Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China currently taking place stands politically devalued as the Russian Prime Minister and the Mongolian Prime Minister arrived in China on the same day that is October 22, 2013. Surprisingly the Indian media has not played up this angle of Prime Ministers of three countries being in Beijing at the same time
Perceptionaly and not to be missed by any policy analyst is the fact that when the Russian Prime Minister is in Beijing at the same time and that too when China is enlisting Russian support for a G-2 type of security management of the Asia Pacific, the Indian Prime Minister would hardly be given time and space for substantive political discussions of China-India prickly and contentious problems. At best, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China can be analysed as a proforma visit.
It is not clear as to what political imperatives prompted India to accept a China-visit by the Indian Prime Minister when two other Prime Ministers arrived in China at the same time. Surely, China seems to be playing up a theme that “All Roads Lead to Beijing.”
China’s state organ The Global Times however has played up this in a big way and giving it a geopolitical spin which may not be warranted at all. The Global Times has played up the theme that visit of three Prime Ministers to China at the same time highlights China’s diplomatic strategy of placing emphasis on peripheral diplomacy “against the backdrop of the United States Strategic Pivot to Asia Pacific.
Repetitively, the point was made by The Global Times that China is facing strong pressures from Washington’s pivot to Asia Pacific and so also was Russia. China believes that consolidation of Russia-China relations will contain US Pivot to Asia Pacific.
India is also being perceived by China similarly with views of a Chinese official saying that “India is an independent power and strengthening of China-India relations will reduce the pressure from USA and contain Washington’s pivot”
Elsewhere in the same context it was being propagated by Chinese media that USA and Japanese recent strategic moves were adversely affecting Asia Pacific security and also that both were enticing India for maritime roles in the Pacific Ocean
China being strategically cornered on all its flanks and that it was a window of opportunity for India to drive for hard bargains was reflected in my Paper so entitled and widely reproduced elsewhere.
That China is under intense pressure from the US Strategic Pivot to Asia Pacific is evident from Chinese commentaries. Evident for the first time in the public domain is Chinese assessments that if China could strengthen relations with India, it can deflect US pressures and also contain US pivot to Asia Pacific.
Noticeable also is the fact that Chia is attempting to drive a wedge between Japan and India and between USA and India.
The US Pivot has strengthened the resolve of South East Asian countries to adopt assertive stands on the South China Sea conflict and that is where the strategic pressures on China are getting visible.
Contextually, therefore, even if India was comfortable with the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China coinciding with that of the Russian Prime Minister, India should have soft-pedalled the Boundary Agreement that China desperately wants to be signed.
China has attempted a perceptionaly diplomatic masterstroke to signal to Japan and USA that India may be inclined for strategic accommodation with China as an allurement to settle the boundary disputes. India by not making the right political and strategic noises when China is strategically discomfited by the US Pivot and the Asian strategic polarisation towards the United States has devalued the Prime Minister’s visit to China.
China can never be India’s friend but USA, Japan and the South East Asian nations where India has met with diplomatic successes promise stronger strategic relationships.
(Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group. The writer Dr. Subhash Kapila is a New Delhi-based analyst on Strategic affairs)