Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chinese chequers

News Insight Sunday, July 31, 2011
Learn from the Sino-Indian border talks and apply it to Pakistan, says N.V.Subramanian.

25 July 2011: In its anxiety to resolve the border issue with China and make peace with Pakistan, India is giving the upper hand to both countries, its sworn enemies. India would be better off learning from China how to manage a subordinate power and applying those lessons appropriately with Pakistan.

China, broadly speaking, has huge problems in Xinjiang and Tibet. Unrest in the Uighur and Tibetan provinces enjoy varying degrees of Western and especially US support. Uighur separatism is tinged with Islamic terrorism with links to the Al-Qaeda and Taliban in the FATA region of Pakistan. To that extent, the support to the Uighurs is selective and cautious.

But the Tibetan cause for complete autonomy within China is more warmly and unconditionally embraced by the West. China fears Tibetan separatism more than Uighur nationalism, but the stature of the Dalai Lama limits its aggression against Tibetans. The Uighurs have no equivalent leader with a world following.

The Dalai Lama has made India his home. That is one cause for China's hostility towards India and the hidden reason for the 1962 war. China could have coaxed India in the past to pressure the Dalai Lama to leave the country in return for better relations. India would probably rebuff such a move. But there is no public evidence that China has explicitly made such a link.

Rather, China has never lost sight of its position as the biggest power in Southern Asia, and sought to deal with India on that basis. China has never said no to border talks, or to undertake CBMs on the disputed frontier. But it has never shown urgency to resolve the dispute.

On the other hand, India has been keen to settle the issue, and has consequently made compromises on the Tibetan matter. In doing so, India advertises its subordinate status. But China is playing for time. It calculates that in a not-so-distant future, it will be able to remake the border with India as it sees fit.

This may not -- and probably will not -- happen. But it does not stop China from dragging the border issue and preventing its resolution.

This is the model India must apply in its dealings with Pakistan. To be sure, there must be understanding between Pakistan and China on the Jammu and Kashmir issue, because a portion of PoK is ceded to China, in addition to what China seized in 1962. But it should not forestall India from occasionally turning the screws on Pakistan.

Currently, India is initiating and setting the pace for talks with Pakistan. Despite being an inferior power, Pakistan has adopted the big daddy approach of China, expecting India to do all the heavy lifting. The result is the onus always falls on India to make the talks a success. Even when terrorist attacks (like 26/11) disrupt talks, the pressure on India to pick up the pieces is enormous. The US also leans on India to do so.

This must change. The US is squeezing Pakistan for the first time in thirty years. Military aid has been suspended. US intelligence is making strenuous efforts to move into the interiors of Pakistan, in NWFP, Baluchistan and Punjab, to keep a watch on terrorists and feared WMD leaks to terrorist elements. The ISI is facing America's wrath as never before.

This may all alter. The previous position of friendly-unfriendly ties between Pakistan and the US may be restored. But it does not look likely, not at least in the immediate term. This may not make a difference in Pakistan's attitude towards India. 13/7 has been linked back to the Lashkar-e-Toiba. And Pakistan is embarking on a massive deterrence build up against India, while keeping up the anti-India rhetoric.

But the change from before is that the US will be less likely successful to pressure India to talk to Pakistan. If the US finds Pakistan a treacherous ally, how can India trust Pakistan, a sworn enemy since their simultaneous Independence? It is here, and now, therefore, that India must import the China model to Indo-Pak talks.
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