For once, China seems to be on the losing side of its diplomatic game of supporting Pakistan and isolating India on the Kashmir issue. The recent G20 meeting on the Tourism Working Group held in Srinagar witnessed the participation of over 60 invitees from member countries. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the chief coordinator for India’s G20 presidency, affirmed that this gathering was ‘the highest representation from foreign delegations for the tourism working group meeting’.
“To get such a large turnout of delegates…is an incredible process. If you have to do a working group on tourism in India, we have to do it in Srinagar. There is no option,” Shringla said. The former foreign secretary’s remarks echo the views of the Narendra Modi government, which has adopted a firm approach against Beijing’s shenanigans.
By holding the G20 meeting in Srinagar, one of the biggest international events in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, New Delhi has sent a strong message to Islamabad and its fair weather friends. Pakistan’s repeated attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue has found few takers – except China. The perennially poor and failed state was the best target for Beijing to unroll its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and engulf Pakistan under its debt trap.
Having invested billions of dollars in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing cannot avoid speaking Islamabad’s language on Kashmir. No wonder the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, opposed the G20 meeting “on disputed territory”.
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Chinese acts in ‘disputed’ territories
Since the issue is holding a meeting in a “disputed territory”, India has a number of options to turn the table against China. New Delhi has already conveyed its protest over the involvement of a third party in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), saying activities under the CPEC are “inherently illegal, illegitimate, and unacceptable”. Therefore, the CPEC projects, which pass through ‘Pakistan Occupied India’, should be treated as assets built on “disputed territory” and hence dealt with in an appropriate manner. If China does not withdraw its commercial activities from a territory that belongs to India, it should be treated as nothing short of aggression.
On the question of Taiwan, when China expected India to reaffirm ‘One China Policy’, New Delhi expressed its concern over recent developments and urged Beijing to exercise restraint, avoid unilateral actions to change the status quo, and take steps for de-escalation of tensions. For more than a decade now, in the background of China’s repeated claims over Arunachal Pradesh and attempts to bring areas in Bhutan under ‘disputed category’, New Delhi has stopped reiterating “One ChinaPolicy”.
It is essential for New Delhi to consider formally establishing an official relationship with Taiwan and allowing Taipei to open a diplomatic office in India. This move would strengthen the ties between the two nations and facilitate increased trade and people-to-people contact. Similarly, a similar approach should be explored for Tibet.
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), often referred to as the Tibetan Government in Exile, functions as a democratic body striving to reclaim Tibet, which is currently under Chinese occupation. Given the disputed nature of Tibet, all Chinese projects in the region can be seen as activities carried out in disputed territory.
India, along with the democratic world, has a responsibility towards the displaced people of Tibet, supporting their aspirations to return to their land, culture, and traditions. By acknowledging the legitimate concerns of the Tibetan people and extending support to their cause, India can demonstrate solidarity with those affected by the occupation of Tibet.
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India can sway nations on its side
For the likes of Fernand de Varennes, the UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues, who boldly stated that the G20 was “unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy” amidst escalating human rights violations, political persecution, and illegal arrests in Kashmir, it is high time to extend a formal invitation to visit Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. This should be followed by a visit to Tibet and Xinjiang so that they could educate themselves on human rights violations occurring there.
As it is, the UN is rapidly losing credibility and relevance, necessitating urgent and substantial reforms in its administration. Institutions and agencies operating under the UN’s umbrella should be more responsible about portraying the truth objectively, and not propagate falsehoods and biases.
It is unsurprising that Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia have aligned themselves with China by not registering for the meeting in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition to their support for Pakistan, they are influenced by the shifting geopolitical dynamics where China envisions a greater Asia-Arab alliance aimed at diminishing American influence and advancing China’s own economic interests. However, it is only a matter of time before they realise the drawbacks of becoming overly dependent on the Chinese economy.
Considering the rapid growth and untapped potential of the Indian economy, these countries will eventually need to reassess their positions and explore business opportunities with India. New Delhi has both the patience and the inclination to wait for this shift and, in the meantime, engage in diplomatic efforts to sway them towards our perspective. By showcasing strong diplomacy and diplomatic skills, India can encourage these nations to reevaluate their alliances and embrace mutually beneficial partnerships.
Seshadri Chari is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. He tweets @seshadrichari. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)