No Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai
Ravi Shanker Kapoor
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his recent meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in Hanoi, raised the issue of stapled visas that Beijing gives to Kashmiris. “The Prime Minister raised the issue of all difficult questions and showing sensitivity to each other… The Prime Minister spoke of the need to show sensitivity to each other’s core issues,” National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told reporters. Unfortunately, Singh’s decent pleading is unlikely to make the Chinese become sensitive or sensible.
The primary reason that China raked up the stapled visa issue on the eve of the Prime Minister’s East Asia visit—and will continue to chafe and fret India one way or the other—is that it views the world from a nineteenth century perspective. In Beijing’s scheme of things, there are powers vying, and often warring, with each other over colonies, areas of influence, and such delicacies that were coveted by the imperialists in those days. And China suffers from an imperial hangover. It is a strangest hangover, as the Chinese did not have an empire in the last few centuries. For the British to have such a nostalgia is understandable, because they could boast of an empire in which the sun never set. But the Chinese? Not only they were not an imperial power, they were actually a victim of imperialism. It is like having a hangover in the morning without having consumed alcohol in the previous evening!
Consequently, China sees India as its rival, this despite the fact that no government in Independent India has done anything provocative (In fact, in general India has not done any harm to any country of the world since 1947). Whether it was Nehru, who went overboard to placate the treacherous Mao, or Manmohan Singh, whose government has done everything to please the Chinese—we have always been patient with Beijing. What did we get in the deal? A bloody war (1962), capture of our land, sustained Chinese military aid to Pakistan, arming of and abetment to insurgents in our North-East, a fierce competition for energy resources all over the world.
China’s insistence on issuing stapled visas should be seen in the context of its policy of encirclement: Beijing wants to keep our country bogged down in every possible manner—politically, militarily, economically and diplomatically. Brazenly dismissing New Delhi’s assertion that Beijing should respect India’s sensitivities on Kashmir, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said, “Though China had friendly relations with India, its policy towards the stapled visas for residents of the state remained unchanged.”
In other words, the issuing of stapled visas, which is tantamount to doubting Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to India, will continue. It is telling us, ‘We don’t give a damn what your think or feel. We’ll do what we thing is right. Period.’
After China began the stapled visas policy about two years ago, India many times made its displeasure known to it, but to no avail. Beijing even gave such a visa to India’s Northern Area Commander, Lt Gen BS Jaswal. In anger, India suspended the defence exchanges for which Jaswal was traveling to China. The exchanges were put on “pause” till China reverts to its earlier position on Jammu & Kashmir. But China is not bothered.
Once again, in the wake of Ma’s statement, India has made it clear that J&K is an integral part of India. The timing of Ma’s statement is also important; it came three days ahead of a meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and China. This is typically Chinese: they time their outrages to chafe India. Way back in February 1979, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on an official visit to Beijing in his capacity as foreign minister, China chose to attack Vietnam.
At the same time, the Chinese know that there is considerable gullibility in India’s political class. So, even as they question Kashmir’s accession to India, they send a top leader to India on a “goodwill” visit! Zhou Yongkang, ninth in hierarchy of the ruling Communist Party of China, visits Delhi. For the gullible, the Chinese remain inscrutable.
They confuse us, and we continue to appease them. India, for instance, did not congratulate this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chinese dissident leader Liu Xiaobo. All major democracies did that; we didn’t. We thought this would please the Chinese and they would not humiliate us. Churchill once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” We should not hope for a crocodile’s mercy. Or a dragon’s friendship.
Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a journalist and author
- PM, Wen Jiabao discuss stapled visa row (ibnlive.in.com)
- Plenty of room, China tells India (bbc.co.uk)
- Chinese PM says he will visit India this year (topinews.com)