Would you spare us the briefings!

The more China puts pressure on India over the Tibetan protests, the more it harms bilateral relations

First, the Chinese prime minister issued a veiled threat. Then Beijing’s equivalent of the NSA ‘briefed’ his Indian counterpart. Then they woke up the Indian ambassador at 2am to ‘brief’ her. And now Yang Jiechi, China’s foreign minister ‘briefed’ his Indian counterpart. It is normal for top leaders to talk to each other on the telephone. But when reports of such conversations are released to the public through the media, it is not merely a business-like conversation on the issues at hand. It’s a signal.

It’s boring to read these reports. China briefs India, India reiterates that Tibet is a part of China, China asks India to prevent the Dalai clique from engaging in politics, India responds that this has always been the way, and so on.

In this case, the UPA government has bent over backwards to accomodate China’s demands. It prevented Tibetans from protesting peacefully. And now, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee felt the need to publicly warn the Dalai Lama from engaging in “any political activity that can adversely affect the relations between India and China” (linkthanks Ajit Joshi). Given that from China’s perspective the Dalai Lama’s mere presence adversely affects bilateral relations, Mr Mukherjee’s warning is absurd. It too is a signal.

It is a signal that makes it plain that India is succumbing to China’s armtwisting. Now, it may well be that Beijing believes that treating bilateral relations with such disdain is somehow alright. That is a profound mistake. India will remain China’s neighbour even after the Olympics. Beijing’s hamfisted approach has already caused damage to bilateral relations. Even if the episode does not get worse, it has become much more difficult for any Indian government—even a spineless one as this—to make any substantive moves on bilateral issues.

China would do well to understand that both sides have vested interests in stability of bilateral relations, and spare Indian officials these repeated ‘briefings’. Beijing should understand that if relations turn worse on account of its graceless handling of relations with India in the wake of the Tibetan protests, it has only itself to blame.

10 thoughts on “Would you spare us the briefings!”

  1. What is the reason for the Indian government’s spinelessness? Why can’t it tell China that it respects human rights, and people’s right to protest peacefully?

    If it’s fear of backlash from Indian commies, then the fact staring in our face is that China has become immensely successful in setting the political agenda in this country.

  2. hey, was HH Dalailama given political asylum or was it religious asylum? why this ‘No political actions here’ bit now?
    day by day they are becoming so pathetic its really irritating to read any news on this.
    Only France has acted with some honor on the whole issue!

  3. The spineless approach of the Indian government really baffles me. China also threatened to withdraw the India leg of the Olympic torch and they were pacified by officials from the IOC and GoI. They keep on trying to push us around and our government lets them. All our government is doing is pushing a harmless Dalai Lama around. Is the left that influential in shaping India’s policies?

  4. Chini briefing could harm bilateral relations?

    Do they care? More appositely, ‘should’ they care (given Delhi’s recent disposition)?

  5. Re:Would You Spare Us The Briefings!

    Faced with a bullying PRC flushed with imperious arrogance the wimpish UPA government and its incompetent,incoherent and bumbling Pranab
    Mukherjee turn to the Dalai Lama and lecture him on how not to harm India-China relations!!So have we ever had ‘good relations with PRC?Is it possible to have good relations with the New National Socialist regime of PRC that is a behaving very much like Nazi Germany?What we need is Sardar Patel or a Churchill to rid us of UPA and put PRC in its place.Jai Hind!!Jai Tibet!!

  6. OTOH, why should they stop? They’ve got Pranab Mukherjee pacifying them with a statement every other day now. That would be incentive to keep going at it.


  7. The kowtowing to China is only in keeping with the communist dominated government of Sonia Gaandi. In every field, this government is repeating the worst errors of Indira Gaandi – am willing to bet that unless this government is voted out in 2009, we will be back to 4-5% GDP Growth before long.

  8. There is a $40 Billion bilateral trade, and there is the presence of chinese “friends” who “support” the UPA. The current Govt has no leverage, it is unwilling to call elections after recent state election debacles, and the current rising food prices and overall increasing inflation. It knows that it will not be able to retain power in an election under such circumstances. Hence, it is particularly vulnerable to subtle and not so subtle threats of withdrawal of support. Witness the nuke deal. I would not be surprised if this is the stick China is using. It is disgusting that this govt has been so spineless as to beat up on the Dalai Lama instead of the chinese.

  9. I doubt the election results of 2009 will affect whether or not the economy goes back to a 4-5% growth rate. A global meltdown aside, I don’t see that happening whether the UPA or the NDA is in power.

    I could accept this sort of spinelessness IF we were getting something out of it; but it seems irrational to me to bend over on Tibet when we are not getting any kind of quid pro quo from China on Arunachal Pradesh, and in fact China has continued to make provocative statements on it.

    And personally, I don’t think the blame for this spinelessness can be heaped solely on the Communists (though they seem to be favorite whipping boys) — after all, we didn’t see the UPA behave this spinelessly even on the nuclear deal. And nor were Communists a factor when the NDA foreign minister decided to take the Hindi/Urdu phrase “sarkaari mehmaan” a bit too literally and personally escort terrorists to Kandahar. This seems to me to be the result of some wimpiness that is perhaps endemic to an entire class of people in the establishment,* combined with a lack of clarity on what India’s foreign policy objectives are, what they ought to be, and how they might be achieved.

    *[This wimpiness is not restricted to foreign policy; any collection of goons is sufficient to intimidate the Indian government — whichever party we are talking about (you can guess the identity of the party only from the identity of the goons who happen to intimidate it at any given point) — whether externally or internally. Banning a film/book/art exhibition? Ransacking a research institute? Making an author flee from city to city? Why, no problem at all. Why should it surprise us that the country behaves this way on the world stage, when its the most natural way for its principal political parties (across the political spectrum) to behave?]

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