Wednesday’s gratuitous advice by a press official of the Chinese embassy that asked the Indian media to stay away from the Tibet issue lest it further damages the bilateral relations is not surprising.
Just two days before the Galwan flare-up on June 15, another junior official posted in Chinese embassy in Pakistan tweeted an article written by a Chinese expert linking the Ladakh stand-off to so-called Indian moves to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. The author, a deputy director in a think-tank linked to the Chinese intelligence, virtually endorsed Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and Article 370, by calling the Indian move “unilateral.”
To their credit, Chinese embassy officials have no qualms in contradicting either the Indian media or the Indian government by ferociously defending political positions of Beijing, be it Tibet, Xinjiang, Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh. It was not so long ago that a Chinese diplomat publicly contradicted the then defence minister of India Pranab Mukherjee on the 1962 war at a Mumbai conference.
In her statement on Wednesday, the Chinese Embassy official has quoted a 2003 bilateral document to remind Indian media that New Delhi had recognised the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of Chinese territory and decided not to allow Tibetans to engage in political activities against China. The quoted document is “Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China” signed on June 23, 2003.
What the official missed was that just two paragraphs before the bilateral commitment on Tibet, the 2003 document refers to the boundary question. It said: The two agreed that pending an ultimate solution, they should work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, reiterated their commitment to continue implementation of the agreements for this purpose, including clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).” The pacts referred to in the text are the 1993 and 1996 agreements to maintain peace and tranquility and not unilaterally change the status of the LAC.
The official had not just cherry-picked agreements, but also portions from the pact that she decided to quote. Because, as India has said on several occasions, the actions of China’s People’s Liberation Army in the East Ladakh sector starting from April-May this year have violated every agreement and commitment on border peace that the two countries have signed.
This unilateral action has led to a military stand-off between the world’s largest, and second-largest army. Beijing has already admitted that it wants to impose the 1959 line on the 1597-kilometre long Ladakh border. This means that China will hold its ground on McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh.
Apart from lecturing the Indian media on Tibet, the Chinese narrative spread through its social media influencers is that the Indian government has been taught a lesson in Ladakh for tilting towards the US in the context of Indo-Pacific and the QUAD security dialogue. Clearly Beijing wants India to be part of the group of south-east Asian countries that have fallen in line and come close to becoming a tributary state to the Middle Kingdom, which is rapidly trying to move towards its ambition to be centre of the globe.
The fact is that since the establishment of PRC on October 1, 1949, the Chinese positions have been etched in stone vis-a-vis India and Beijing has not moved an inch to accommodate the Indian concerns. It expects India to be neutral, while Beijing runs roughshod over New Delhi in South Asia and beyond. The present communist regime wants India to continue with economic ties with China as usual even as it tries to push back the Indian Army along the LAC. Honouring written commitments is not a one-way street as the same 2003 document talks says “neither side shall use or threaten to use force against each other.”
While a section of the Indian establishment is in favour of an early resolution of the Ladakh stand-off with even the Germany-led European Union recognising the rise of China, Beijing clearly wants a leg up on the LAC as this will be showcased as an achievement in the 2021 report card of the 100 years of Chinese Communist Party rule. Any Indian eagerness towards unjust resolution will be only interpreted as a sign of weakness in Beijing.