Speaking at a virtual event to mark China’s 73rd anniversary, the Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, made statements, which were untrue. He mentioned, ‘The current border situation (between India and China) is overall stable.’ He added, ‘The phase of emergency response since the Galwan Valley incident has basically come to an end, and the border situation is switching to normalised management and control.’ Sun Weidong has been singing a similar song on multiple platforms, in recent times. but to no avail. This is because reality is the opposite. For India, normalcy is de-induction which would follow de-escalation, resulting in additionally deployed troops returning to barracks.
Sun Weidong also wrongly believes that by purchasing advertising space in a couple of major Indian dailies to spread Chinese propaganda, including their perception of the border dispute, he can change Indian mindset or win support. Indians are well aware of Chinese games. Sun Weidong blocks those who question him on social media, as he has no answers.
The Chinese mouthpiece, The China Daily, went a stage further and mentioned that Weidong had placed four proposals to the Indian government. These included ‘promoting mutual understanding and trust, promoting win-win cooperation, properly handling differences and sensitive issues and finally strengthening coordination and collaboration.’ These proposals are a modified version of what S Jaishankar has stated on multiple occasions. Jaishankar has been insisting that for relations to progress there must be ‘mutual respect, mutual interest and mutual sensitivity.’ These have no meaning unless implemented by China.
China has displayed its anti-India stance by intruding into its territory, blocking known Pak terrorists from being designated global terrorists by the UNSC as also being a stumbling block for India’s entry to global bodies such as the NSC (Nuclear Suppliers Group). On the contrary its ambassador expects India to adhere to its perception of the border. Is Weidong joking? It is for China to take the first step and follow what its ambassador proposes.
A larger concern for China is India’s approach towards its ‘one China policy.’ Post multiple visits from US elected representatives to Taiwan commencing with Nancy Pelosi, Sun Weidong requested India to reiterate its one China policy. This was rejected. Hence, in his recent address he stated, ‘It is hoped that the Indian side can properly handle issues related to China’s core interests, including (the) Taiwan question and Xizang-related issues.’ The Indian foreign office refused to respond to this statement. To add to insult, India openly backed the Dalai Lama on his visit to Ladakh, over which the Chinese maintained silence, aware that any comments would be ignored.
A fortnight ago, the Indian army chief, General Manoj Pande, stated that unless Demchok and Depsang are resolved, the next step of de-escalation and de-induction cannot commence. A similar comment was made by the air chief in his pre-air force day press conference. The foreign office reiterated their stand. S Jaishankar, has repeatedly insisted that unless the border situation is resolved, normalcy in bilateral ties cannot be expected. He openly criticized Chinese backing to Pak terrorists in his UNGA address.
India has displayed its displeasure towards Chinese leaders in global forums, which Weidong ignored. Jaishankar had no interaction with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, despite sharing a common platform in multiple multilateral meets. PM Modi neither acknowledged Xi Jinping’s presence nor shook his hand in a gesture of courtesy, while standing together for a photograph at Samarkand. Xi attempted to mend fences when he backed India’s rotating presidency of the SCO as also sent a letter of congratulations to the Indian President, Draupadi Murmu, on her inauguration.
The Chinese foreign minister visited India, in March this year, with proposals similar to those being put forth by their ambassador but was given a cold shoulder. A return visit by Jaishankar to Beijing, displaying Indian intent to restore ties, is nowhere on the cards. India, aware of its diplomatic power and military ability to stall future Chinese misadventures, is unwilling to relent.
Currently China faces global pressures for human rights, backing Russian invasion of Ukraine and its aggressiveness. Its economy is moving downhill, global manufacturing companies shifting base and zero COVID policy failing. Fear of a collapsing Yuan has resulted in Chinese banks being directed to sell Dollars and purchase offshore Yuan. Its debt trap BRI is being discarded with nations owing money unable to repay.
Simultaneously, the QUAD is becoming effective adding to China’s challenges. If the impact of QUAD is to be reduced, China needs India. India recently displayed its anti-China stance at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) where it convinced member states not to back the Chinese proposal of criticizing the procurement of nuclear submarines by Australia as a violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, compelling China to withdraw it.
Indian and Chinese embassies in Sri Lanka also had a media spat over the docking of a Chinese research vessel in Hambantota port against Indian security concerns. China sought to project it as a diplomatic victory while accusing India of pressurizing Columbo. This was effectively retaliated to by the Indian embassy, targeting Chinese debt trap financing being responsible for Sri Lanka’s economic collapse.
China is attempting to legalize its current deployment in Ladakh and thus is pushing through every mechanism, including its ambassador as also foreign minister, for India to accept it and resume ties. It appears to be hinting that it is unwilling for further resolution. India, on its part, refuses to dilute its laid down preconditions for normalization of ties. Simultaneously, India is developing its border infrastructure as also enhancing military capabilities of its forces deployed in Ladakh.
It is a fact that Indo-China relations are frayed. No quantum of false truths by its ambassador or full-page newspaper advertisements containing Chinese propaganda will alter opinions or mend ties. Beijing must pull back from all friction points. India is no longer the meek nation China has presumed it to be. Indian leaders refused to acknowledge their Chinese counterparts in multilateral meetings, observed by a global audience, and will continue projecting their displeasure unless China restores desired normalcy along the LAC.
The author is Major General (Retd)