Reflections on Sino-India border issue
A former Chinese diplomat’s comments have created much buzz on both sides.
The Sino-Indian boundary issue is becoming "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice talked about the Wonderland. New Delhi, indeed is a place where the people speak in many languages while speaking in English and Hindi or even Tamil or Telugu. Most importantly the hugely understaffed official foreign policy establishment occasionally surpasses itself in brilliance even after setting the bar quite high, normally.
Ever since Dai Bingguo, the former Special Representative on the Sino-Indian boundary talks, spoke about what he has written in his memoir in the magazine, China-India Dialogue, the Capital, I believe is abuzz with speculation.
Last fortnight, this writer had added his two-bit to what can the country do with the inscrutable Chinese regarding floating trial balloons. There are three other of the same variety that has come from three informed sources who usually are more knowledgeable than yours truly. So to be true to the readers of this newspaper, I shall recount the three versions.
One, of course, is the maximalist view. Dai Bingguo's is a "subterfuge," and the 2005 agreement clearly delineates that settled populations on both sides of the current LAC cannot be disturbed. This was the line of Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary, recorded in Daily Mail of London, which is sure to catch the attention of the mandarins in Beijing, if not for the tabloids 'incisive' reporting but surely for its bare-chested Page 3 models.
It is, even more, a touching policy statement, one must acknowledge, that takes into consideration the condition of those living in the arid, tundra region of Aksai Chin and those who do business centred around the Tawang monastery. These are regimes that cleared out one town after another for the monstrosity of the Three Gorges Dam on the one hand, and the Narmada Valley for the big dam there.
Second, is the issue of the credibility of the Dai Bingguo memoir – whether it passed muster in terms of Beijing's publication industry – that oversees various publications. This writer again had noticed the Chinese Playboy and Penthouse magazines just outside the hotel adjacent to the Beijing Foreign Studies University, colloquially called Beiwai. There were at last count more than 250-odd publication spread out on the tiers of a bookshop. Our sources in Beijing had told us that each of these publications is owned by the Communist Party of China right down to the canton level committees. And this was just before the Olympics that Beijing hosted causing a big spurt in publishing.
So was Dai Bingguo's seeming insouciant in proffering a pathway to a 'mother of a deal' in this continent's terms, vetted by the General Affairs Department of the Central Committee that looks after the members from the day of their membership till they are buried/cremated. Had it been kicked up to the CC's foreign affairs cell or the new gorilla in town of the centralising 18th CPC Congress under Xi Jinping – the National Security Commission? Was it even casually looked at by the Polit Bureau? "We certainly hope so," said a former general of the Indian army in the know of the flow of things in New Delhi? Curious, isn't it, if we believe Sibal; which we should in an Anthonyesque (with due regards to William Shakespeare) way.
Three, consider the uproarious poll results (for the BJP) in Uttar Pradesh. Doesn't Prime Minister Narendra Modi need a new tailor? Taking into account the piffling issue of 56 inches. But another gent, who makes numerous trips to China every year all the way from the deep south of India has a short, curt, single sentence response. He almost lays down the law in a true editor-like fashion, "Not in the first term." Curiouser?
Now, consider this. There have been two interesting developments since Dai Bingguo made his sales pitch. The first is the decision about the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang. No one is hearing much about it these days. Beijing, of course, gave a livid response to the plan in 'pro-forma' sort of way. Well, if the Tawang monastery is so holy that the Chinese Tibetans cannot live without it being a part of China, shouldn't the 'holier than thou' Dalai Lama visit it?
The other development is an almost beseeching tone in which Beijing spoke – of course, it got amplified by the fire-breathing, dragon-slaying Indian media – that it should be allowed by India to develop cosy relationships with other South Asian nations. That way, the Indian strategists should understand, the CPC CC and PB would not think of (string of) pearls, but diamonds. My wife certainly wants one (my penury aside!). Why can't the singing former major general of the PLA, Peng Liyuan (Xi's wife)? In the process, if two Asian giants get into a tight embrace, won't the earth shake in Washington DC? What say you?
(The writer is an independent journalist. Views expressed are strictly personal.)