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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Times Of India

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stone pelters from Beijing

Tarun Vijay

At a time when India-China defence exchanges and joint military exercises have been on the rise, the Gen Jaswal episode has suddenly marred the calmness, exposing the deep-rooted distrust in the relations between the two countries. Beijing is known for carefully choosing the its words and the timing of its reactions. Remember the 2 am call to our envoy in Beijing to express displeasure at the Tibetan demonstration near Chinese embassy in Delhi? And the Chinese ambassador’s statements on our Presidents and Prime Minister’s Arunachal visits? All this while defence exchanges, joint military exercises and high-level visits by military officers continued. It’s the Chinese way of moving ahead and keeping on pin-pricking to remind the ‘honoured guest’ about the claims and fundamentals of its India policy without ambiguity. Memory plays an important role in China’s diplomacy. Memory to be shelved, to be kept in a deep freeze, to be constantly kept alive and discussed, and like intermittent and irritating calls of recovery agents seeking repayments, a call at random, without any caution, to trigger a discussion on what China really seeks. And the next moment, it’s all sweet and honey, humility and talk of ‘long-serving civilizational ties between the two great nations’.

The media and people have proverbial short memories. So they forget what had earlier happened on New Delhi’s public circuit when China raked up claims on Arunachal, protested over our hospitality to the Dalai Lama and even expressed ‘concerns’ at our defence cooperation with the US and Japan. All this has become part of ‘mutually acceptable’ exercises in cooperation. Neither New Delhi nor Beijing allows such incidents to overshadow an otherwise smoothly running track of cooperation in various areas, including defence and trade.

The bilateral cooperation in defence has been growing happily with hardly any hiccups. It had begun after an MoU was signed between India’s defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and his Chinese counterpart, General Cao Gangchuan, in Beijing on May 29, 2006. This was a first-of-its-kind agreement, which sought to ensure a framework for:

1. Frequent exchanges between the leaders and high-level functionaries of the defence ministries and armed forces of India and China;

2. An annual defence dialogue at a mutually agreed level to be hosted alternately by the two sides;

3. Joint military exercises and/or training programmes in the fields of search and rescue, anti-piracy, counter-terrorism, and other areas of mutual interest, including facilitating the exchange of military observers to witness designated military exercises; and a mechanism for the exchange of military officers and relevant civilian officials for study tours, seminars, and extended studies at their counterpart military academies.

Apart from this, usual exchanges in the area of defence had been moving smoothly at their own pace. A ministry of external affairs communiqué describes the high-level exchanges in these happy words: “During Shri Sharad Pawar's visit to Beijing in July 1992, the first ever by an Indian Defence Minister, it was agreed to develop academic, military, scientific and technological exchanges. A senior-level Chinese military delegation aimed at fostering CBMs between the defence forces of the two countries made a six-day goodwill visit to India in December 1993. The visit was reciprocated by Indian Army chief Gen BC Joshi's visit to China in July 1994. Since then regular exchanges have been taking place at various levels. Peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the border areas is being largely maintained by both sides in accordance with the agreements of 1993 and 1996. The then Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes,visited China in Apr 2003.

The visit came after a gap of more than one decade and also helped ease the post Pokhran tensions. This was followed by a return visit by Chinese Defence Minister Gen Cao Gangchuan in Mar 2004. In Dec 2004, Gen NC Vij, the then COAS visited China, the first by an Indian COAS in a decade, and both the countries agreed to deepen defence cooperation. In May 2005, the Chinese CGS visited India, a further sign of warming relations between the two countries. The Indian Defence Minister visited India in May 2006 and signed the first ever MoU on Defence Exchanges between the Armed Forces of India and China. In May 2007 Gen JJ Singh, Chairman COSC and COAS visited China. This was the first time that Chairman COSC visited China and was hosted by the CGS of the PLA. In Nov 2008, the Chief of Air Staff of the IAF paid on official visit to China from 02-06 Nov 2008. Simultaneously, the Commander PLA Navy paid a visit to India from 02 to 05 Nov 2008. Chairman COSC and CNS, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, PVSM, AVSM, ADC visited China and participated in the International Fleet Review to mark the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of PLA Navy from 19-25 Apr 2009.”

So what’s the fuss about?

It’s the Indian attitude which bewilders all. Do we have any concrete China policy and if there is a road map we have devised for ourselves for the next decade? Our reactions are haphazard, of late, quite pusilLaminous and defensive. With Chinese missiles targeting Indian cities, positioned in Tibet, and increasingly its anti-India belligerance becoming more vocal and irritating, what purpose do these bilateral exchanges serve? They were meant to help resolve unsetteld issues through face-to-face interactions and not to further aggravate tensions.

China is quite transparently clear about its expansionist ideas on India -- it has Aksai Chin under its thumb, received a ‘gift’ of 5000 sq km of Indian land from Pakistan, which had illegally occupied it. It claims Arunachal and hasn’t quite clearly accepted Sikkim as an Indian territory. To ‘contain’ India, its encirclement policy is well known and it continues helping Pakistan in a way that Indian interests are affected. It has received separatist leaders from Kashmir and discussed internal matters of India with them. Its nuclear and military help to Pakistan has created serious problems for India. The biggest problem of violence India is facing internally today, in the words of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has a China thread to it as those Maoists who have killed more than 10,000 Indians to realize a ‘revolutionary’ idea, germinated in China hero-worship Chinese leaders. They have fashioned their movement after Mao and so have the 13 other terrorist organizations active in the northeast and banned by the home ministry. One of them is named People's Liberation Army (PLA), operating in Manipur.

China still perceives India as a threat, evident from various surveys, though diplomatically it maintains a different stance. India so far has maintained a studied silence on Chinese arrogance and even tried to cover up its incursions in Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal sector, often muffling its protests yet declaring the continuance of friendly exchanges. The present incident of refusing to receive Lt Gen Jaswal is being interpreted as aimed at helping Pakistan and the separatists in Srinagar. It’s like stone pelting -- at random and yet targeted. Lt Gen JJ Singh was welcomed in spite of having the northeast, which includes Arunachal, under his command, but Gen Jaswal was snubbed. It’s for us to decide how much such insults can be taken in sheepishly before the final outburst appears.

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