Strange, show of sensitivity

It is puzzling why the Narenra Modi government was so solicitous of the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Instead of quietly urging on the Tibetan cause, the Delhi government under Central rule, as seems to be the convention whenever a Chinese notable is in town, acted as the Chinese ‘thanedar’. Hence the Delhi Police were marshalled in force to silence peaceful Tibetan protesters demanding a “Free Tibet” by manhandling and arresting them for the duration.
The main thing that distinguishes India from China (other than world class infrastructure — superfast trains, highways, etc) is democracy. And, it was the democratic rights of the Tibetans for peaceful protest and assembly were denied the Tibetans in India, much as the Tibetans in Tibet are, ironically, denied them by China! More astonishing still was the fact that the lone Arunachali in the cabinet, a Minister of State for Home no less, Kiiren Rijiju, was kept out of the State banquet and all other official interactions with Xi. Has GOI’s show of such sensitivity over Tibet vis a vis China fetched India anything over the years, except now all of Arunachal Pradesh is officially shown in Chinese maps as “Southern Tibet”. Some diplomatic exchange this! Instead, shouldn’t India have responded all these years — as per its own policy roots in recognition of only “autonomous region of Tibet” as falling within China”s sovereignty — and that if Tibet is not genuinely autonomous, doesn’t it logically follow that India is not bound to consider Tibert as in any way Chinese? Hence, shouldn’t Tibet then be shown in a different colour on Indian maps to denote its questionable status? When the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj equated India’s support for “Once China” policy with China’s “One India (including all of Arunachal Pradesh)” policy, there was reason to exult that India had entered upon a brave new world where national interest was uncomprisable and would be pushed hard. And then there was this show of deference to China. Modi’s personal relations with Xi are a great diplomatic plus, but so casually reverting to the Congress party era attitude to genuflecting to Beijing was unnecessary. Tibet is a strong leverage for New Delhi and the government shouldn’t shy away from using the Tibet card, with the Dalai Lama as the perfect knight to Beijing’s pawns. Beijing never has been influenced by concerns of showing sensitivity, or why else would Xi authorize PLA and “civilian”movement into the disputed Chumar sector of Ladakh knowing fully well it’d create a ruckus during his summit with Modi? It was a way of reminding India of Chinese claims. How to stake a position with regard to an autonomous Tibet and territorial claims on the LAC and sticking by them are something Modi needs quickly to learn from Xi.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia, Tibet. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Strange, show of sensitivity

  1. Shaurya says:

    Karnad ji: There is no grand vision nor even any grand policy change vision – that has been articulated, so why this expectation? Modi can get things done only as good as his team is. So, the question is how good is the team, he has assembled.

    • Tama Shah says:

      I have to disagree with the maxim that the leader can only be as good as his team. If that is indeed the case, then we might as well extend the notion and claim that a democracy can only be as good as its people (and I sometimes tend to think it to be true!). Moreover, Narendra Modi is known to be somewhat autocratic in his decision making. Given how overwhelmingly the BJP won the elections — entirely on the Modi brand name, I’d say — I highly doubt it’s the team in the driving seat.

      • Shaurya says:

        My point was on the team that makes and decides policy. CCS, MEA, NSC, NSAB all of these are the arms that suggest and make policy, especially as it relates to strategic relationships in foreign affairs. My question had to do with, where is the team?

        Putting it all on Modi is neither fair nor the reality. Modi has not yet assembled a technocratic team or a team of experts to manage change. Neither has he stated what his “policy” vision would be. Good intent and diligent execution – while necessary are not sufficient to enable India to get into a transformational warp is the critique of many learned.

        In context of this specific visit, Modi has either kowtowed to China or China has made a fool out of Modi and GoI is now reacting, having realized that they have been taken for a ride.

        A very astute observer remarked that what Modi is doing by focusing on the international area for now is to establish his credibility to lead India in the eyes of the world. He is a master of perception and event management. These theatrics are fine and politicians have to do this as it is their trade craft. What I am watching out for is the policy and its implementation.Not getting anything so far and not just for foreign policy.

  2. shekhar1954@gmail.com says:

    It is a pity that our foreign office has pleased the guest even if he is screwing you

    Sent from my HTC

  3. Tama Shah says:

    I’ve been following the events of a Modi-led India quite closely, and after his visit to Japan, I was quite upbeat! The Communist Party premiere’s visit has me fuming, to say the least. It seems to me that China arranged for this visit primarily to assess how much of a strategic threat India will be under the BJP, and by the end of the visit, they knew that it is not going to be threat at all. If the PLA can intrude into Indian territory on the eve of such a high-level diplomatic talk, there is nothing stopping us from selling Brahmos to Vietnam at the exact moment when Modi and Xi are shaking hands. Nothing, alas, but a lack of spine!

    I do want to get a clearer picture, though. Your narration of the Modi-Xi dialogue sheds a different light when compared to what Col. Dalvir Singh says here: http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/modis-realism-overtakes-nehrus-idealism/
    Could you please clarify the differences (especially about Tibetan protests outside Hyderabad House)? A part of me wants to believe that New Delhi was uber-sensitive about China’s feelings only to form the cloak, and there is a dagger somewhere beyond the reaches of public discourse.

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