Chinaloves to keep the pot boiling with countries it perceives as potential rivals, a fact no more evident than it is with its dealings with India in recent years. China’s recent decision to deny a visa to Indian Lt. General B. S. Jaswal, head of the Northern Command, is therefore just another example of its determination to find new issues to further complicate the already complex web of India-China differences.
The game is being played at multiple levels with Jammu and Kashmir, which is seen by China as an area of ‘international dispute’ in the same way as Arunachal Pradesh. At first glance, it seems a relatively recent diplomatic gambit. But it’s one that was first introduced some years ago, when the planned visit to Ladakh by the People’s Liberation Army Commander of the Lanzhou Military Region that covers Xinjiang (which sits opposite Jammu and Kashmir) was cancelled at the last moment by China on the grounds that Pakistan had protested that the territory is disputed. This move was soon followed by a visa denial to an official from the state on similar grounds, while last year, the Chinese embassy followed up by inventing a new method of giving stapled visas.
This has all come against a backdrop of PLA moves to enhance its road and rail-building work in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, with little indication that China sees the area as disputed or recognises that such activities are grossly illegitimate given India’s legal sovereignty.
None of this has gone unnoticed by decision makers in New Delhi. Yet, for the past decade they’ve played down these problems in the expectation that deepening engagement would eventually influence attitudes at the top in China and gradually result in a softening of the Chinese position.
But this hasn’t happened. If political liberals believed that flourishing trade ties (now worth $60 billion) or construction, power and telecom company contracts being signed with a total value of $25 billion to $30 billion would elicit a modicum of moderation on the Chinese side over these critical issues, they will have been hugely disappointed. There has been no moderation on the territorial and other differences that continue to dog the relationship, despite India presenting a united front with China on international trade and environment issues.
And China has a long list of demands. It wants Arunachal to be handed over (or, at the very least, Tawang and a few other areas); it wants India to stop offering sanctuary to the Dalai Lama so his struggle for the rights of the Tibetan people and Tibetan autonomy will be silenced; it wants to retain most of the territory it has forcibly occupied in Ladakh, land that extends well beyond even its official claim line of 1956; it wants Nepal to be neutral; it wants India to shun close ties with the United States; it wants to further open India’s market for its companies…and the list goes on.