Relations between and India and China are currently going through a fairly turbulent phase. While the border issue still remains unresolved, new irritants have been added to the already fraught relationship. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and India’s objection to it going through Gilgit-Baltistan and China’s protests against the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Tawang has led to further disharmony among the two countries. China’s stance on India’s NSG membership and on Masood Azhar case has also been of concern for India.
To understand the Chinese viewpoint and concerns, Nitin A. Gokhale recently interviewed Liu Jinsong, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China in India to understand the Chinese viewpoint. Excerpts:
INDIA & CHINA HAVE MORE AREAS OF CONVERGENCE THAN DIFFERENCES: CHINESE DIPLOMAT
Nitin Gokhale (NG): What’s your assessment of the India- China relations?
Liu Jinsong (DCM): There are problems, there is friction, but I believe our relationship is in a state of development and a lot of progress has been made.
China welcomes India’s new membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. China fully supports India’s initiative of International Solar Alliance.
Chine welcomes India’s Act East Policy and future integration with Asia Pacific Economic Circle, particularly FTAs.
China, and Chinese companies are also very enthusiastic about India’s Make in India programmes and want to participate. They are also interested in Smart India and other national plans.
There is 5 billion USD FDI from China already located in India and 500 Chinese companies doing very good business in India.
So I think we need to watch the whole picture. The full picture. The forest, not one or two trees. Of course we need to take care of these one or two trees. But we should keep the confidence that India and China are elephant and dragon. And they need to dance together. And that’s my full confidence.
NG: So, now let us talk specifically about the issue of India’s membership in the NSG and the Masood Azhar issue. What is China’s stand and why is it that China is blocking India’s efforts on both counts?
DCM: Yes, some of the misunderstanding or misjudge or use the word blocking or oppose, China would never do that. As you know there are some kind of rules; not only for the NSG but also UN based commission, they all have their rules. (NG: for declaring him a terrorist). Yes. For the first time in NSG, historically which is based on the NPT regime, India is a non-NPT signatory country. So, if India joins this group, there are some contradictions with the existing rules and criteria. So, we need this caution. So China proposed a very clever, a very objective and pragmatic process. We call it two step process. One step is for the current NSG members to come up with some new rules and standards for non-NPT signatory countries to join NSG and secondly, we can talk about the specific countries, whether or not one can work out some procedures.
So, I think this proposal is very reasonable and Indian side also consult with us and agree to some extent.
NG: So, has there been some kind of an exchange or consultation between India and China?
DCM: Of course, of course, there have been three rounds. (NG: bilaterally?) Bilaterally, at Beijing level, in the foreign ministry. They have been very fruitful discussions, very constructive. I joined this kind of discussion, they’re very professional and some of it what they talk I can’t understand, it’s too much (NG: Technical?). Too much, and professional. Atmosphere there is very friendly, I think they remove a lot of misunderstanding, but should say that I think that this matter is not echoing the law, and China’s concerns and India’s concerns are sometimes different because we have different security situation.
NG: Well, we also have this problem in India; Pakistan is also a nuclear state, isn’t it?
DCM: So, you know on NSG issue, not only has your country applied for new NSG membership but other countries also. So we need to be very, very cautious and should be fair for each country. That’s why China always says we are not targeting India; we never oppose any country to join the NSG. So, this is my clarification.
Another thing is that we went to 1267 committees; I understand India’s view – you have such strong feelings against terrorism, against all forms of terrorism, that is also the Chinese position. My hometown is in the Urumqi, in the far west of China; my mother was once in the danger. The threat of terrorists – a bombing, so, I also fully understand the feeling. China and India, we’re on the same front on terrorism. But for this specific case, according to the UN Committee’s rules, it encourages the related countries, where our part is concerned, to discuss the common concern matters.
This guy you mention, you call Masood, I don’t know too much about him, but we know right now this guy is settled in Pakistan. Whether he has Pakistan Citizenship or Indian Citizenship I don’t know for sure. Why it has to be a transfer from your country to that country, I also don’t know too much, so, may be you know where he is and Pakistan side knows where he is, if you two sides can have some discussion and have some agreement, it’ll be quite easy for China to make some choice.
NG: So, you’re suggesting that India and Pakistan should address the issue bilaterally and then put pressure or get it approved in UN; designating him as a UN terrorist?
DCM: You know, we always encourage Pakistan and India, our two friends, to talk directly about your matters. If you have some bilateral talks and have some outcomes, it is easy for you and other members of UN committee and also for China to make a better choice. (You know it’s quite easy, like you’re my friend, if you have some kind of an argument, I very difficult to stand for one, you know, it’ll only escalate the situation. I can only take you to one side and persuade you to talk, make your choice first.)
NG: Let me get to the other big issue between India and China. I think China was rather annoyed, in fact Beijing foreign ministry issued statements on the Dalai Lama, who you call splitist. When he visited Tawang recently. Why was China so annoyed? He has been to Tawang half a dozen times before?
DCM: You see the key is, he’s not only a spiritual figure, he is a separatist too. We have lot of evidence for that, it’s there in the books. These are books not written by Chinese, some are written by Indians, some are written by Americans, some by Australians and some written by his own brother. All these books discover a lot of evidence. After he asked for asylum here, he’s not so quiet; he also does a lot of activities; trys to do violence and split our country. So, you think he’s a pure spiritual leader?
NG: He’s also a political leader. my point is this, we understand that there is this anger because he’s also a political leader. (DCM: Dr. Kissinger mentions he’s a very cunning monk) He’s a cunning monk! (DCM: Cunning Monk, wears so many hats and not only Lama hat)
NG: But my point is, earlier also he’s been to Tawang, and the Chinese protests were not, so I would say – strong, or vocal. Why this time?
DCM: That time also we protested, if you check the records (NG: No, I’ve done that, I know, I was there in 2009), of course we protest, some of the feeling you have but for China’s side our protest was to the same extent.
NG: No, but why Tawang, because Tawang is part of India.
DCM: I’ll answer your first question, this time, the last time of his visit to the so called Arunachal, we call it Southern Tibet, was in 2009. So, for about eight years, he did not visit. We know it was a good thing; the right choice. But right now, especially for the new government, he visits there, so, we treat this very serious. We already have difficulties, so we don’t like disturbing this right track. We also don’t like adding more trouble on that, Tawang, you know. I don’t want to right now re-emphasise our position because we have sharp differences on this matter, like the name, you call it the so called Arunachal but we call it Southern Tibet and as you know Tawang is small village but it was the town where 6th Dalai Lama was born.
NG: Those differences we know, there are differences also on the long border we have.
DCM: So, we have big differences, so we need to, first we need to be very very careful for each other’s sentiment and also keep the place tranquil.
NG: Fully agree on that, so in turn Indian specialists or analysts have always said if you want us to have your sentiments taken into consideration then China must also take Indian sentiments under consideration on the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir where your CPEC is going to pass through and therefore India is not joining the CPEC or the Belt and Road Initiative. What is Beijing’s position on the Indian stand on CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative in relation to the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir?
DCM: I think first we should de-link the Tibet issue and the Kashmir issue – they are different. Because you know when we established the diplomatic relationship, India and China had this understanding that Tibet is a part of China, we signed this agreement in 1954 we said that; and it was also reemphasised in the 2003 statement of the leaders of two countries. Kashmir is a later issue, Tibet is a bilateral issue and India already made the commitment of One China and that Tibet is part of the China Tibet Autonomous Region and India also committed to not allow the so called Tibetan Exile Government – some of their people to do Anti-China political activities. That’s a commitment. So we see the Dalai Lama visit, the Dalai Lama bad mouthing against China in your territory, I think it is not proper, especially your government needs to do that. (Take care of that)
But if you mention about Kashmir, there are two Kashmir issues, one is our bilateral issue, China and India, because you mention some of the piece as India territory and we have some dispute, you call Aksai Chin, we call Alii area, you call Ladakh and we have some different view, there’s some kind of dispute. There’s also another dispute between you and Pakistan. That’s why I talked in Mumbai where I made it clear to mention, first, Kashmir issue is an old dispute between you and Pakistan and China is neutral, our position on this matter has never changed, even today and second, China’s cooperation with Pakistan especially in CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) is based on transportation and China needs Pakistan’s transportation, we have no other way but to pass through the Karakoram, but this highway existed in the 1980s and this doesn’t matter to India sovereignty issue, just economic development, infrastructure. And in the future if India want to join with that, some scholar already mentioned that, you could discuss with the related parties. So, I think economic – back to economic, sovereignty – back to sovereignty is two type of issues.
NG: So, let me ask you one little more deeper question, how do we solve the long pending boundary issue. India says that let’s first define the Line of Actual Control, you haven’t responded to it. What are the issues that we can actually come down to as common issues on the boundary itself?
DCM: I should say let’s ponder on the further issues, both sides are very serious, so, that’s why we have established the new mechanism, we call it the “Special Representative”, they have so many, more than 10 rounds of discussion, I think may be 15 rounds of talks. (NG: I think, may be 15-16 rounds of discussion have taken place), I recommend you read one of the books, it is by one of our chief negotiators, former State Counsel, Mr. Dai Bingguo, he had a biography out recently and there is a special chapter about these talks (NG: Is it in English?). We already have both sides agreement – Three steps. Parameters. Principles. We already have an agreement. Secondly, some field work to be done on how to settle this matter and final, demarcation and setting.
NG: So, that’s the sequence you want to follow?
DCM: Yes, yes, right now we’re in the second step, we have some difficulties, you’re right, but that’s just because the disputed area is too big and on both sides it’s not that easy to make a decision and we need establish the trust to go for that and also because your government change a lot and Mr. Dai mentioned he feels very regretful when he talked to his counterpart, Mishra (NG: Brajesh Mishra) in Vajpayee administration and there was about to be some kind of agreement but the government changed and Mr. Mishra also felt very regretful and he tried to make a decision from the top. China side very, very serious and right now very recently, last year our western theater commander also visited and talked on how can there be better communication, whether commanders can exchange telephones calls to keep peace and tranquility, we have lot of measures now. So, its remarkable that lot of people told me that China and India so long boundary dispute but for the past few decades, there has been no crossfire, that is amazing. No two countries can have this kind of achievement.
NG: That is remarkable certainly, so, let me move away from divergence or dispute or differences. So, what is it that you look forward to as far as India-China Cooperation is concerned?
DCM: This January I attended your Raisina Dialogue, your Prime Minister also attended that and our president also went to Davos, I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that two of the leaders have the same tone about the globalization. They’re all against the isolation and protectionism, they all like the open world and the interconnected world, they both don’t like packing our countries back to the box or set off on a war, so I think in today’s world both China and India share more and more common interest and a lot more and more common understanding and especially for the global issues. It’s interesting, the bigger the issue, the more consensus on that; like climate, international order, financial stability and even includes anti-terrorism, we share that. You know, last year we have some new mechanism for anti-terrorism, we shared the information and both sides are also talking about further action. We also send the team for the money laundering fraud, talking about that, you have some fake money and when you share information, we say we will cooperate with you. So this kind of cooperation is very important and this year, there are some important meetings between the two leaders. First will be at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Astana Summit and then will be the opportunity at the G20 Summit and then there will be the Chinese Chairman at the BRICS Summit at the end of the year may still have the East Asia Summit. So, our leaders have a lot of opportunities to talk which can not only control the current differences but they can also explore new areas of cooperation. I think they also have the pleasure because globally there are talks on protectionism, populism, so, China and India need to be hand-in-hand to safeguard this kind of good governance and go forward for the structured reforms and push for the Asia’s regionalism. (NG: The rise of Asia in this 21st Century) Yes, besides that, there is also some kind of functional exchange, you know this year will be the second round of think-tank talk and also the 200 Indian youths’ visit to China. And this year will be the Indian Cultural Festival in China. Lot of this kind of people to people contact and therefore security is kind of a high topic and your National Security Advisor will visit China for the BRICS Special National Security Meeting and we also try to schedule the Russia-China-India Foreign Minister’s meeting in your country. So, lot of events to be happening.
NG: So, there are multiple engagements between both India and China – both bilaterally as well as multilaterally. And that is what is keeping the dialogue going, isn’t it? So let me ask you finally, if you have to assess the state of our relationship, how would you describe it?
DCM: Keep going forward in spite of difficulties and fluctuations. In addition, I must say, if you focus too much on politics, geopolitics and issues happening in the capital, may be you’ll have suspicions and representations, negative thoughts. But if you go out of that, if you go to the countryside and go to the local Pradesh, the businesses, the casual people and the intellectuals, you’ll find that they are so big synergy for our bilateral relationship.
As you know a recent story about a Chinese soldier, Wang Qi, which BBC reported, may be not a good story in the 1960s but he is settled here and has a family. He married an Indian lady and has a big family now, he can’t leave his current home (NG: Which is India), yes in India. So, this story very much touched the most soft hearts of our two country’s people. The normal people. So, we need that kind of story and our governments did an excellent job to facilitate his return and the two leaders take care of a normal single individual. I think that’s a new kind of diplomacy, human face and human influenced diplomacy, we need to think more about that.
NG: Thanks you so much for speaking to BharatShakti.in and I hope we can do it again sooner than later!