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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

OPINION China's duplicity at Vienna G. Parthasarathy

September 18, 2008

G. Parthasarathy, The Pioneer
September 17, 2008
 
One of China's greatest assets in its dealings with India has been the gullibility and readiness of Indian political leaders, diplomats, intellectuals and ideologically motivated political parties to look at every Chinese statement, whether public and private, as being truthful and sincere, instead of judging China by its actions and examining the dynamics of its relations with others, particularly in our neighbourhood. It is such woolly headed thinking that landed a militarily unprepared India in the disastrous conflict of 1962 -- a conflict aptly described as a 'Himalayan Blunder'. It is similar wishful thinking that led China's many apologists and admirers in India to proclaim that there had been a great 'breakthrough' on the border issue and that China had renounced its claims to Tawang and other areas in Arunachal Pradesh in the 2005 Agreement signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.
 
The 2005 Agreement stated, "In reaching a border settlement, the two sides shall safeguard the population in border areas." This meant that there would be no change in the status of populated areas and that the status of Tawang would remain unchanged. Even as champagne bottles were being opened by China's influential admirers in India, to celebrate this 'breakthrough' in Sino-Indian relations, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi poured cold water on the celebrations, proclaiming, "The mere presence of populated areas in Arunachal Pradesh would not affect Chinese claims on the border."
 
What our Sinologists were forgetting amid their celebrations was that over the past few years China has actually hardened its position on the border issue, laying claims on the whole of Arunachal Pradesh on the grounds that the entire State is a part of 'South Tibet'. Despite this, obviously not wishing to enrage Beijing as its support was being sought in the NSG for ending nuclear sanctions against India, New Delhi cravenly behaved like a supplicant by closing down traffic and curtailing civil liberties of people merely to please China when the Olympic torch landed in India.
 
Similar wishful thinking about 'assurances' given privately by Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao to Mr Manmohan Singh that China would not come in the way of the NSG ending nuclear sanctions against India, led us close to diplomatic disaster at Vienna. New Delhi had ample evidence from its diplomatic missions abroad and from meetings with NSG members that over the past three years China had mounted concerted efforts to persuade countries like Austria, Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, which have strong domestic constituencies opposing dilution of non-proliferation benchmarks, to reject US moves to end nuclear sanctions against India.
 
China urged such countries that if non-proliferation benchmarks should be diluted, this had to be done on a 'criteria based' approach, which would exempt Pakistan from sanctions. Knowing that no country in its right senses would end sanctions on a country with Pakistan's notorious record on non-proliferation, this Chinese ploy was designed primarily to strengthen opposition to any exemption for India. These moves were undertaken quietly. The Chinese did not want to offend the Americans by publicly opposing an initiative by President George W Bush, or the Russians, who had supported the American initiative.
 
New Delhi's naiveté on Chinese intentions is best symbolised in the manner in which it ignored reports of the Chinese Government's thinking voiced by the official mouthpiece, the People's Daily. In a report in August 2007, the People's Daily averred, "The US-India nuclear agreement has strong symbolic significance (for India) achieving its dream of powerful nation. In fact the purpose of the US to sign a civilian nuclear agreement with India is to enclose India in its global partners' camp. This fits in with India's wishes."
 
Just on the eve of the NSG meeting, the People's Daily pontificated on September 1, 20008, "Whether it is motivated by political considerations or commercial interests, the US-India nuclear agreement has constituted a major blow to the international non-proliferation regime." It is ironical that the Chinese should shed tears about their respect for the "international nuclear non-proliferation regime" after having provided Pakistan with nuclear weapons designs, advanced nuclear enrichment equipment, ring magnets and plutonium production and reprocessing facilities for miniaturised nuclear warheads. China opposing the India-US nuclear deal on grounds of 'non-proliferation', is like Satan rebuking Sin!
 
China rubbed salt on Indian wounds when Mr Hu Jintao and Mr Wen Jiabao refused to take personal telephone calls from Mr Manmohan Singh, claiming both these luminaries were "unavailable". The Chinese perhaps felt emboldened by the belief that having hosted the Congress president twice over one year, they could take liberties and insult India's Prime Minister. Mercifully, the Congress president responded appropriately by refusing to receive the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister. But would this alone constitute an adequate response to the brazen insult to the Prime Minister?
 
An Indian correspondent who carefully studied Chinese diplomacy at work in Vienna observed, "The Chinese did manoeuvres in a procedural way in order to support the 'G6' comprising Austria, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway. But they didn't want to come out in the open." "They wanted to remain in the bushes rather than come on to the battlefield," said a diplomat from an European country that backed the waiver, with reservations. A 'G6' diplomat described this phase as one where the Chinese "offered quiet but clear support for a number of proposals put forward by the like-minded group of six". This support, he said, "continued right up to the last moment".
 
But, when it seemed to China that the 'G6' was standing resolute, the Chinese delegates also began putting forward amendments and sentences of their own. "They suggested a lot of minor changes to the text, seemingly with the intention of delaying progress," the diplomat said. Though these changes were more often than not unacceptable to India, the diplomat said the Chinese suggestion to include language which might open a door for "other states" (Pakistan) to seek a similar waiver, met with stiff resistance by virtually all NSG members, including the 'G6'.
 
"This idea was a complete non-starter", said one diplomat. Another described it as part of a tactic of "procedural procrastination". Finally, a telephone call from Mr Bush to Mr Hu Jintao compelled the Chinese to end their duplicity.
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