Láffaire China harangue
Beijing’s strong reaction to the visit of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama to India’s north eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and the Chinese media’s ‘blows for blows’ clamour highlight the new rhetoric lows in the Sino-Indian bilateral relations.
This phase is preceded by what were no more than calculated snubs to Delhi in areas of its direct interest - entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, NSG, and empanelment of Masood Azhar, master mind of JeM on UN black list. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC, has a direct bearing on the sovereignty of India since it is coming up through Kashmir territory under the occupation of Pakistan.
The surprise in Láffaire Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit is not the Chinese harangue but the way Delhi reacted with its deafening silence. Given the pressures it is under at home from Beijing to Kashgar, and the diplomatic battles for supremacy it is locked in from South China Sea to Horn of Africa, the Communist leadership will naturally be loath to come face-to-face with a new front that too in South Asia just when it is having a whale of time in Pakistan.
That Islamabad has replaced Washington and American dollar with Beijing and yuan as its manna is neither here nor there. Also the fact that Sino-Pakistan relations are today haunted by the same trust deficits that had bedevilled US-Pak relations.
All this, however, does not offer any justification whatsoever to Beijing’s orchestrated overreaction and the not so veiled threats to Delhi while holding homilies after homilies on how to deepen and broaden bilateral relations all the way from surface trade to cyber world. Quite strangely, in fact significantly, India avoided a wordy duel with a neighbour with whom it was locked in a war over the Himalayan hills of what is today Arunachal Pradesh some five decades ago.
By convention and tradition Indian diplomacy is not known for a tit-for-tat approach. Nor is it known for brusqueness or to hype up sensitive issues. By refusing to be drawn into a public spat and by appearing to ignore what China considers as its core sensitivities, India has conveyed its own, long overdue message – good neighbourliness is never a one-way street.
Failure to read the new writing on the Himalayan wall reduced the Chinese fretting and squirming over the 81-year-old Dalai Lama’s sojourn in Tawang to interact with local practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism into a spectacle cut in the mode of a song-dance thrill familiar to Indians with Bollywood flics.
Read what Chinese ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “We demand the Indian side immediately stop wrong actions, not hype up sensitive issues and take concrete steps to safeguard growth of India-China relations”.
The state –run Chinese media followed suit. It targeted the Indian Prime Minister himself. “Unlike his predecessors, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have taken a different stance on the Dalai issue, raising public engagements with the monk and challenging Beijing's bottom line.”
There are two issues at stake here.
As pointed out by several Chinese, American and Indian commentators, New Delhi changed its thinking on the Dalai Lama in a way Beijing never expected. This way India has conveyed to whoever matters in the Sino-Pak theatre that continued diplomatic engagement post –NSG snub should not be taken as a weakness – politically, strategically or economically.
Moreover, India has always factored in China’s Pak- fixation in matters NSG membership, and blacklisting Masood Azhar, the terrorist. Only an uninitiated Sinologist would think that Beijing will do a tango with India just when it is getting sucked deeply into the Pakistani quagmire.
The short point is that China has found itself being needled in what is no more than a well-deserved tit- for – tat act. But it will be patently unfair to say that by allowing the 14th Dalai Lama, the longest exile in the country, to visit Tawang, India has deliberately paid no attention to the China’s sensitivities. This is because there is a religious side to the persona of Dalai Lama.
It is pertinent however to ask whether China ever paid attention to Indian sensitivities. What about the stapled visas Beijing has patented when it comes to welcoming the residents of Arunachal Pradesh and officials working there. Sensitivity cannot be a one –sided affair. “You respect me but do not expect me to respect you” syndrome is good at a proletariat theatre of the absurd, and not in relations between two sovereign nations, more so when both are economic tigers in their own right.
India’s junior minister at the Home Office, Kiren Rijiju, has put the Dalai Lama visit to Arunachal Pradesh in perspective. He is qualified to speak, rather react to China’s diatribe because he belongs to Arunachal Pradesh. And he is a Buddhist by faith and practice.
“There is no political angle behind His Holiness’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. It is completely religious. Arunachal Pradesh is an inseparable part of India, and China should not object to his visit and interfere in India’s internal affairs,” he remarked, rubbing the point: “We are not interfering in the internal matters of China and that country should not interfere in ours.”
Rijiju’s remarks came as the Dalai Lama reached the mid-point of his 12-day swing through Assam and Arunachal Pradesh from 4th April. His first engagement was in Guwahati, capital of Assam. It was the first ever Namami Festival of the mighty Brahmaputra river which runs across Tibet, flows down into Assam and Bangladesh and merges with the Bay of Bengal.
In Arunachal Pradesh, Dalai Lama consecrated the Thubchok Gatsel Ling Monastery in Tawang district. And at Tawang, he visited the world famous Twang Monastery and held discourses on meditation providing a perfect backdrop to his recent observation to an American TV audience that “Chinese hardliners have parts of brain missing”.
- Asian Tribune –