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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Chinese Checks

June 13, 2008

The Times of India
June 10, 2008, 0047 hrs IST

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's China visit was a bit of
a damp squib. It began with a minor snub, when Chinese premier Wen
Jiabao cancelled a meeting planned well in advance of the minister's
visit to travel to earthquake affected areas.

The talks between Mukherjee and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi,
didn't break new ground, instead they brought old, controversial
topics back to the table.

The discussions seemed to highlight the differences between New Delhi
and Beijing -- from the boundary question to Tibet -- and didn't seem
to concentrate on areas where the two countries could have common interests.

Hindi-Chini bhai bhai today has little but a nostalgic echo. But does
New Delhi realise that? India should take a hard look at its China
policy in the light of Mukherjee's visit.

New Delhi should have a clear understanding of its relations with
Beijing to strategise for the future. No doubt, the two countries
have to work closely and avoid potential points of conflict, but it
is meaningless and short-sighted to ignore the differences.

A case in point is the approach of the two countries to the Tibet
problem. Chinese officials seem to have objected to Mukherjee about
the media coverage given to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan youth.

The Chinese apparently understand that the right to the freedom of
expression is guaranteed in India, but they can't accept that the
right is extended to Tibetan exiles as well.

Then, China by revisiting the Sikkim border is in no way showing a
problem-solving approach. Instead, it is displaying the
misunderstandings that stem essentially from differences in political cultures.

Such interventions can only spoil even the incremental gains of
border talks. Or, is Beijing only happy not to let dust settle on the
border issue? Is theirs a strategy simply to feed a thousand fires,
minor though they are, along India's borders?

We mustn't forget that Pakistan's armour is mainly of Chinese origin
and there are reports of Chinese arms flowing into the north-eastern states.

New Delhi should ask Beijing to cut the supplies. New Delhi's China
policy has so far been a reactive one. It allows Beijing to set the
agenda and tone for talks.

It is time to break this mould. India should make itself clear what
it wants from China and be ready to state upfront that good
neighbourly relations depend on negotiations done in a true spirit of
give and take.

That would be a starting point for forging mature relations between
two of the world's most important players of the future.
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