Thursday, December 16, 2010


As China walks away with business deals of about $ 16 billion dollars from New Delhi what is in this for India? What is in it for our economy, diplomacy and strategy?

Bharat Karnad, Professor in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research said on Headlines Today that a fool and his money are soon parted. He fears that this happening to India with billions of dollars worth of deals being signed with China, France and the US with corresponding strategic gains not being harnessed.

But for the moment let us talk about China. It is nobody’s case that India should not engage with China. But is this the best format of that engagement. What is India taking away from this summit table?

India’s core issues - terrorism from Pakistan, nuclear support to Pakistan, Chinese strategic involvement in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the boundary issues all remain. The added pin prick – stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir still remains on the table. However in an exclusive interview to Headlines Today Foreign Editor Saurabh Shukla, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said that China has given assurance that they will solve the stapled visa issue. But see how China makes India go down on her knees.

India has been unable to resolve the existing outstanding differences with China and have shot themselves in the foot by making stapled visas such a major issue. Have we forgotten the art of statecraft so completely? Why must we go running to Beijing – from foreign secretary to National Security Advisor to the Foreign minister - with a begging bowl pleading with them to resolve the stapled visa issue?

Our Ambassador in Beijing should have been in a position to tell us the ground realities. He is a seasoned diplomat and from the next day itself we should have started giving stapled visas to those living in Tibet.

Friendship is always between equals. China is militarily, strategically and economically far superior to India. But India, South Korea, Japan and like minded powers can together form a block to effectively tackle China. And that is what India should try for. Could this $ 16 billion dollar worth of business not be shared with Japan and South Korea ?

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says relations between India and China are much better than they were two or three decades ago. Trade ties have doubled – even tripled in the past two decades – but in the past 10 years alone diplomatic face off with China has only intensified.

As Brahma Chellany, strategic affairs expert and a renowned Sinologist told me that enhanced trade and economic ties are no guarantee of better strategic relations. Brahma Chellany analyses the situation thus: China is taking raw material (mainly iron ore) from India and giving us steel. There is a 24 billion dollar trade surplus in China’s favour. And China is dumping goods in India – from tyres to ceiling fans for example - only delivering a body blow to the industry but also creating more unemployment in India.

Is this not what was happening to India when the British were ruling us for 200 years. They would take cotton from here to feed their mills at Manchester and then give us the finished products. Is that not what China is doing in the 21st century to us? Our exports are mainly raw materials (quite like African countries) and buying Chinese products. They are desperate for the huge Indian market. Are we are not bending over backwards and dancing to their tune?

If better economic ties are no guarantee of better strategic and diplomatic relations – is it possible to combine the two. Let economic ties grow but let them grow simultaneously with diplomatic and strategic ties. We open our markets to you when you open yours to us – to our IT and Pharmaceuticals sector as the government says (with no hidden barriers – as we face today).

Why is it that we need to please China first – before China even thinks about answering our concerns on stupid issues like stapled visas. Ambassador G. Parthasarthy told me on the show that China respects power. Let us at least learn to display our power and presence as a growing super power that we claim to be.

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier called himself a Gandhian. Nice! The Gandhian Chinese prime minister has a nobel laureate locked up in prison and the country put pressure on half the world not to attend the nobel prize ceremony in Oslo. India attended that ceremony. Please show more spine – engage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on issues related to China – after all is he not the legitimate leader of the Tibetan masses.

Sources in the government say China was not keen to take questions after the summit level meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao. Is it because China has no answers to its completely unwarranted pin pricks on the visa issues and `support’ for terror-breeding Pakistan? India is a democracy and questions are asked freely.

The Chinese ambassador to New Delhi said relations between the two countries are fragile. Foreign secretary Rao says they are robust. Is this diplomatese? Or in this game of Chinese whispers is the message lost in translation.


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