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Li pitches beyond Singh, says India, China strategic partners

Li pitches beyond Singh, says India, China strategic partners
For those who wanted a T-20 final in India, the Sino-Indian engagement at the premier level was a bit of a dampener. There was no big headline news. Even Prime Minister  Manmohan Singh looked sullen, probably reflecting the public mood in the backdrop of the three-week-long stand-off in the icy desert of Ladakh, when PAFP forces crossed over, laid siege and squatted on territory claimed by India.

But ironically in comparison the newly elected premier of China, Li Keqiang, Singh’s 24-year-old junior, looked ebullient. While the latter laboriously read through a statement for the media, the former spoke while maintaining constant eye contact with the television cameras. Li seemed to speak extemporaneously when his turn came.

Unlike Singh, Li used the word ‘strategic’ at least five times in describing the relationship with his country and India. ‘Strategic partnership’ rolled off his tongue as if riding on copious consumption of Mao Tai, the official alcoholic beverage of China. Clearly, Li was pitching beyond Singh; to the people of the country, of whom about 60 per cent are about 30 years old. Who knows where Singh will be when 2014 arrives? No wonder, Chinese traders can give a run for their money to their Gujarati counterparts!

Much of high diplomacy is about trading. You have to guess in an open market what the hand the other fellow is holding. That requires what the Americans call, in their own simplistic way, ‘double guessing.’

But, as Singh stated right at the beginning of his statement that India and China are civilisational allies.

Clearly, that goes back thousands of years. So there is a pointed reference to Panchsheel, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, the authorship of which – much like Sino-Indian relationship – is contested. Some people credit the authorship to Nehru, some to Zhou Enlai.

A long 35-point ‘Joint Statement’ and the premiers’ statements left otherwise no one is doubt that everything is in suspension. The border management issues will be decided by the Joint Working Groups and the Special Representatives; the Brahmaputra (Yarlong Tsangpo, in Chinese) water issue will also be handled by the latter as well. But the good thing is this: for the first time, in a bilateral forum China has endorsed the candidature of India for a permanent position of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The point is buried at number 32, in the 35-point ‘Joint Statement’ of the two countries.

This is the first time that in a bilateral forum, China has decided to reiterate India’s claim to a permanent seat in the UNSC. This line may raise the hackles of those who are not fully aware about the history of India’s candidature or have remained caught in the verbiage of the USA on the issue.

This time Li Keqiang did, to put a salve on the Indian bleeding hearts.
Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya

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