The Moving Finger Writes
As the elections in Parliament are on, with the general feeling that the BJP, with its newly indrawn partners is likely to form the next government, the question in most minds is how it will handle relations with the United States, Russia, Pakistan and China. By the time the next government is formed, Delhi will have a new US Ambassador. How will the US react to Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister? And how will Modi, in turn, react to Washington’s duplicitous policy vis-à-vis India? China, incidentally has already made its feelings clear. Even as India’s new ambassador to Beijing, Ashok K Kantha was presenting his credentials, he was told by President Xi Jinping that it is China’s ‘historical mission’ to consolidate a ‘strategic partnership with India’. In a one-to-one chat with Kantha, reports the media, the Chinese President stressed the importance of Sino-Indian relations beyond the bilateral and that with the world going through ‘profound transformation’, it would be imperative for both countries to cooperate more. It is well to remember that Mr Xi is expected to visit India in the second half of this year. Similarly, Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari is also expected to visit Beijing later this year.
There are other signs indicating a likely improvement of relations between China and India. Thus, late in March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Planning Commissioner and is understood to have told him that ‘integrating’ China’s technology in India’s railway and energy sectors would be a ‘breakthrough’ in Sino-Indian cooperation.
Then we have the views of a senior scientist, Ye Hailin, who is quoted by the media as saying that with changing geopolitics, China has to focus on the Indian Ocean region and forget stronger bilateral relations with India “despite historical differences like the festering border dispute” and the issue of India sheltering the Tibetan government-in-exile for decades.
According to Hailin, four adjectives describe Sino-Indian relations: Cooperation, Competition, Conflict and Coordination. That says it all. At the same time, another scientist, Wang Rong, Director of Research Institute for Indian Ocean Economics at Yunnan University is reported to have said that while “several unpleasant things have happened last year, including a tense stand-off generating ‘bad’ emotions, the general trend has been positive.” It is not clear at this stage who will be India’s next Foreign Minister, though it should not come as a surprise if Narendra Modi himself decides to handle the portfolio. Already he has had many links with Chinese officials, but his last visit to the state in November 2011 made history. For one thing, China treated Modi with great respect. As Zee News reported (November 9, 2011), the Chinese Government accorded ‘a red carpet’ welcome to Modi on his five-day visit – an official one – to the country. He was received at the Great Hall of China like royalty. Addressing a distinguished audience, Modi not only recalled ages past when statesmen, scholars, historians, monks, pilgrims and travellers visited each other’s countries, but he also drew attention to contemporary events. He did not hesitate to point out the disquiet in India at Chinese activities in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, warning China that “playing to the tune of Islamabad would damage all Chinese ties with India.” That was plain speaking.
A diplomat was later heard to say that “What seems clear is that his Chinese hosts have seen in Modi a possible future, when India becomes the equal of China and not a resentful pygmy always griping about the Big Brother.” One can only hope that a new government will be strongly positive in outlining India’s national interests, such as they are. Modi understands that.
–M V Kamath, (The writer is senior columnist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)