Our media appears quite content over China indicating that the Kashmir issue may not be a major topic of discussion during the forthcoming second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told media on September 17, “As for Kashmir will be on the agenda, I’m not sure because this is kind of informal summit and leaders’ meeting I think better we need to give the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss. I think for those things like Kashmir, I don’t think it will be a major topic occupying the talks that is my understanding. But for the leaders, they will be free to talk about whatever they like.”
But why should Kashmir be a major topic when both India and China have made their positions more than plain. China orchestrated the closed door meeting of UNSC on Kashmir, which was despicable since Jammu and Kashmir is internal matter of India. To India revoking Article 370 and reorganizing J&K into Union Territories J&K and of Ladakh, Chinese reaction mouthed through Hua Chunying was, “China is seriously concerned about the current situation in Kashmir… The parties concerned should exercise restraint and act with caution, especially to avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo and exacerbate tensions.” China also expressed its opposition to a separate Union Territory of Ladakh, saying that there are areas of dispute between the two nations which, according to Beijing, affects China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It is “unacceptable and void”, said the Chinese foreign ministry.
After all the noise China has created on Kashmir including sneaking up to the UNSC, Hua Chunying’s mellowed remarks with respect to the upcoming Modi-Xi informal summit apparently are in line with Sun Tzu’s teaching: “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness, thereby, you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
Who is Beijing to be concerned about the situation in Kashmir? Has India expressed concern over the treatment of Uighurs in Xinxiang – physical and psychological torture, disappearances, killings, organs adding to the illegal organ trade, children separated from parents, girls forcibly taken away, married off or used for trade? Has India responded to the public call by And Chan, Hong Kong’s youth leader, for India to support their agitation? India has not even raised the issue of China’s interference and muscling tactics in Vietnam’s waters where ONGC has been leased Block 128 for drilling oil in the South China Sea.
Before India withdrew special status of J&K and reorganized J&K into two union territories, China threw the bait (‘choga’ in Hindi) by way of a hint it wanted to resolve the border with India. After decades of boundary talks, no concrete resolution has emerged other than small possible consensus in the central sector. But to think that China would relent on its illegal claims in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh given its strategic ambitions would be naïve. Yet, some utopians in India went hallucinating that China would agree to the old 1960s proposal by Zhou en-Lai to Nehru that China would accept the McMohan Line if India gave up Aksai Chin. The factual position is that China is not only in illegal occupation of Aksai Chin (38,000 sq km) and Shaksgam (5180 sq km) but has incrementally sliced away huge swathes of India Territory amounting to 645 sq km, of which 400 sq km is in Ladakh alone. China is mining close to the LAC and its hunger for territory has increased with its increasing military prowess.
Behind the hint it wants to resolve the boundary issue and the inevitable smile Xi Jinping will wear at the next informal summit, will be the strategy of ‘hold out baits to entice the enemy, feign disorder, and crush him’. China will prefer to wait another few decades to settle the border with India as long as it enjoys an advantage at the bargaining table that can give it extra territory, however small, China’s territorial hunger being insatiable as are its need for energy reserves. Pakistan has leased Gilgit-Baltistan (72,971 sq km of Indian Territory) to China for 50 years. Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament on August 6: “Kashmir is an integral part of India, and when I speak about J&K, POK and Aksai Chin are included in it”. Then why did we have to butter up China by saying that the reorganization of J&K does not change the LAC? Could we have not remained mum? How long are we going to keep repeating the mistake of supporting the ‘One China’ policy and not keeping the Tibet question open, when China doesn’t support ‘One India’?
It was earlier brought out in these columns that post the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit, MEA had issued a statement saying that PM Modi and President Xi reviewed developments in India-China relations from the strategic and long-term perspective. “They agreed to significantly enhance efforts to build on the convergences through the established mechanisms in order to create the broadest possible platform for the future relationship. They also agreed that both sides have the maturity and wisdom to handle the differences through peaceful discussion within the context of the overall relationship, bearing in mind the importance of respecting each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations”, the statement read. But ironically the Chinese media didn’t even make any reference to “strategic guidance to their respective militaries” other than quoting from Indian media. But recall our media going gaga reporting after Wuhan that India and China are to undertake a joint project in Afghanistan – whatever happened to that? Was this also one of the 36 stratagems of ancient China that says: ‘Decorate the tree with false blossoms’ (Shù shàng kāi huā) – tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy?
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to India for the next round of boundary talks has been postponed – sheepish after the closed door UNSC meet on Kashmir? Worse was China threatening India that if Huawei’s proposal for developing India’s 5G network were not considered Beijing may deny market access to important Indian products? Ahead of the UNGA meet Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN met his Indian counterpart Syed Akbaruddin ahead of the UNGA meet to reportedly discuss multilateral cooperation. The Indian media, with its propensity to read too much into any and every issue, interpreted this as China reaching out to India to smoothen ruffled figures. But the fact remains that China, which has developed the Karakoram Highway and the CPEC through Indian Territory without any reference to India, just cannot be trusted. China will never even support India’s bid for membership of UNSC and NSG either.
It should be quite apparent that India’s China policy remains soft despite all the propaganda and media hype, including through former diplomats and scholars that excel in bending with the wind. We must acknowledge that a bully always mounts on the head of the one that shows fear, not the one who looks him in the eye. When news first emerged that the 2019 Modi-Xi summit would be held in Varanasi, Beijing queried if the airport is big enough to land at the airport there – smell the arrogance of the big fat one? The China-Pakistan anti-India nexus has cemented much more with geopolitical dynamics of the Af-Pak region and India reorganizing J&K. Our China policy must become much more robust, together with acquiring military muscle and speedy development of border infrastructure. Should we not tell China to stop meddling in Dalai Lama’s succession and not to link Dalai Lama with the border issue? Even if China remains adamant, why are we scared to put our point of view across? Additionally, isn’t it time to shun Chinese products and go Indian?
Let us not be foolish in thinking that trade, diplomacy and international relations will suffice to secure our national interests. It would be prudent to go back six years and look at China’s Science Strategy of 2013 that read, “We cannot count on luck and must keep a foothold at the foundation of having ample war preparations and powerful military capabilities of our own rather than hold the assessment that the enemy will not come, intervene or strike.” For that matter, Sun Tzu had said, “Don’t depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready”.