PM’s smart

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Jul 2017 10:18:57

THE statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry official that the “atmosphere is not right” for talks between President Mr. Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, showed two things: Chinese reluctance to open topmost level discussion when India has advanced its troops into the Doka La area; and the international sympathy India has been able to garner because of the rightness of its position as regards the current stand-off stretching beyond expectation. Though China has tried to clad its discomfiture in fine words, those who understand diplomatic nuances know that at this particular juncture, China would not be able to derive much mileage in the talks. Hence the usage “the atmosphere is not right” for talks between Mr. Xi Jinping and Mr. Modi.

However, at the informal meeting of BRICS leaders on the sidelines of G-20 summit at Hamburg, Germany, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi seized the opportunity to open the issue with Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping. As he grabbed the Chinese leader’s hand for a clasp, Mr. Modi did not let go, and raised the issue of the current stand-off at Doka La. Before Mr. Xi Jinping could realise, Mr. Modi had already crossed the “atmosphere-is-not-right” barrier to breach the inscrutable Chinese defences, a mark of smart diplomacy.

As he got dragged into the issue, Mr. Xi Jinping then found himself saying, as media reports have us believe, that the stand-off could be sorted out peacefully. It was no mean an achievement for the silent aggression Mr. Narendra Modi mounted on the Chinese supremo.  Yet, it is necessary to understand why China did not want the highest-level talks at this point in time. The most critical component of the current stand-off is that India has taken a strident approach and has even moved its forces straight to the forward area in Doka La. Feeling rather uncomfortable, China has ‘urged’ India to pull back from the forward positions immediately. In years, China must not have faced such a situation vis-a-vis India.

The Doka La area was never with China and its claim of territorial control has no historical backing. As back as on September 26, 1959, then Prime Minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru had written to China a letter in which he had clearly outlined how an old British-time agreement more than 125 years ago entitled India to help Bhutan in any need. That letter exposed the Chinese claim of territorial entitlement to that patch of land.

Of course, China is a tough customer and would not relent easily. Yet, the point India put forward successfully has made China feel awkward. Perhaps, it has not expected India to push more forces into Doka La area. A surprised China, therefore, urged India to pull back. India need not heed any such demand, no matter how “grave” China finds the situation to be. India’s threat perceptions make it necessary to deploy more forces. For, the recent stand-off began with the destruction of Indian bunkers by the Chinese forces. Obviously, Indian response has to be commensurate with the extent of the Chinese overture.

It must be noted that even though China has been engaging India in various diplomatic actions as well as trade talks, its military machine has been acting brazenly off and on. Seemingly as a matter of policy, China has tried to keep India unsettled on the border all the time. By now, India has understood the Chinese approach, and is conducting itself in a quite matured manner. It is this aspect of the Indian response that seems to have disturbed the Chinese, as a result of which they find that the atmosphere is not right to open the highest-level dialogue with India.  Recently, China has even threatened India with a 1962-like situation. This is a direct threat of a possible invasion, which no country worth the salt would ever take.