Need for Changing the Course of Sino-Indian Relations
Debasish Chaudhuri

The most important task for us ahead of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit in the middle of next month is to grasp the essence of the book ‘Diplomacy Today: Subject and Method’ written by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov last year. It is essential to remember the following words of this seasoned diplomat: ‘ours is the time of sweeping transformations, which call for profound comprehension, otherwise the diplomacy of any state might lose its contacts with reality and, therefore, its efficiency of a foreign policy instrument’.

Indian leadership, practitioners and experts of foreign policy are often misguided by long sustained notions of permanent friendship and ideological (dis)orientation. It is a source of our pride that India has never invented any foreign enemy. But it is essential now to take cognisance of the fact that foreign policy decisions of many countries follow the binary logic of friend and foe. There cannot be any fix pattern of developing friendship or permanent friend in the international arena. In the contemporary world zero sum game is a misnomer as far as bilateral or multilateral equations among nations are concerned.

Lavrov tends to make us believe that future international relations will be de-ideologised. There is however no sign of consensus building among authoritarian and democratic states to remove fundamental differences. Furthermore, authoritarian states like China continue to legitimise anti-liberal authoritarian practices in ideological terms. Unfortunately, in order to gain economic benefits, an increasing number of Western leaders are maintaining silence on China’s complete denial of fundamental rights to its own people and the ‘others’ inside its boundary. This is the reality we are living with.

Democracy is India’s state ideology. It embraces the principles of tolerance, coexistence and pluralism. We should relate our democratic ways of life with national security and interest. Security of our territorial sovereignty and national interests would not only ensure freedom in the public sphere in India but also help keep the hope for democracy alive across the world. It is time we highlight our democratic principles in the foreign policy pronouncements and promote the peace embedded in our civilisation. India does not need any separate set of principles or propaganda slogans like ‘peaceful rise’ to assure willingness to live and develop peacefully along with the rest of the world.

China is quite successful in establishing its one-party political structure, which is responsible for rapid economic development and brought prosperity to its people. The larger truth is that Chinese model has also created huge economic disparities and social injustices. The US president Barack Obama during his visit to India and Indonesia has rightly pointed out that it is because of democracy that the two countries have developed considerably. Many developing countries with democratic setup might be lagging far behind China in terms of GDP growth, but people of these countries enjoy full right to vote and freedom of expression, whereas Chinese are completely deprived of expressing their opinion.

Situation in China is such that its own premier was also not spared from systematic attacks by the Chinese official news paper after he commented in Shenzhen last August that ‘if there is no guarantee of reform of the political system, then results obtained from economic development may be lost and the goal of modernisation cannot be achieved’. In the Fifth Plenum of the 17th CPC Central Committee, the question of political reform was not taken up seriously and the party preferred to continue with ‘people’s democracy’, which was claimed to be conducive to China’s national situation and superior to democracy practiced in various countries in the world.

The prevalent public opinion in India is that China has committed serious violations of fundamental rights in Tibet and many other bordering areas of the country in the name of people’s war, people’s democracy and development. China should not have any illusion that its actions in Tibet and Taiwan are justifiable by its avowed principles of peaceful co-existence. It is the demand of globalisation that the PRC should accept to live peacefully with its own ‘others’ in Tibet and Xinjiang as well as its compatriots of Taiwan.

In this backdrop, Indians judge China’s growing interests in Kashmir. Issuance of stapled visa to the Kashmiri domiciles, rejection of Lt. Gen. Jaswal’s visa and increasing Chinese presence in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) are considered as gross interference in India’s internal affairs.

The Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s rhetorical comment ‘China’s diplomacy is people’s diplomacy’ is one more addition to the repository of official jargon. The minister should be reminded that China has to start people’s diplomacy first with its own people. In order to create a global public opinion, China needs to create favourable opinion among Indian masses for the simple reason that India has a population of more than one billion. Network diplomacy and economic diplomacy might help them buy silence of some countries. That may be employed to try and convince a number of officials amongst international community that this year’s Nobel Peace Award winner Liu Xiaobo is a ‘criminal’ in the eyes of Chinese law and dissuade them from attending the award ceremony in Oslo. But it is difficult to convince billions of people across the world that China is always right, its model of development is flawless and its manner of rise is harmless.

A clear and candid message should be given to China by Indian leadership that India is a big emerging modern nation with long civilisational tradition. India has capability to protect itself from any country from future humiliation. Chinese leaders often mention that both countries had suffered at the hands of imperialists and have been going through similar fate as two big populous developing countries in the modern era. China should prove that it really considers India as an important neighbour which has never interfered in China’s internal affairs. India expects due respect and reciprocity from China in different spheres.

Indian leaders should also look forward to learn from Wen Jiabao. This honest and bold leader of China, though not popular in the conservative circle in the party for his liberal political views, has been working hard to develop good relations among nations with the determination of avoiding future humiliation at the hands of old and new imperialist forces. The Indian political class should also evaluate their own performance as the guardian of democracy. And the whole nation should pledge to protect its democratic institutions and remember those who are struggling hard for acquiring democratic rights that every human being deserves.

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Published Date : November 25, 2010

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