China-India Informal Summit: Wuhan 2.0 Is A Non-Event – OpEd
By Dr Subhash Kapila
Chinese President Xi Jinping-Indian PM Modi meet scheduled outside Chennai, India on October 10-13 2019 as a follow-up to Wuhan Informal Summit in China is headed to be a ‘Non-Event’ rich in optics but low in substance as China’s recent geopolitical stances on issues of concern to India have been adversarial.
China’s adversarial stances against India seemingly endure endlessly over issues vital to India like Permanent Membership of UN Security Council and Nuclear Suppliers Group. China has hardened its colonial grip on Pakistan through the CPEC making Pakistan even more threatening to India’s security. China has not taken any mitigating steps to remove the serious trade imbalances in China-India Trade Relations.
China continues to defy any workable solution of the China-India Border Dispute and keeps the dispute hanging over India’s head as a strategic pressure point to retain bargaining leverages.
With such a profile of China-India relations and animosity what can one expect from Wuhan Summit 2.O at Chennai? It will end up as nothing more than a “Dialogue of the Deaf”.
In the months between Wuhan 1.O and Wuhan 2.O Informal Summits no indicators have been given by China that it seriously intends to narrow or bridge the serious strategic chasm that keeps India away from friendly relations with China. On the contrary, China in September 2019, seemingly oblivious of impending Wuhan 2.O Summit, has widened the chasm and reduced the political spaces for both sides to offer any dramatic political offers at Chennai next week.
Complicating the above is also the new global geopolitical reality emerging lately at Far East Forum Vladivostok, Russia and in New York USA where India and PM Modi have emerged as the new ‘geopolitical flavour’ in power calculi of global capitals as analysed in my preceding Papers on this site. United States and Russia, both for respective national interests need India’s geopolitical weight on their side more than China.
Surely, China cannot discount this new emerging geopolitical global reality in India’s favour. The Chinese President as he heads for Chennai for the Informal Summit with PM Modi will be in a policy dilemma as to its India-policy formulations. Should China reset its South Asia policy formulations which would involve forsaking Pakistan or continue the status quo of ‘Pakistan First’ in China’s policy formulations which policy is decidedly adversarial in India’s perceptions and therefore impede any meaningful forward movement in generating friendly China-India relations.
Chinese President headed towards India carries a heavy baggage of China’s undisguised and open strategic and tactical support of Pakistan impinging on India’s national security interests. China’s hostile stances on India’s historic step under PM Modi of abrogation of Article 370 and full integration of Kashmir State has not only rattled Pakistan but rattled China even more.
China’s anger at India in follow-up to the above was manifested by Army border scuffles in Pangong Lake Area of Ladakh, deep Chinese military incursions in Central Arunachal Pradesh intended to be meaasging both for India and Pakistan, in support.
Follow up China’s stances and statements on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly session recently can be read as adversarial to India and intended to signal China’s unhesitating support to Pakistan in South Asia.
Therefore in the run-up to the Informal Summit outside Chennai, originally scheduled for Varanasi, the lack of any Indian media hype on the Informal Summit of the Chinese President with PM Modi is a significant indicator that Wuhan Informal Summit 2.O portends to be a ‘Non-event’ as was the first Informal Summit at Wuhan.
China should recognise that unlike in China and Pakistan, in India ‘Pubic Opinion’ matters in Government’s policy formulations. The previous Congress Government had a serious ‘Disconnect” with Indian public opinion fox ten years and the results are for all to see.PM Modi is highly sensitive to Indian public opinion weighted heavily against China and his hands will be tied at Chennai Informal Summit by China’s recent public stances.
China and India’s centre of gravity of the deep chasm that divides China and India lies in China’s Pakistan policy formulations now hardened by China’s unremitting obsessive fixation on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(C-PEC). India considers the C-PEC not only as impinging on India’s sovereignty over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir through which C-PEC traverse in the initial stages but also that the C-PEC alignment poses grave security threats to India as analysed in my Book: ‘China-India Military Confrontation-21st Century Perspectives’.
While India’s misgivings of China have been outlined above it would also be in order to spell out China’s misgivings about India. China’s main strategic concern about India focusses on the US-India Strategic Partnership which in Chinese perceptions upsets the Asian balance of power in terms of Chinese predominance of Asian strategic landscape.
China has continuously fretted against India hosting the Dalai Lama in exile in India with thousands of Tibetans ever since 1959 when they were forced to flee China Occupied Tibet to escape China’s brutal suppression of Buddhism. Here matters are likely to come to a head as India and Tibetans all over the world will not accept China’s imposition of a Chinese-choice Dalai Lama in utter violation of centuries old Buddhist process of selecting a successor through re-incarnation route.
China will also be forced to make painful decisions as to how far China will support Pakistan in the event of a possible Indo- Pakistan Armed Conflict breaking out due to Pakistani intensification of its proxy war in Kashmir by its Jihadi affiliates. Will China go all out in support of Pakistani military adventurism against India or would it adopt a more prudent route?
India is in no position to bail out China from its self-created strategic predicaments centring on Pakistan and Pakistan Army’s inveterate visceral hatred of India and a reluctance to accept and adapt to the newly emerging balance of power in South Asia.
India cannot acquiesce to China’s imposition of a politically selected Dalai Lama by Chinese Communist oligarchy. This portends to be a major power tussle impending in China-India relations.
India has no option but to confront in a determined manner China’s growing strategic naval intrusions in the Indian Ocean challenging India’s dominance of this vital Ocean. Here, much to Chinese chagrin, India’s bid to contain Chinese Navy domination of Indian Ocean is being supported by United States, Japan, Australia and France.
Moving to the global arena one finds it difficult to see any major points of convergence in China’s and India’s perceptions on global conflictual flashpoints. It would be truer to assert that on such issues seemingly China and India are ranged on opposite sides.
In Conclusion, the forthcoming Wuhan Summit 2.0 at Chennai between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian PM Modi does not project any promising forward movement in reducing the chasm that divides China-India relations. No significant breakthroughs of a substantive strategic nature in favour of India can be expected. This also brings into question as to what did India gain in joining China-dominated or China-led organisations like Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?
In the overall analysis China and India are foredoomed to an unending confrontation as China’s momentum of exponential economic and military expansion dips inevitably and India ascends higher on the Global Power ladder with implicit backing of all other Permanent Members of the UN Security Council.