India is not insecure, China certainly is

In a recent exclusive interview with the The New Indian Express, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar declared that India was ‘too big and strong to (feel) insecure’.

Published: 20th August 2022 07:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2022 07:07 AM   |  A+A-

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar

In a recent exclusive interview with the The New Indian Express, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar declared that India was ‘too big and strong to (feel) insecure’. But China, which is bigger and perceived to be stronger than India, does not seem to feel so. Going by what Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong indicated in New Delhi, Beijing keeps wanting Indian reassurance every now and again that it would not go back on the ‘One China’ policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, this time after the controversial visit of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Even as it purportedly demonstrated its military might and perceived strategic supremacy by undertaking a series of war exercises with live missiles around Taiwan, China still had its envoys across the world calling on the respective Heads of State/Government to seek and record such reassurance in the local media. In doing so, those envoys added their own host government to the long list of nations that still swore by the ‘One China’ policy. In this context, the problem for China was that New Delhi had not reiterated the ‘One China’ policy in recent years. Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), then clarified that there was no need to keep repeating the same position every now and again. Whether China is satisfied with the response or if it was seeing ghosts where none existed remains to be known.

Unilateral changes
Beijing’s headcount of nations still backing the ‘One China’ policy has continued even after the American superpower rival, too, had declared its continued attestation of the ‘One China’ policy. A US State Department spokesperson went on to reassert that they did not support Taiwan’s independence but were against ‘unilateral changes to the status quo by either side’ and wanted ‘cross-Strait (Taiwanese Strait) differences resolved through peaceful means’. It was after Arindam Bagchi said as much.

Tibet Policy
Beijing’s suspicions about India are not confined to the ‘One China’ policy. On what remains a bilateral issue, it wants India to reiterate the nation’s ‘Tibet Policy’ now and again—this means New Delhi’s acknowledgement of the one-time Himalayan Kingdom being a part of China since annexation decades ago. This flows from a sense of insecurity, which Jaishankar asserted that India did not suffer from. 

The Indian sense of security and consequent clarity in the two matters is seen in New Delhi not feeling such a need to keep reiterating its policy position once declared. Against this, Beijing has been demonstrating its lack of self-confidence. So, it is trying to showcase its might by claiming that Arunachal Pradesh was a part of China. However, this is aimed at making it a bargaining chip on the larger border dispute, over which negotiations have been stalled for long.

The Dalai Lama factor
Less said about China’s apprehensions about a future Dalai Lama. Its perceptions about an Indian role in the affair are killing bilateral relations and border negotiations. This is so even after the incumbent Dalai Lama has distanced himself from politics, leaving politics and diplomacy to the Tibetan ‘government-in-exile’ in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. A confident China that is also wise would have instead breathed easy at the fact that past Indian commitments are limited to the present Dalai Lama, and there is no political element to it.

Showing its ‘prowess’
In context, China’s issuance of ‘paper visas’ for Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are all a further expression of Beijing’s immature and tentative approach to international diplomacy in the 21st century—that too when it wanted the rest of the world to believe that it was an emerging superpower. 

Xi Jinping’s China thus belongs to the medieval era when lonely nations asserted their non-existent self-confidence by going to war on border issues and the like. China is brash and crude in its dealings with adversaries—in thought, word and deed. Galway is proof enough. India is firm and clear. Jaishankar telling Europe in Slovakia not very long ago not to lecture India on Russian oil purchases when they were buying Russian gas is a case in point. As he said, India would do what it thought was good for India. Though not everyone wants to acknowledge this, it has been a post-Independence inheritance and legacy. 

Neighbourhood First
In contrast, a more confident India, as Jaishankar asserted, has conferred greater clarity on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, which was being practised without a nomenclature but has acquired one under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s Covid assistance of every kind, including credit facilities to smaller neighbours, stand out in contrast. So has been New Delhi’s conduct in sending shiploads of food, fuel and medicines to Sri Lanka when the island nation was hit by the unprecedented economic crisis, for which the country was clearly unprepared, too. 

Unlike Chinese nervousness over Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, India was not jumping up and down over China’s dual-purpose research or spy ship, Yuan Wang 5, docking at Hambantota Port, which is on a 99-year-long lease-possession of the Chinese. That too after Colombo had clarified its position—whether satisfactory or not!

N Sathiya Moorthy

Policy analyst and commentator

(sathiyiam54 @nsathiyamoorthy.com)



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