Force Magazine

 Art of Peace
 India’s relations with China should be built on dignity and mutual respect

Chinese premier Li Keqiang with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s recent visit to India was important from various standpoints. The number two ranking leader of the recently nominated Chinese fifth generation leadership, Keqiang had chosen India as his first overseas destination; Indian analysts saw this as significant development for growing bilateral relations. The visit, which was planned in advance, was preceded by Chinese border guards’ incursion in Ladakh, where they sauntered in and out after tenting themselves for 20 days on Indian territory. And, on the eve of his India stopover, Keqiang, writing in a prominent Indian newspaper said that he wanted a warm handshake across the Himalayas, with focus on a peaceful border and robust bilateral trade. Given the divergent signals of cooperation and confrontation, the Indian ambassador in China, S. Jaishankar, when asked by the media to comment on the Chinese leader’s visit, said that he found the incursion ‘unusual’.

His assessment of Chinese incursion was in line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling it a ‘localised affair’, and foreign minister Salman Khurshid dismissing it as ‘acne on a beautiful face.’ Khurshid went further by saying that the crisis (incursion) would have been resolved earlier if the media had not come to know about it; the final credit for resolving the crisis went to the National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, who the nation was told succeeded in breaking the stalemate by ‘tough diplomacy’ without giving away anything to the Chinese. This is not all. Government leaks hinted at dissonance between the Chinese foreign office and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as the reason for the incursion.

Once the incursion was explained, Delhi braced itself for welcoming Li Keqiang to India. While the Prime minister flagged peace on the border as essential for burgeoning bilateral relations, he deftly ensured that other irritants in bilateral relations like trans-border common rivers issue, and trade imbalance were flagged on the same page. Care was taken not to ask two tough questions on the unholy relationship between China and Pakistan, which have a direct bearing on India’s security, from the visiting dignitary: What are PLA soldiers doing in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), and why does China continue to clandestinely trade in restrictive technologies which include tactical nuclear weapons’ design and long range cruise missiles with Pakistan?
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