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Comments on CCCS Articles on China and Musharraf and Chinese Views on eve of PM's Visit

Comments on following C3S Articles:

I read your two articles on China and Musharraf and Chinese views on eve of PM’ visit with great interest and my comments are as below:

1. There are both pro forma statements, which can be anticipated even though they are made by scholars as well as some insights into Chinese concerns, post Musharraf, the inevitable chaos and anarchy following Benazir’s assassination. The mixture of Islamic fundamentalists, Jihadi elements combined with suicide bombers, deep civil society unrest, the adversarial relations unleashed amongst the more mass-based political parties and their leadership by Musharraf and the deep unrest in areas of Pakistan and those bordering Afghanistan, including tribal and other areas, which the Army has not been able to quell even with great loss of civil and armed security forces’ lives, characterize the present situation in Pakistan. Such an unprecedented situation in China’s neighbourhood, where they have invested heavily in political, intellectual, material and other terms is something which could have been predicted, and which the Chinese may have realized internally but have not talked about openly. For all outward appearance, they carried on with their usual business-as-normal attitude hiding behind the “non-interference in domestic affairs mantra” supporting the only ” stable” institution, namely the Army and its leadership, while getting Pak cooperation on Uighur separatists, religious extremists and terrorists.

I have in my own personal as well as official interactions with the Chinese been saying to them from 2001 but more frequently over the last two years that the domestic situation in Pakistan could implode any time and this called for a more people oriented policy than the adoption of a purely regime strengthening one. I have extended such presentations to include Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. General replies by the Chinese were that they shared these concerns, that they had confidence in Musharraf, who was also good for India, and that Pakistan cannot be allowed to depend solely on the USA. All statements true to a great extent but were not indications of helpful policy frameworks.

2. Coming to India, even after 9/11, we kept talking of international terrorism, based in the Pakistan-Afghanistan regions and the dangers of proliferation in an India-Pakistan context. Such talk only put these Pak-destroying issues, with severe consequences for ourselves in a very narrow framework. We now need to shout from the rooftops that these are international problems requiring an international or limited multilateral approach and this is where we, China, USA and possibly some others need to adopt policies different from those adopted earlier. Even if the policies are separate, their combined effect should contribute to people strengthening rather than regime centred ones. This may sound vague but one can see no other route to stability and relative peace in this crucial neighbourhood.

3. This brings one to PM’s forthcoming visit: One hopes he outlines our vision for peace and cooperation through dialogue with Pakistan, if and when conditions permit, and our involvement in Afghanistan, which is reconstruction, capacity building and connectivity oriented. Both these policies need to be openly and strongly supported by China, as these are in China’s interests. Today’s Pakistan must not harbour the same illusion that India can be excluded from Afghanistan in the false hope of securing strategic depth etc. Given the strong anti-US sentiments, which feed into more fundamentalism and violence and the inability or unwillingness of the Army to control the spread of terror, an approach, where in a reversal of the past, we are able to speak in a common voice as between India and China, could begin to have an impact. The impact cannot be exaggerated of course, because the internal dynamics of Pakistan are mind-boggling.

4. Since India-China relations have become “normal” with a sound-for-most-part relationship, minus the well-known problems, it is going to be a difficult job to have dramatic outcomes to the visit. There will be functional agreements and facilitation ones which will push the envelope in mutually beneficial programmes. But these are only semi visible and get lost in the realms of experts, Governmental and non-Governmental. I am one of those who for long have held that while the boundary question is an important issue, it is not an urgent issue. As long as peace and tranquillity are maintained in an atmosphere free of tension, we should have the confidence that our Army is quite capable of safeguarding our strategic interests. But how can we show the public that India and China are making new investments in the relationship over and above the several pluses and known minuses? This is where the South Asian Scenario, to which I make references above, matter.

(Mr.C.V.Ranganathan is Former Ambassador to China and France and Former Convenor, National Security Advisory Board. Ambassador C.V.Ranganathan also heads the India-China Eminent Persons Group.)

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