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Borders Foreign Policy War and Conflict

Vacuous Summitry

Following the Doklam stand-off between India and China in mid-2017, the Wuhan ‘informal summit’ between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping the following April was seen as some sort of a tension-busting exercise and hosannas were sung to a new kind of diplomacy with talk of a ‘reset’ in the relationship. In the run-up to the second informal summit to be held at Chennai tomorrow[1], however, the shallowness of the exercise is now evident especially in the security and political realms.

Even if one were to ignore the fact that it was not until yesterday that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs finally confirmed that the summit was even on, the level of mutual suspicion today appears to be no less than was the case following Doklam.

Categories
Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

Reading between Chinese Lines

China’s new ambassador to India, Sun Weidong has been busy in the op-ed pages of major Indian newspapers since his arrival. The first of these articles came even before he had formally presented his credentials at Rashtrapati Bhavan.[1] This piece in The Hindu[2] talked about the long historical connections between the two countries represented by the ancient Buddhist site of Dunhuang in China’s Gansu province, the ‘pearl on the Silk Road’. While ostensibly about promoting people-to-people ties, the essay also regularly repeated such concepts and phrases as the ‘Silk Road spirit’, ‘harmony’ and ‘win-win cooperation’ seen as Chinese contributions to the lexicon of international relations, never mind that they remain poorly or vaguely defined. There is also, of course, the not so small matter of the rhetoric seldom matching the reality as both India’s own experiences and those of any number of China’s other neighbours show.

Spouting vague generalities of civilizational ties are however only a warm-up to the practical needs of ensuring the rest of the world accepts and backs Beijing’s positions on both the ongoing Hong Kong protests and the US-China trade war.

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Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

India-China Relations: Running on Empty

China’s decision to take India’s reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir to the UN Security Council raises several questions about its interest in durable good relations with India.

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing was clearly not enough to prevent China from issuing yet another statement declaring China’s ‘Clear Position on the Kashmir Issue’ on 12 August. This statement, which followed the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi and Jaishankar,[1] was essentially a combination of the two statements issued previously by the Chinese on 6 August on India’s decision in J&K[2] as a more specific one on Ladakh.[3]

Even if held behind closed doors, the UNSC meeting on 16 August was significant because it was for the first time since 1965 that it had convened exclusively to discuss the Kashmir dispute.

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Borders Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

Chinese Reactions to India’s Reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir

The change in status of the state of Jammu & Kashmir effected by the Indian central government has led to considerable international attention, including from China.

On 6 August, the Chinese Foreign Ministry offered two separate comments: one “on the Current Situation in Jammu Kashmir”[1] and another more specifically “on the Indian Government’s Announcement of the Establishment of the Ladakh Union Territory Which Involves Chinese Territory”.[2]

In the first statement, while China declares that it is “seriously concerned” it asks “both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation” (emphasis mine). One should read this as the Chinese indicating they do not see it only as an Indian responsibility to “safeguard peace and stability in the region”[3], that Pakistan should not imagine it has sanction from Beijing to stoke military tensions in the wake of India’s actions.

Categories
Borders Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism

China-Pakistan Bus Service through PoK: Complaining is Easy

On the eve of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first state visit to China came the announcement that the two countries were starting a bus service along the Karakoram Highway between Kashgar in Xinjiang and Lahore.[1] The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was quick to protest on the grounds that the bus service passed through Indian territory under occupation by Pakistan.

The MEA statement leaves out the fact that this is not the first bus service between China and Pakistan. The first was launched in June 2006 between Gilgit and Kashgar, used by both traders from Pakistan and Chinese tourists and traders. Just a month earlier, a truck service had also begun with Chinese traders allowed to bring their vehicles up to Karachi and Gwadar.

There is no record of the MEA having protested these Sino-Pak connectivity services in 2006.[2]

Categories
Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy War and Conflict

China-India-Pakistan Trilateral: Red Herring and Opportunity

At an event in mid-June organized at the initiative of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, China’s envoy, Amb. Luo Zhaohui noting that India and Pakistan had become full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization mooted the idea of a ‘China-India-Pakistan Leaders Meeting … under the SCO framework’.

The last time the Chinese envoy came up with a trilateral idea for cooperation was at a speech at the United Service Institution of India in May 2017 where he suggested that the name of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could be changed to accommodate Indian sensitivities. That speech can no longer be found on the Chinese Embassy website indicating that he possibly spoke out of turn or at least ruffled some feathers in Beijing and/or across the border.

Nevertheless, Amb. Luo’s latest speech is unlikely to disappear if for nothing else because the trilateral idea is not a new one.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy War and Conflict

China and Pakistan: Towards Increasing Dissonance?

Presentation titled, “Sino-Pak Partnership: Changing Strategically” at International Workshop on Recent Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific and India-China Relations, Institute of Chinese Communist Studies, Taipei, Taiwan, 31 July 2013.

A. an important objective of the Sino-Pak relationship is to keep India off-balance.

a. Sino-Pak military cooperation is the primary method                                 i.      this involves the Chinese sale of conventional weapons  as well as earlier transfers of nuclear weapons

ii.      today, there is also transfer of civilian nuclear technology that can no doubt be put to dual use by Pakistan

iii.      cooperation with the Chinese military further strengthens the Pak military and helps to undermine still further the Pak civilian government’s attempts at putting down deep roots.

iv.      however, could there also be Chinese concerns about Pakistani military capabilities, if not Pakistani reliability in general, given the Abbottabad attack on Osama bin Laden’s hide-out by US special forces?

b. Sino-Pak political cooperation is secondary 

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Borders Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

Arunachal: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward?

In July 2011, China issued stapled visas to Arunachali members of an Indian karate team to China, who were later duly stopped from proceeding by Indian immigration authorities. This Chinese action is the latest in a long list of moves designed to highlight their claim over Arunachal Pradesh.

Yet, it would be a mistake to call this a provocation. There is a difference between stapled visas being issued for Kashmiris and those for Arunachalis.

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Borders Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir

Presentation: Jabin T. Jacob, “Interpreting China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir,” Conference on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Internal Dynamics and Externalities, Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, 28 March 2011.

Summary: While Pakistan remains a vital cog of China’s South Asia policy it is important to note that the superlative is not applicable in Sino-Pak relations; rather, a range of factors influence Chinese policy including India, the United States and now the progress and consequences of the American drawdown in Afghanistan. Kashmir is but one factor in the larger Chinese calculus.

Further, as important as China’s geopolitical interests in the region are, it has other wider interests globally on which India, more than Pakistan, is an important actor. Thus, whether on climate change or global trade negotiations and in a variety of multilateral organizations ranging from the Kunming Initiative to the Russia-India-China trilateral and the BRICS grouping, India is a key player that China has to engage with. Against such a backdrop, China tries both to prevent India from truly rising to challenge China as well as to ensure that it can work together with India when necessary. Given Indian sensitivities over Kashmir, China’s Kashmir policy forms a useful leverage with India. But there is a fine balance that China needs to achieve which will be increasingly difficult as India grows more powerful on the world stage and if Pakistan continues to remain unstable. China will therefore, have to make some important choices in this regard, in the future.

Meanwhile, India too can contribute to modifying China’s Kashmir policy in its interests. On the positive side of things, showing greater interest in border trade across the LAC with both Tibet and Xinjiang and through them with the rest of China is one way. But most measures will have to be non-Kashmir-specific in nature including greater openness of the Indian economy as a whole to Chinese investments and trade with China. In the more negative set of actions are of course, classic geopolitical games such as balancing with the US or a host of China’s smaller, neighbours fearful of its rise.

What methods China or India will adopt, however, remain to be seen.