News & Views
India has the habit of testing the patience of its strong neighbors by flexing muscles, as it did with China in 1962 and faced the consequences. Recently, India invited Dolkun Isa, a leader of the World Uighur Congress, to a conference to be held on April 28 organised by the US-based Initiatives for China. Uighurs and other Chinese dissidents in exile were to attend the conference and discuss democratic transformation in China. However, Isa’s visa was withdrawn days after China lodged official protests through diplomatic channels, and reminded Delhi about the “red corner notice” on him. New Delhi was also reminded that Chinese will make it a major bilateral issue, sources said. In addition to demarche, the Chinese side had hinted that Beijing may raise the issue of India allowing a “terrorist” to come and attend a conference, at the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan.
Days after India issued a tourist visa to Chinese dissident Dolkun Isa and three others allowing them to visit the country for a conference in Dharamsala, New Delhi cancelled the visa, as per NDTV’s report. The decision came after Beijing protested the move, calling Isa a terrorist, who lives in Germany and was invited to the conference being organised by the US-based Initiatives for China. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s stated: “What I want to point out is that Dolkun is a terrorist in red notice of the Interpol and Chinese police. Bringing him to justice is due obligation of relevant countries.” Reacting to the Indian move, Isa said: “On 23 April, I got a very short note by the Indian side that my visa is cancelled. There was no explanation.” He, however, speculated it may have been because of Chinese pressure on the Indian government.
There is a perception that India’s decision to permit WUC leaders whom China regards as backers of terrorism in its volatile Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province was reported to be in response to Beijing blocking Indian bid to get Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar banned by the UN. In 2009 also, China had expressed its anger over the planned visit of Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, and had warned that there should no political speeches. Dalai Lama of course avoided any political statement during the trip, as he did not like to exacerbate the tension between China and India. According to Indian press reports, China’s soldiers, helicopters and even fighter jets had been intruding in the disputed territory to slowly and steadily retrieve the area. Though Chinese media had never created hype about its territorial dispute with India, yet Chinese diplomats, intellectuals and leaders of the public opinion asserted claims over Arunachal Pradesh.
The same year, international media had carried reports that India significantly upgraded its military prowess along the border it shares with China, deploying two army divisions along with a squadron of top-of-the-line Sukhoi Su-30MKI warplanes at a critical base in the north-east. Chinese leadership as usual remained well-composed, as it neither bullied other countries nor accepted any nonsense even from the super power. In 1962, when India tried to flex its muscles, Chinese troops had advanced to 48 kilometers in Assam plains and also occupied Indian forces’ strategic posts in Ladakh in 1962. The border clashes with China were a direct consequence of the Tibetan problem that cropped up when the Dalai Lama had fled to India. Since then it has become a flashpoint that could spark a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, though both countries held series of negotiations to resolve the territorial dispute, but to no avail.
However, after British Foreign Office clarification on Oct 29 2008 admitting that Tibet was part of China, Indian position has weakened. Relations between China and India improved since a brief border war in 1962, but deep suspicion over a longstanding territorial dispute remains an obstacle to achieve full potential of economic ties between the two neighbors. Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao had visited India from Nov 3-7 2015. Reportedly, he discussed rather complained about the Indian support to East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for creating unrest in China’s Xinjiang region. Since independence of India and China in 1947 and 1948 respectively, both countries could not decide how far their borders went as the countries’ borders had changed at various times. China and India has two border issues – Aksai Chin (western front) and Arunachal Pradesh in North East India (Eastern Front).
Neither the terrain nor its history bore any evidence of a connection of Arunachal Pradesh with India, but Nehru was too headstrong and he was emboldened by the fact that both super powers the US and the USSR were against China at that time. Nehru thought that he could get away with his claim and China would not dare attack India, but his gamble failed and India had lost the war. China taught India a lesson while still sending a powerful message to the rest of the world that it would not compromise its security and its inalienable parts. During Cold War era, India was in the Soviet camp, and Pakistan was intertwined in defence pacts with the West and the US. Since differences between Soviet Union and China emerged over interpretations of Marxism and other factors, India opposed China to benefit from both the super powers.
India has been assuring the US and the West that it would help contain China, as they were wary of rising military strength of China which they believed was focused on countering US power. Despite apparently cordial relations, the US continued the policy of containing China and criticising it for human rights violations. In October 2010, award of Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was a part of the plot to denigrate China. The Nobel Committee while awarding the Peace Prize 2010 to the Chinese dissident had stated that it was given for his long non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. But Norwegian Nobel Committee at the same time had acknowledged that “China has had economic growth hardly comparable in history, and lifted millions of people out of poverty”. However, the committee had failed to grasp the true sense or real meaning of freedoms and fundamental rights.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.