Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Visit of FM Wang Yi, the South China Sea [SCS] issue and Sino-Indian relations.

     Chinese FM Wang Yi is visiting India on 13 August 2016; his second since the Modi government came to power in May 2014. Wang Yi comes at a time when Sino-Indian bilateral relations, according to Global Times [Hu Weijia in GT, 8 Aug 2016], are witnessing "increasing tension in recent months owing to a series of political incidents". These "incidents" are not hard to identify and few in India would be unaware of them.
*The "advice" of GT to rescue the relationship and prevent further deterioration is that "India should focus on preserving good economic ties with China, rather than on the SCS issue". Implicitly contained in the "advice" is the threat that focusing on the SCS issue "might risk un-necessary side effects on Sino-Indian ties". Any one who has dealt with China would know that this translates itself to mean more tension, incursions, transgressions all along the Sino-Indian border. If any reminder was necessary for the hosts, the recent Barahoti incursion was timed as a "message" just prior to FM Wang Yi's visit and not as constituting any strategic threat to India.
* Apart from the "threat" a "carrot" is also contained in the GT article. The author of the article says that according to Chinese Customs data, India's exports to China have fallen by 16.7% year-on year for the first six months of this year. If India wishes for "generous treatment" in terms of tariff reductions on Indian exports to enable them to revive, it would be "unwise" for India to let its relations with China deteriorate further. In other words, stay out of the SCS imbroglio.
*There is no doubt that if Sino-Indian relations have deteriorated over the past few months, the onus lies largely on Chinese policies. What was the need, for example, to protect terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and others by providing them cover in the UNSC and thus give a severe jolt to Sino-Indian ties? It cannot be China's case that terrorism can be condoned simply because an ally provides the base for such horrendous activities and needs to be 'protected'.
*It would be a very poor bargain indeed if India were to accept staying out on the SCS issue on the promise of tariff reductions by Chinese authorities on Indian exports to China.
*If FM Wang Yi is in the mood for "bargaining" and this can be assessed during his visit; then the Indian authorities need to draw up their own list of substantial concessions and "red lines" that the Chinese should deliver on. Time is available, since two high level interactions with the Chinese are due shortly.
* PM Modi visits Hangzhou for the G-20 Summit in September and President Xi Jinping is due to visit Goa for the BRICS summit in October 2016. So what should India demand of the Chinese?

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