It’s indeed a rare sight to see China losing the plot as China has yet again done a complete U-turn on its stance on the Kashmir issue. Just two days after its Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng asserted that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and must be resolved through dialogue between India and Pakistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has retreated China’s earlier stance and has claimed that he is paying close attention to the situation in Kashmir and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. Even the most ardent fans of the Communist Party of China would admit that the Chinese government stance on Kashmir appears muddled and Xi Jinping seems to be losing the plot.
After making a statement favourable to India, China has now jumped back on its pro-Pakistan agenda which further underlines the fact that China cannot be trusted and is no one’s ‘friend’ and it would not be surprising if China again changes its stance when Xi Jinping meets PM Modi in Mamallapuram later today. As Mamallapuram is decked up to welcome Xi Jinping, there are growing concerns from the Chinese side that Xi Jinping would have to return empty-handed as India is miffed with China and has seen through its theatrics. India has also hardened its stance on Belt and Road Initiative post-China’s desperate attempts to coerce a UNSC statement on Kashmir bore no fruit. China tried every trick in the book to help Pakistan internationalise the issue of Kashmir with the former exercising its power as the permanent member of the UN Security Council to force a UN meeting on Kashmir during a closed-door UNSC meeting. China, who is used to having its way, was shell shocked when the closed-door meeting didn’t yield in any result or even a statement on Kashmir and desperately the Chinese delegation gave a statement on Kashmir post the meeting and tried to portray it as an official UNSC statement on Kashmir. China has also constantly made statements on Kashmir with utter disregard for India’s sovereignty, exposing the depths till which China can go to harm India’s interests.
India has taken cognisance of China’s unwarranted aggression and China has realised that the informal summit between Modi and Xi Jinping is going to yield little which will be a major embarrassment for the latter and with China’s move to mobilize all diplomatic capital to jeopardize India’s standing on the international scale, and failing, China stands exposed, while India stands vindicated.
China’s usual dominating tactics have turned into bland games that India can see through. With the pretence called out, not much can be amended in diplomatic scale, as the relations have hit rock bottom, reduced to trade ties at a time when China needs greater engagement with India amid the trade war. The trade war with the US continues to weigh on Chinese economy as the World Bank cut China’s 2019 gross domestic product forecast to 6.1 per cent with its headline growth forecast for next year also being cut by 0.3 percentage points to 5.9 per cent, with the World Bank predicting a drop to 5.8 per cent in 2021. At the same time, India has played China in its own game as the Indian Army carried out an Integrated Exercise in Eastern Ladakh and the Northern Command Chief, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh also having visited Eastern Ladakh and addressed Indian soldiers there, in what asserts India’s unhinging position on Ladakh and Aksai Chin. India is also conducting war games 14,000 feet above sea well in Arunachal Pradesh.
These series of events on the diplomatic front and the Indian assertiveness at the border have placed India in a greater position of power at the negotiating table ahead of the upcoming meeting, much to the disadvantage of China as the latter is uncomfortable recognising Ladakh as an integral part of India and brazenly claims the territory of Arunachal Pradesh as its own. Chinese objections to these military exercises have been paid no heed.
The informal summit between the two leaders is likely to go down the route of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s visit to India and will end up as a tourist visit by Xi Jinping. The coastal town of Mamallapuram is of historical significance to India-China ties as it shares ancient links with China going back about 2000 years ago. The town was the sea-port of the Pallava dynasty who had even sent their envoys to China. There is also archaeological evidence in the form of Chinese coins, suggesting trade links between the historic town and the dragon city. Interestingly, the earliest recorded security pact between India and China had been signed way back in the 8th century that involved the Pallava king, Rajasimhan, or Narasimha Varma II. The Chinese had at that time sought help from the Pallava ruler to counter Tibet which had at that time emerged as a big threat to China. Several centuries later, the Chinese would go on to invade and occupy Tibet.
Mamallapuram symbolises thriving trade and security relations between India and China, and how an Indian Kingdom protected China’s interests when it required help. This is significant as the modern Chinese regime is largely disrespectful towards India’s sovereignty and constantly works against India’s geopolitical and internal security interests, in tandem with Pakistan. This is unlike India, even in current times, as it has stayed out of China’s internal affairs, be it regarding Tibet or Xinjiang. PM Modi will give Xi Jinping an historical lesson and remind him of the ancient ties with India and how he has blown the ties with India for the foreseeable future.
The meet has been labelled as ‘informal’ for a reason as the two leaders wouldn’t be bound to agree to formal pacts and open their economies for large-scale investments as Beijing has always been wary of the impact on its global image by maintaining a close relationship with Pakistan. The concerns have only been grown with Pakistan facing the threat of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which will put the Chinese investments in jeopardy as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is not yielding the results as hoped by China. Xi Jinping seems to be confused and has been pushed into a corner where he can’t afford to alienate either Pakistan or India and is unable to do a balancing act as his Presidency begins to lose its sheen.