Sunday, January 8, 2012

India- China (un)pinned!

 The laundry list of cribs against China has a fresh addition - Panging is the new pain in India-China relations - the denial of visa to Arunachal Pradesh born  Sukhoi-pilot Group Captain M. Panging - and the Indian government’s decision to press on with the military delegation’s visit has once again given hate-China brigade a new set of ammunition. According to Tarun Vijay of the BJP, “It’s shocking to know that the government is sending a military delegation to China... This is conceding Chinese claim on Arunachal through the backdoor and demoralizing the Indian armed forces.” An editorial in a leading national newspaper says, “The fact that Panging has been dropped from the delegation is bound to give the impression that India has cowed down to the Chinese belligerence.”

There is no gainsaying the fact that there is an element of arrogance in the Chinese behaviour, the kind that comes packaged with the increase in wealth. But is Beijing’s visa policy a new behavioral trait that the Indians were not aware of? The increased consumption of stapler pins by the Chinese embassy has been agonizing Indians for a long time. In fact, it is despite these pinpricks that the Indian government (MEA) has decided to mend fences with China. It is to make China see the futility of subjecting Indian passports to acupuncture that New Delhi has decided to send a healthy military delegation.

Now with these facts well known - the questions that obviously arise - Why was care not taken to avoid including Group Captain M. Panging’s name in the delegation list to visit China? Did the air headquarters forward his name or was it the ministry of defence that asked for a passport of an officer from Arunachal to be sent along?  Was it a deliberate ploy to use Panging to test the extent that the Chinese would go to welcome the Indian military? These questions beg answer because according to reports, the MoD had failed to seek the mandatory clearances from the committee of secretaries (COS) headed by the cabinet secretary, prior to sending the passports to the Chinese embassy. Whatever, the mess - whether deliberate or lackadaisical on the part of the MoD - the fact is, this stupid ‘smart act’ has unnecessarily sent wrong signals to the officers from North East serving the Indian armed forces. It has also exposed the chinks in India’s foreign policy making process. The service headquarters, MoD and the ministry of external affairs’ (MEA) understanding of national strategic goals seems to be at variance.

The lenses that the three are using to view China seem to be of different make and design. While the MEA sees future opportunities in courting China - the MoD aware of its influence in defence procurement is more interested in the present - day-to-day confrontation with China – and the service headquarters continue to be mired in the past.

The mindset vis-a-vis China needs to change, as home minister P Chidambram says, “We should not fear competition from China. There is no reason to envy China. If at all, we should try to emulate China.”  According to assistant foreign minister Liu Zhenmin, “China is willing to make joint efforts with India to continuously… deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and properly handle issues concerning the bilateral relationship… China hopes that the two sides will support each other and learn from each other, so as to push for better and faster development of Sino-Indian strategic and cooperative partnership.” The two Asian giants cannot waste their energy in trying to poke each other nor can they afford other countries to guide the agenda of their engagement.

The agenda is clear - the Asian continent has to be war-free - It cannot become a test site for new weapon systems. If America feels that its security is threatened because of Asian instability then all Asian navies must anchor in American waters and provide Washington the ultimate security free of cost.

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