistan, China has a wonderful chance to directly protect its huge investments in Afghanistan and Pakistan and if required stationing of troops in Pakistan. Probably this is on the anvil if Indian Leadership goes by the recent intensified PLA-PA military interactions including exercises.

Yes, India needs Chinese investments but that alone should not decide the policy decision on 5G. Even Vietnam has rejected Chinese provider and gone for Ericsson. India should take a call on what would serve the national interest.

India is a big country and should not be browbeaten by other doings. Let the actions be deliberate, proactive to serve our goals and interests.

Cmde. R.S. Vasan:

By and Large, one agrees with Col Hariharan. There is no need what so ever to bend backward to accommodate China. Any dialogue including informal ones needs to be conducted with respect for each other’s sensibilities and sovereignty. In this case, Article 370 is totally an internal matter and China has no business to talk about what Indian elected government and the two houses did to undo a historical blunder. China tried its level best to make an issue out of it in the UNSC and was the sole supporter of Pakistan. China has its own compulsions to continue to support Pakistan but it cannot be at the cost of India. One needs to remember that China PoKEC has an investment of $ 62 billion USD.

Also, the Foreign minister meeting early this month apparently was postponed because of India’s displeasure with the stand taken by China in the UNSC. Such messages are necessary to protect the long term interests. China is rattled that India took such a strong action after decades of dilly-dallying on the abrogation. Even the Congress-led government made a demand in the parliament in 1964 for immediate abrogation of the article.

So there is no need to be unduly worried if the summit does not happen. There have been reports of some 28  incursions by the PLA along the border in the last few months. This does not augur well for bilateral relations or so-called CBMs. China is also a little worried that India is now investing in the Far East for its energy security.

(Compiled by Prashant Rastogi, Research Officer C3S)

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