Monday, October 26, 2009

India, China Talks At ASEAN Summit

Despite differences of opinion, the balance in political India-China relationship will remain unaffected. The existing bi-lateral issues will be solved through discussions. This was obviously the message conveyed by the meeting between Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Thailand. This can be regarded as a ray of hope amid tension between the countries over Arunachal Pradesh and Dalai Lama.

Undeniable Fact
Prime Minister Dr. Singh usually creates a good impression on those he meets and Wen Jiabao was no exception. That is why he expressed his enthusiasm after the meeting. This might be a normal diplomatic etiquette. Yet, if it is followed by a resolve to trust, goodwill and better understanding of each other, efforts made to carry it out must be taken seriously. No controversial issues were taken up at this meeting and rightly too.

What is an undeniable fact is that Arunachal Pradesh is India's integral part. Recently, elections have been held there and the Congress party won by a huge majority to form the government in the state. However, the External Affairs Ministry regards Dalai Lama as a religious leader. Therefore, he is free to go anywhere he wants. This meeting will be considered as successful only when China stops issuing provocative statements. China must also appreciate India's concern if it builds a dam on the Brahamaputra River to run its projects in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Increasing Trade Cooperation
Therefore, it is necessary to start the process of a dialogue on these questions. Normally, collaboration on other fronts plays a major role in making this possible. The new India- China equation being formed with the United States on climate change, or the ongoing meeting between the ASEAN countries and East Asia for increasing trade cooperation can be of immense help to the countries in this regard. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been emphasizing the need for the country to "look east" for some years. The trade agreement reached with the ASEAN countries in August was an important step taken in that direction.

As India becomes more active in the changing economic relations in Asia, it will be easier to solve border and political disputes with neighbors like China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. Japan is eager to have an Asian Union similar to the European Union.

China is likely to object to India's presence and importance in it. Nevertheless, India must try to solve these knotty problems instead of being instigated by them. This will speak volumes about our diplomatic skill. It will also pave the way for a better understanding with China.

Growing Tension
After the recent tension and war of words between India and China, the friendly attitude displayed by the leaders of both countries at Thailand's tourist destination Hua Hin is important. In his nearly one-hour-talk with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Singh has given his consent to developing mutual confidence and understanding, and strengthening bilateral strategic relations.

Indian External Affairs Ministry officials say controversial issues like Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama's Arunachal Pradesh visit were not part of the talks between the leaders. It seems these issues have been left for the talks between the foreign ministers of both countries to be held shortly. When two apex leaders meet, they give priority to improving mutual relations. As far as India and China are concerned, their relations in the past two decades have been full of ups and downs. Against this background, Dr. Singh and Jiabao have held talks on global, regional, and bilateral issues.

Toward Better Ties
Jiabao has termed the talks significant and admitted that both countries could establish better relations in the future, which would be in the interest of both countries. But how would this be possible when China is cooperating in projects in the northern part of Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan, and is following the policy of considering Kashmir as a separate country from India? While it professes to be India's friend, at the same time China is adopting the policy of power balance against India -- how could both these things go together?

There is no doubt that it would not be easy to improve relations that are uneasy, doubtful, and plagued with problems, but there must be efforts at making a meaningful beginning, even if success appears to be very far. Looking at the unipolar situation in the world, China needs India for the management of new world order, and to deal with the imbalance created by the present attitude.

India also needs China, and this cannot be denied. This is the reason that Dr. Singh and Jiabao have reiterated in one voice that India and China would strengthen their relations keeping their mutual interests in view, and the disputes would not come in its way. This should be looked at as a beginning in the direction of improving relations.

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