China’s two statements, merely paying lip service and condemning the dastardly terrorist attack by the Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) at Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir and also opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, only prove that neither Doklam nor Wuhan seem to have made any difference to its attitude towards India.
Condemning the Pulwama attack, in which 45 men from the Central Reserve Police Force were killed in a ghastly attack claimed by the JeM while vetoing the declaration of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a UN-designated global terrorist is meaningless. Both these matters are typical of China’s ‘sweet and sour’ diplomacy.
Condemning China for opposing Modi's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India yet again reminded its recalcitrant neighbour that "the State of Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. Indian leaders visit Arunachal Pradesh from time to time, as they visit other parts of India. This consistent position has been conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions," read a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs after the Prime Minister’s recent visit.
The Indian rebuke was in response to the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' remarks which called for New Delhi to "respect the interests" of the Chinese side while objecting to Modi's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
"The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader's visit to the East Section of the China-India boundary," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement. Beijing “warned” India to "refrain from any action that may lead to escalation of disputes," adding, "China urges the Indian side to bear in mind the common interests of the two countries, respect the interests and concerns of the Chinese side, cherish the momentum of improvement in bilateral relations, and refrain from any action that may lead to the escalation of disputes or complicate the boundary question."
The Line of Actual Control (LAC), that demarcates the Indian and Chinese territory, traverses five Indian states, including Arunachal Pradesh. Since the military standoff at Bhutan's Doklam plateau ended in August 2017, the tension has remained, even as the troops of both India and China disengaged. Numerous instances of Chinese troops crossing the LAC in the Arunachal sector have been reported since then. Modi was on a whirlwind tour of the north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura last week, inaugurating projects with just a few months to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Following the official bilateral visit of China’s State Councilor and Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe to India from 21- 24 August 2018, marked by extensive discussions between him and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as well as Defence Ministry and Army officials and considering the Chinese renewal of activity in at least North Doklam and intrusions in other sectors like Demchok, this writer had expressed doubts about any meaningful effects of that meeting.
The unprecedented Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping meeting at Wuhan made waves because it was approached and organized/implemented differently compared to any previous Sino-Indian summits. Wuhan should have resulted in improvement of some basic essentials that India considers most important, i.e. peace on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), without the almost daily border dispute issues, fair-trade ties, ruffle-free politico-diplomatic relations and good/social, business, cultural and educational exchanges.
However, China’s latest objection to Modi’s tour of Arunachal Pradesh only confirms China’s compulsions and complexes about its relationship with India persist. It remains to be seen when and how, if ever, China will overcome these and opt for meaningful ties with India which can actually benefit both.
(The author is a former Defence Ministry and Indian Army spokesperson. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)