DC Edit | India playing hardball with China is justified
Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent
With a frosty reception and a cold send-off to their FM Wang Yi, India has put out very clear signals on where it stands vis-a-vis China
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi (Twitter)
With a frosty reception and a cold send-off to their foreign minister Wang Yi, India has put out very clear signals on where it stands vis-a-vis China. Having given away one major bargaining chip in the conquest of the Galwan Valley heights in search of genuine peace with China on the border, India is like a burnt child that dreads the fire.
In crystal clear articulation of its position two years after a military standoff along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar has told his counterpart that bilateral relations have been "disturbed as a result of Chinese actions since April 2020". The same message was also conveyed by NSA Ajit Doval and the ball is in China’s court now.
Sort out the pending disengagement at all friction points and do away with the presence of a large number of troops in contravention of 1993 and 1996 agreements and then talk about bilateral ties is India’s message. The nation may be facing many issues with neighbours as well as the rest of the world in the wake of the Ukraine invasion but it will not be browbeaten by China into resetting ties while troops remain facing each other and China further stokes the fire with gratuitous remarks at an international forum.
It is debatable whether China needed to be received in Islamabad at the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation as an honoured guest when its mistreatment of Uighur Muslims has been so well documented. But that is an issue for the Islamic countries. India’s grouse is to do with China saying it has listened to many voices, rather tired ones after 75 years, about the Kashmir Valley. It wasn’t exactly on a good wicket then that Wang Yi was on when making overtures to India with the first visit in two years of a high functionary from Xi Jinping’s government.
What China may have considered as a search for a breakthrough in ties with India in a year when it is to host the BRICS summit has become contentious with Wang Yi speaking of a status quo based on a 1959 position. The Ukraine war and India’s ambiguous stand on it that puts it on the side of Russia along with China and Pakistan makes the present a peculiar time in world affairs. India is, however, not on the same page as China with regard to Ukraine as China is a votary of Russian offensive action.
Even in a dynamic setting post-February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine, China has not shifted about doing enough on the border situation where both sides lost soldiers in the 2020 skirmishes. The plight of Indian medicos studying in Chinese universities was brought up in talks with Wang Yi but, maybe, it would have to be an Indian initiative to find a solution to the medicos who are back home from Ukraine (war) and China (Covid).
There is absolute normality in one area of ties and that is trade. In fact, milestones were crossed recently as the India-China trade passed for the first-ever time the $100 bn mark in 2021. India, with its vast appetite for Chinese goods including mobiles, imported at least $65 bn more than it exported. Chinese figures show China exported close to $100 bn worth of goods to India. The question that arises is should India do any more towards normality of ties unless China’s outreach extends to a willingness to restore the pre-April 2020 status quo ante. Playing hardball is India’s chosen tactic now and rightly so, too.