|Gen. Fan Changlong with Thai PM, Yingluck Shinawatra|
Whenever foreign dignitaries visit China, they call on General Fan.
The latest example is the Thai Prime Minister, Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra. She met with Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. It was reported that China and Thailand agreed "to further strengthen military relations".
Yingluck Shinawatra asserted that the armed forces of the two countries have made substantial achievements in their cooperation in various fields through frequent high-level visits and continuous friendly exchanges.
She also expressed her appreciation over the active roles China has been playing in international and regional issues.
Fan answered by hailing “the long-standing neighborly friendship between China and Thailand, which is boosted by their geographical proximity, cultural similarities and close kinship”, adding “China is willing to join hands with Thailand to deepen the friendly cooperation between their military forces and contribute to regional peace and prosperity.”
That is the usual thing.
But when AK Antony, the Indian Defence Minister visited Beijing, General Fan had gone out of town. He was visiting the Indian front (Xinjiang Military District); the pretext was the restiveness of Xinjiang. He wanted to discuss the measures to reestablish ‘stability’ in the region, but also to get the latest news about the Indian border (or LAC).
Xinhua reported that General Fan was accompanied by General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, General Du Jincai, deputy director of the General Political Department (GPD) of the PLA and a member of the all-powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, General Liu Zheng, deputy director of the General Logistics Department (GLD) of the PLA, General Liu Yuejun, commander of the Lanzhou Military Region and Wang Jianping, commander of the Peoples' Armed Police accompanied General Fan.
Once again, let us not forget that the Ladakh front (DBO, Demchok, Chumar, etc.) falls under the Xinjiang Military District.
Why having fixed a date for Antony’s trip when his main interlocutor was on ‘inspection tour’?
|General Fan Changlong|
Did they forget to do their homework or did General Fan deliberately skip the visit of the Indian Defence Minister?
He had probably nothing to offer or benefit from Antony’s visit.
The consolation prize for Antony was a short darshan of Premier Li Keqiang, but Li has nothing to do with defence.
Speaking about important visits, very few in India have noted the trip to Beijing of Gaurav Shumsher J.B. Rana, the chief of staff of the Nepalese Armed Forces,.
General Rana met General Xu Qiliang, an Air Force officer who is the second most powerful general in the Chinese defence set-up. Like General Fan, General Xu is vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Xu Qiliang told Rana that China and Nepal are traditional friendly neighbors, and that the bilateral relations “have stood the test of both vicissitudes of the world and the changes of respective domestic situations and have always been advancing healthily and steadily.”
He added: “The Chinese and Nepalese militaries are supposed to constantly deepen friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation in various fields, so as to make contributions to promoting further development of the relations between the two countries.”
Rana said that "Nepal attaches great importance to developing its relations with China, unswervingly adhere to the one-China policy and will never allow any force to take advantage of the Nepalese territory to engage in anti-China activities. The Nepalese military regards the Chinese military as a reliable friend and hopes to further promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields".
Again regarding official visits, The Times of India mentioned that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is looking at a November visit to China "with both governments keen to showcase it as a unique occasion where two premiers would be visiting each other within a calendar year.”
It is not factually correct because Premier Zhou Enlai came to India in December 1956, early January and end January 1957. Three official visits in two months, never seen before (or after) in diplomatic annals.
Zhou, probably anxious about the possibility of the Dalai Lama striking a deal with the Indian Prime Minister, repeatedly visited Delhi.
He had several meetings with the Dalai Lama; the latter recalled one of those held in the Chinese embassy in Delhi: “I was having a frank discussion with Chou [Zhou]. He told me that the situation in Tibet had deteriorated, indicating that the Chinese authorities were ready to use force to crush any popular uprising.”
The Dalai Lama ‘bluntly’ replied that the Chinese were “forcing unwanted reforms, despite explicit reassurances that they would do no such thing”. The Dalai Lama said that the clever Foreign Minister (and Premier) used his charm and promised that the words of Chairman Mao who had announced that “no reform should be introduced in Tibet for at least the next six years” would be implemented. Generously, he even added that it could be postponed for ‘fifty years, if necessary’.
The Dalai Lama was not convinced; then Zhou Enlai asked him not to go to Kalimpong where he was scheduled to give Buddhist teachings to the local population.
When the Dalai Lama next met Nehru, the Prime Minister made it clear that that he had to return to Tibet and work with the Chinese on the basis of the 17-Point Agreement. “There is no alternative,” said Nehru, “India could be of no assistance to Tibet”. He even added that he should obey Zhou and return to Tibet without stopping in Kalimpong.
However, after the Dalai Lama had explained the purpose of the stop, he suddenly changed his mind and said: “India is a free country after all. You would not be breaking any of her laws.” And eventually Nehru made all the arrangements for the Dalai Lama’s visit to Kalimpong.
After the Dalai Lama’s return to Lhasa nothing changed in Tibet. On the contrary the pressure increased, especially after the revolt of the Khampas in Eastern Tibet.
The morale of the story is that, it is only when the Chinese can benefit from theses repeated visits, that they agree to it, and if Indians leaders insist to visit China, they are neglected.
As for Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing, it will probably be as fruitful as AK Antony’; in other words, a nice outing.