Sikkim standoff: At BRICS meet, Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping's fake smiles mask underlying hostility

There is considerable enthusiasm over the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping during the informal BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit. Earlier, the Chinese media said that there would be no meeting and talks between the two leaders.

File image of Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi. AP

File image of Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi. AP

The Chinese foreign ministry also ruled out a meeting, saying that the “atmosphere” was not conducive for such talks, even as our Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) clarified no meeting had been sought. Obviously, these Chinese announcements of no meeting and no discussion was for the consumption of the Chinese public and to create the impression that India requested for such a meeting which was rejected by China — to talk of the Chinese threat of supporting Sikkim independence – an obvious distraction from the suppression of Tibetans and Uighurs in Xinjiang.

There was no logic to such bluster. China knew full well that Modi and Xi would have to meet at the informal BRICS meet at Hamburg hosted by China, in the run up to the 9th BRICS summit which be hosted by China from 3 to 5 September at Xiamen City.

But eventually the website of China’s People’s Daily displayed the photograph of a smiling Modi and Xi holding hands and standing alongside the presidents of Brazil, Russia and South Africa at Hamburg. In fact, Modi and Jinping held an informal meeting and had a conversation on a range of issues, as intimated by the MEA spokesperson. Whether the Sikkim standoff came up during the discussion is not known but most likely it would have not been mentioned by either leader.

At the BRICS informal meet, Xi called for “peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and disputes”, expressed appreciation for India’s strong resolve against terrorism as well India’s success in economic and social development.

He also called for consolidation of the G20 as the premier platform for international economic cooperation. Xi also expressed appreciation of progress made by BRICS under the earlier stewardship of Modi.

Modi too, praised the progress made by BRICS under Xi, while emphasising the need for cooperation aimed at global economic recovery. He called for G20 to collectively oppose terrorism financing, franchises, safe havens, support and sponsors. Referring to the introduction of GST in India, Modi advocated a collective stand against the practice of protectionism, specifically in spheres of trade and movement of knowledge and professionals, while also reiterating India’s commitment in implementing the Paris Agreement. While Xi mentioned the significance of the Paris Agreement and the need for it to be implemented, his alluding to terrorism was limited mentioning India’s strong resolve.

Utopians in India appear upbeat at Xi's mention of “peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and disputes”, not knowing what lies behind the mask and the fake smile. It may be recalled that Modi and Xi met on 9 June at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit at Astana, Kazakhstan where both leaders concurred that bilateral differences should not lead to disputes.

But even as Xi shook hands with Modi and smiled away (as in Hamburg), it has now emerged that during the night of 8 and 9 June, People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops were breaking bunkers of the Royal Bhutan Army on the Doka La Plateau, in clear violation of the written Bhutan-China agreement that pending final boundary settlement, peace and tranquility be maintained along the boundary and both sides refrain from unilaterally altering the status on ground.

So, there is no cause for optimism. China will continue to maintain, as she is doing now, that there is no dispute because the Doka La property is Chinese territory. This, even as ‘another blatant lie’ of China has been exposed by Claude Arpi who exposing that Tibet was not signatory to the Sikkim-Tibet Treaty of 1890 that China has been flouting in order to claim Doka La. Arpi also highlighted that leaving aside 1890, China did not agree to a treaty on the Bhutan-Tibet and Sikkim-Tibet borders until as late as 1960.

This was another fact that China did not mention when it went about using the 1890 document as the basis of its claim over Doka La. China pretends there was no need to get the treaty approved by the Tibetan government but China had no control over Tibet in 1890, and was merely represented by a resident, which means precisely zilch.

China’s move to illegally occupy the Doka La Plateau is based on the three principles of ambiguity, deception and deceit she has been using since time immemorial. Xi may be endeavouring to imitate the smile of Buddha but behind this mask lies China’s genocide in Tibet.

Subsequently, the joint statement of the G20 stated, "We, the leaders of the G20, strongly condemn all terrorist attacks worldwide and stand united and firm in the fight against terrorism and its financing. These atrocious acts have strengthened our resolve to cooperate to enhance our security and protect our citizens. Terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens eliminated in every part of the world.”

At the G20, Modi equated Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed with the Islamic State and Al- Qaeda, saying their names may be different but their ideology was the same, and that some countries were using terror as a tool to achieve political objectives even as he pressed for collective “deterrent” action by G20 members.

Modi presented an 11-point “Action Agenda”, which included G20 nations exchanging terrorists lists, easing and expediting of legal processes such as extradition and concrete steps to choke the supply of funds and weapons to the terrorists. This may well be the narrative in the forthcoming 9th BRICS Summit too, but will it stop China backing Pakistani terrorism and terrorist leaders? Will it stop China threatening that she can destabilise North East India, if required?

The world witnessed anti-capitalist protesters setting fire to cars, barricades, rubbish bins and wooden pallets outside the venue of the G20 summit at Hamburg. These poor souls apparently have no idea what type capitalist ‘scorched earth’ policy China is unleashing through its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative covering over 60 countries comprising 30 percent of global GDP and 60 percent of world population.

Many are yet to realise that it will bury many countries in debt, especially in the developing world, ushering the worst kind of capitalism: Both economically and physically, a sample of which can be gauged from listening to Dr Umar Johnson describing how the Caribbean and Africa are being colonised by China. The astute Chinese plan to will give the lion’s share to Chinese companies and Chinese colonisers, while throwing some bones towards the country that the OBOR passes through.

As to the Sikkim standoff, it will last, even expand as China hopes India will wilt. But by now it should be known that China is a conceited bully that will only respect if it is slapped back and slapped hard rather than offering the other cheek. The writing on the wall is pretty simple: if India de-escalates, China will occupy Doka La and continue its policy of pig-headed intrusions elsewhere.

If China escalates on basis that no one will intervene to assist India, the price for China will be equally high not only at the point of clash but by way of global response to OBOR, China’s future lifeline.

India's best option is to hold fast until China agrees to mutual de-escalation.

The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army


Updated Date: Jul 10, 2017 09:53 AM

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