John 8:7 does not apply to international relations

Perfection is not a pre-requisite for expressing concerns over China’s treatment of Tibetans

M K Bhadrakumar’s op-ed in The Hindu criticising India’s response to China’s handling of the Tibetan protests is bizarre. It is bizarre because despite being a former diplomat, he appears to argue that foreign policies ought to be free of double (or multiple) standards, and only perfect states can criticise others.

One does not have to be a practitioner of diplomacy to comprehend that the UPA government was advising China one or two things about how to set its house in order in Tibet. Evidently, our government is highly experienced in tackling political violence that regularly rocks our country and the Chinese government could learn a few useful things from the UPA. After all, in something like 150 districts in India, the writ of the Indian state no longer runs. Yet Beijing could see, our leadership calls the problem a mere “virus.” [The Hindu]

Mr Bhadrakumar’s implies that India has no right to criticise China’s handling of Tibetan protests because of its own failure to tackle Maoist political violence in the country. This argument is flawed at many levels. For one, India has never used violence against any political movement that is non-violent. It defies imagination that Mr Bhadrakumar should equate the Maoists (for whom armed struggle is an article of faith) with the Tibetans (for whom non-violence is the article of faith). It defies imagination that he should equate India, a democracy with universal suffrage with China, a dictatorship where Tibetans (and non-Tibetans) do not have political rights.

It defies imagination that he should equate India, which still accords special statuses and prevents demographic change in states suffering from separatist violence with China, where transmigration is official policy and a ground reality. And it defies imagination that he should equate India, whose constitution protects religious minorities and whose governments go out of the way to pander to them, with China, which sees them as ‘primitive’ and in need of ‘modernisation’. In a world of imperfect states and imperfect governments, if there is a country that has moral right to speak to China, it is India. Ask Pallavi Aiyar.

Matt. 7:1 doesn’t apply either

The problem is that such vacuity and double standards can easily boomerang. Curiously, just as South Block was pontificating on how China should govern Tibet, a cable was landing in our foreign policy establishment informing it that the 60-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at its summit meeting in Dakar, Senegal, adopted a devastatingly critical resolution on Jammu & Kashmir. Of course, this is not the first time that the OIC has done this. But the latest condemnation calling for the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri people has been unusually strong. Among others, Foreign Ministers of friendly countries such as Turkey, Tajikistan, and Saudi Arabia expressed their anguish over the “plight” of Kashmiris in “Indian-occupied Kashmir.” [The Hindu]

Mr Bhadrakumar then points to the OIC’s recent escalation of rhetoric on Jammu & Kashmir and cites it as an example of such ‘double standards’ boomeranging. It defies imagination that Mr Bhadrakumar should think that the OIC’s criticism of India over Jammu & Kashmir was influenced by India’s position over Tibet. It defies imagination that Mr Bhadrakumar should believe that the OIC would pipe down its criticism if only India would remain silent on Tibet. It defies imagination that he should think that India should take the OIC more seriously merely because the Russia and the United States are doing so. It defies imagination the yardsticks he uses to define countries as ‘friendly’.

Now there is a reasonable argument—and one that The Acorn subscribes to—that India must refrain from going overboard in its support for the Tibetan protests lest this issue upset broader relations with China. But Mr Bhadrakumar defies imagination by holding the Indian government guilty of doing too much already. That’s really being holier than the Pope, for China itself has not registered even displeasure at India’s positions. Well, not through its official channels, at least.

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11 Responses to John 8:7 does not apply to international relations

  1. Atanu Dey 24th March 2008 at 11:30 #

    To the long list of imagination defying notions, please add the one that anyone takes The Hindu seriously.

  2. AG 24th March 2008 at 12:13 #

    It scares me when to think that the safety and security (military, economic, whatever) of my home (i.e. India) is in the hands of men such as these who have obviously been purchased.

    Nitin: using words like “bizarre”, “defying imagination” etc. is being polite to a fault. We have to call a spade a spade!

  3. Invalid 24th March 2008 at 13:14 #

    “The Acorn subscribes to—that India must refrain from going overboard in its support for the Tibetan protests”

    But I suppose, China is not Iran. You cannot say “hey, we are your friends” but at the same, not supporting them.

    For China,
    “Support protests” = Not friendly to China
    “Allow protests” = Not friendly to China
    “Suppress protests” = Friendly to China

    May be UPA govt wants to be friendly with China and not to stir quiet dragon, as it shares border with them.

  4. Nitin 24th March 2008 at 13:23 #

    Invalid,

    “Friends” in the context of international relations is a meaningless term. To want to be “friendly” to any country may be useful for atmospherics, but is not very meaningful term when crafting foreign policy.

  5. anonymous coward 24th March 2008 at 13:26 #

    @Invalid

    There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

  6. R 24th March 2008 at 16:21 #

    “Well, not through its official channels, at least”

    I liked that :-)
    I wonder if the unofficial spokesmen Rams, Yechuris and Bardhans are expressing the displeasure of their master in China, or if they are becoming more loyal to their fatherland, than the Chinese themselves!

  7. Oldtimer 24th March 2008 at 16:50 #

    Bhadrakumar’s argument is invalid even if India has used violence against non-violent protesters and even if India does not have all those virtues you listed.

    OIC’s Islamist intervention in our affaris does us no good, so India should condemn it. China’s suppression of Tibet does us no good either, so we should oppose it. Both policies are consistent with pursuing the objective of India’s national interest.

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