Thursday, November 17, 2016

Beijing cannot ignore Indian concerns now

My article Beijing cannot ignore Indian concerns now appeared in in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

In the brouhaha created by Trump’s victory and Modi’s coup against black money, what the media missed was Xi Jinping’s Special Envoy Meng’s visit to India, wherein New Delhi conveyed an important message to Beijing

In the brouhaha created by the election of Donald Trump as President of the US and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand master coup against black money, an event of great international importance was missed by the Indian Press. Meng Jianzhu, Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) visited Delhi and met Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Meng is not an ordinary official; he is a member of the CPC’s all-powerful Politburo. He replaced the disgraced Zhou Yongkang, the biggest tiger to fall in President Xi Jinping’s net in the latter’s fight against corruption and as such responsible for the ‘security’ and intelligence in the Middle Kingdom.
What was Meng here for? Probably two things: Beijing was nervous about Modi’s visit to Japan (two days later), and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor  (CPEC) is not progressing as smoothly as envisaged (though a first Trade Convoy reached the port of Gwadar on November 12). India had a message to convey too: The nation is tired of ‘Made in Pakistan’ terrorism. In these circumstances, can India and China find an understanding?
After Modi’s meeting with Meng, a Press release from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)  asserted: “The Prime Minister welcomed the intensive exchange of high-level visits between India and China over the last two years.” Nothing new or special in this!
Though Modi ‘fondly’ recalled his visit to China in May 2015, as well as his trip to Hangzhou in September 2016, to attend the G-20 summit, the PMO communiquĂ© remained vague: “The two leaders discussed issues of mutual interest, including bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation.” The Prime Minister pointed out that “terrorism poses the gravest threat to international peace and security, and welcomed increased cooperation between India and China on counter-terrorism related matters.”
Before Meng Jianzhu’s arrival, the Indian establishment was caught in ‘a piquant protocol situation’: strictly speaking, Meng has no ‘counterpart’ in the Indian Government. Meng is said to be far senior to the Chinese Home Minister and in a way to India’s National Security Advisor. The Government finally opted for a meeting with Singh, the number two in the Indian Cabinet.
During his encounter with Meng, Singh appealed to Beijing “to support the international community’s efforts to designate Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), as a terrorist under the UN Resolution 1267.”
Singh reminded his interlocutor that Pakistan was patronising and financing terrorist groups, including Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Tayeeba and Hizbul Mujahideen. Their leaders still roam around freely in Pakistan; Meng was probably shown proofs.
Singh also argued that there is no good or bad terrorist: Terrorism can’t be one country’s problem alone, it is a threat to global peace and security. It had to be dealt globally…by China too!
The Home Minister mentioned the case of the ULFA leader Paresh Barua as well as the arrest of a Pakistani national in Guangzhou with fake Indian currency; Meng was asked to “clamp down on Pakistan’s nefarious designs to smuggle fake Indian currency into India through China.”
The Minister suggested that India and China should soon conclude negotiations on a bilateral Agreement on Security Cooperation; it would include tackling transnational and cyber crimes. Meng’s reactions are not known, though he is sure to have complained about the Dalai Lama’s forthcoming visit to Tawang and the ‘splittist’ activities of the Tibetan refugees in India.
We don’t know if the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, passing through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and if the recent developments on the border in Ladakh were discussed. Incidentally, a couple of days before Meng’s arrival, the Indian Army and the ITBP showed for the first time a great firmness when some PLA troops tried to stop an irrigation project in Demchok, a border village on the Indus river.
Meng who was announced as Xi’s Special Envoy, had not come to Delhi just to hear a lecture from the Home Minister or the Prime Minister. Especially as the meetings took place just before Modi left for Japan for a crucial visit (to sign a civil nuclear deal), Meng is bound to have aired Beijing’s concerns.
Can India and China collaborate in the field of counter-terrorism? At the end of September, a ‘dialogue’ had already started in Beijing where a meeting, jointly chaired by Wang Yongqing, the Secretary General of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs and RN Ravi, chairman of India’s Joint Intelligence Committee, took place. At that time, India and China agreed to work together ‘on counter-terrorism and security’.
The Global Times reported: “The two sides …reached consensus on measures to strengthen cooperation and to jointly deal with security threats.”
In Beijing, Ravi also met Meng Jianzhu who told him that “terrorism is a common enemy of the global community.” Meng asserted that “strengthened counter-terrorism cooperation between China and India is conducive to the interests of the people of both countries.”
According to The Global Times, Meng voiced the hope that the two sides could start some counter-terrorism collaboration in order to protect regional security. Where is Pakistan in this new ‘dialogue’?
Was it a coincidence, but as Meng arrived in Delhi, India and China were holding their 8th meeting of China-India Defence and Security Consultation. China was represented by a PLA rising star, Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department (and informal head of China’s intelligence and military diplomacy).
Sun made the routine declaration “both countries have maintained frequent exchanges of visits and reached consensus on the development of bilateral ties in recent years.” He added: “The Chinese military is willing to join hands with India Army to maintain the exchanges on border defence, improve the mechanism of communication and strengthen border management and control so as to safeguard peace and stability in their border areas.”
Kumar was not very explicit too, “exchanges of visits and interactions between Chinese and Indian leaders have promoted the India-China strategic partnership of cooperation, which has also contributed to the common prosperity of the two countries as well as the world peace and development.”
Though little transpired during these two important visits (especially Meng’s), the future of the CPEC and its all-weather friend must have received a lot of attention. For mega projects such as the CPEC, China certainly can’t ignore India which has its own stakes in PoK. India’s closer relations with Japan and the new US President are bound to have come up too during the talks.
Asia seems in a flux, with new realignments in the offing; this makes China nervous. The time has come for Beijing to take into account Delhi’s security concerns.

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