S. Jaishankar | File photo: Bloomberg Photo
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar | Bloomberg File photo
Text Size:

What Home Minister Amit Shah proposes, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar disposes. That’s because international realpolitik is hardly subservient to the domestic needs of the Narendra Modi government.

Just because the BJP shouts from the rooftops as well as in Parliament that it won’t rest until it takes over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as well as Aksai Chin – even as it unilaterally integrates Jammu & Kashmir into the Indian union – doesn’t mean that it can.

Which way you look at it

The limits of Narendra Modi’s much-vaunted foreign policy on both Pakistan and China were unusually exposed Monday during Jaishankar’s conversation in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. It would be nice to know who stared who down, even if they don’t do things like that in real life anymore except in Bollywood movies.

That is one way of looking at it.

The other would be to see whether the Chinese are simply displaying a cardboard anger, which its client state Pakistan expects from it, but is hardly going to follow through where it matters most, that is in the UN Security Council.

The state-run Global Times, for instance, was simply whipping up the froth. It quoted the Chinese foreign minister telling Jaishankar that Delhi’s announcement of Ladakh as Union Territory posed “a challenge to China’s sovereignty and violated the two countries’ agreement on maintaining peace and stability in the border region…India’s move is neither valid to China nor will change the status quo”.

Whichever view you prefer – whether the Chinese scolded, rebuked, chided or reprimanded India or had to proforma raise its voice, given the Hong Kong protests at hand – the irony of ironies is that the last time foreign minister Wang Yi delivered a tough message to India was when he was a mid-level official in 1998 after India’s nuclear tests.


Also read: Even if J&K crackdown makes liberals cringe, we must support govt fight against insurgency


Dragon flexes its front paw

This time around, Jaishankar and Wang Yi seem to have had mostly Kashmir on their minds. Even before the former went to Beijing, the Chinese had criticised India for “unilaterally” changing the status quo on Jammu & Kashmir and asked both India and Pakistan to resolve the issue “based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement”.

See how the Chinese dragon flexes its front paw. See how Amit Shah, hardly versed in the minutiae of China-India relations fell into the ‘all Kashmir is mine’ trap that was actually laid, ironically again, by the Jawaharlal Nehru government in 1954.

If you look at the map of India, the eastern ear – Aksai Chin – is controlled by China, while the western ear – largely Pakistan-occupied Kashmir – is controlled by Pakistan. As he integrated Kashmir into the union, Shah could hardly deviate from the RSS’ “Akhand Bharat” script by leaving out Indian claims on both pieces of territory.

Except that Amit Shah should have been briefed by Jaishankar’s ministry a bit better. Nobody told the home minister that in 2005, India and China signed a set of “guiding principles” that would help both resolve their contentious border issue that dated back to the 1962 war.

Certainly, Jaishankar is believed to have done that with Wang Yi – although it isn’t clear if Wang Yi was listening. That’s because the Chinese believe they are much too powerful and in a much better place today to conduct foreign policy, including with recalcitrant and noisy neighbours like India.

India, on the other hand, need not remind Beijing that it held off PLA troops during the Doklam crisis in 2017. And that even if the 2018 “Wuhan consensus” on focusing on the positive side of the relationship is fraying, there is much Delhi can remind Xi Jinping’s Beijing on the eve of his own October visit to India – for example, the “strike hard” policies by China in Tibet and Xinjiang, for starters.

Still, Modi may want to bring the temperature down quickly. He knows he cannot or will not conduct surgical strikes inside Aksai Chin the way he ordered them inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Jaishankar, meanwhile, is seeking to assuage Wang Yi by saying that India “has no additional territorial claims” on China, not beyond Aksai Chin in any case, and that “Chinese concerns in this regard were misplaced”.


Also read: From AFSPA to street protests, Modi govt needs new thinking in J&K with Article 370 gone


All depends on how Kashmir unfolds

As for the Chinese support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council, it will all depend on the price Delhi wants to pay to keep Beijing close. Question is, how much can India mitigate the affection that China has for its client state Pakistan, which insists on internationalising the Kashmir issue?

That’s why it all depends on how Kashmir unfolds. If protests continue and the security forces try to put them down with a heavy hand, and there is loss of life, then the internationalisation of Kashmir will be a heavy price to pay for development in the rest of the country.

India is, of course, a changed country since the US and other western powers slapped sanctions on it in the wake of the 1998 nuclear tests. Except for the Chinese, no other big power has made any critical statements – the Americans have declared the abrogation of Article 370 to be an “internal matter”, the Russians are openly on board with the Modi government, while the British Conservative and Labour parties are fighting among themselves as to how best to deal with the crisis.

Kashmir is not an international or a bilateral issue, the Modi government says – even if ambassadors to the US (Harsh Shringla) and France (Vinay Kwatra) are defending Modi ji’s Mission Kashmir on TV.

But if things fall apart, as W.B. Yeats said, and the centre doesn’t hold, then all bets are off.


Also read: Has Modi forced Pakistan to escalate tensions, terror and draw big powers to Kashmir?


The piece has been updated to reflect a correction.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

31 Comments Share Your Views

31 COMMENTS

  1. The Author Needs Lessons In International Relations!! The REALITY Is That Much Of The World Is Ruled By Crooks Like Trump Where ONLY Interests Count!!

    Meanwhile, Thanks To Pakistan’s & Islamic Nations Support, #Xinjiang, #China’s #Concentration Camps have achieved what they had set out to do!!* #Uyghur #Muslims Now openly RENOUNCING #ISLAM. Go in as a #Muslim. Leave As an Atheist!!

    Lessons For India & The World??!!

    https://twitter.com/i/status/1164137812905644032

  2. You really take an anti India stand. Don’t you. It is clear from the wordings how you would love India to be “chided and reprimanded ” by another country . Sweet dreams.

  3. I am still waiting for print to go around begging for alms last time it got its ass kicked by Shah in Jay Shah’ s case of defamation it was left yelping to ppl on sm for support.

    Now that Pakistan has joined it they seem to have thought China will take on Shah on their behalf.
    Aint happening !

  4. Some time back acquiring POK was a laughable claim as we were not able to handle even our part of Kashmir on account of inept and corrupt politicians and scheming Pak and separatist leaders. But even then a resolution was passed showing intent to acquire POK . Now that our part of Kashmir has been irrevocably annexed by us, the claim to POK and Aksai Chin must reiterated. Let us lodge our case and let the future decide our course.

  5. It will take few more months for Shekhar Gupta and his gang to realise that Congies have no chance to come back to power in the near future.

  6. PRINT, NDTV and many others in Indian media are eating from Pakistani plates. They are very much wishing that in kashmir Trouble starts as before.

  7. Why u ppl writin all bullshit news if u dsn’t knw d single reprt rgrdn politics n J&K issue…..if der z no wrk do some social activities instd f writin ds fake news……shame on u ppl really

  8. After hearing to Shekhar’s analysis on YouTube (Cut the Clutter and National Interest), my curiosity was piqued about The Print and came here hoping for a similar level of analysis. Unfortunately, I am left disappointed by the lack of nuance or even basic grasp of the subjects and topics being discussed. Journalists ought to understand that things usually are not binary in this world even when the general public may always not and therefore avoid behaving and writing like they would have for their college editorials.

  9. Indians and their delusions. I find it funny that Hyderabad, Junnargarh two princely states with Muslim rulers; one who wanted to be independent and another who signed instrument of ascension to Pakistan were both invaded by India and annexed. Same thing happened with Goa and Sikkim. However Azad Kashmir and Aksai Chin are a different ball game all together. If it is so easy when is Amit Shah and “mighty” Indian army going to take it over? He won’t because he can’t do fake surgical strikes which got exposed by independent media around the world and how badly the IAF missed its target or the fake story of shooting an F-16 when Americans confirmed all Pak F-16s are accounted for. But fools will believe whatever propaganda thrown by RSS, Modi and his hinduvata thugs.

  10. Ms Malhotra talks as if she personally was present in the meeting between EaM and counsellor Wang Yi. Let us know where she confidently states her cock and bull stories from?
    Also, in practical terms what is the affect of the abrogation of some provision of India’s Constitution on the PRC? They don’t care about any of this.

  11. I feel pity at her thought process & mental level. She need to realize its not Nehru era. Time has changed & neither it’s 1962. She no clue about foreign policy

  12. Just a pack of jumbled words. Unable to understand what the author wants to convey.
    I would rate this as substandard article.

  13. Not sure what this opinion is about. China is very much interested in settling boarders with India. It has spent lots of money in Gilgit area which India claims. China want to make sure its interests are preserved. If India takeover That area, china’s money is gone. It is ready to settle all border disputes with India, that was areal meeting with Chinese.

  14. The writer seems to a country brute, who thinks senselessly and write anything which comes to the mind. Probably the person thinks people might get motivated by it but doesn’t realize that people are clearly preparing to spit at his/ her face.

  15. After reading Ms Suhasini Haidar’s column, the rationale / long term strategic or diplomatic gains from this decision become even more difficult to comprehend. Troublingly, she quotes Demonetisation as one example of a particular style of decision making which is guided by political calculus and which plays out well with the base.

  16. As usual, Jyoti is writing all rubbish. If China wants to flex its muscles, India can teach it a lesson on trade front. So let’s not get into how China can bully us. We have clarified our position on Aksai Chin and that’s where it stands fine. China will of course make noise about it as a part of diplomacy and it will demand reiteration of our position. Beyond this, there is nothing more, nothing less. ThePrint is seriously losing its credibility by allowing such immature articles. It is fine if you hate Modi but have some intellectual heft and common sense to argue your position.

  17. The dragon is in no way afected if we reorganise internally the administration of its constituent states. Aksai Chin is a part of India and the 1962 war had its root cause in the illegal occupation and intrusion in the Aksai Chin area to link the two chines provinces . We should not give up our claims to our legitimate lands. The fact of the matter is like ISRAEL we are surrounded by two hostile states which are not likely to drop their rabid hostility towards India in an forseeable future. India’s salvation lies in having top class well trained well equipped defence forces. The Air Force should have ample sustaining power and should be the best in the region.Naval ships and submarines too should be able to completely destroy the Pak naval and air fotce within a short time of the commencement of the hostilities and then take the fight against the dragon’s shipping and air force. WE should make up our deficiecies in equipment and well trained and well erxercised and well rehearsed manpower China would like to satrt short period hostilities against us to divert or put back our industrial development. WE should root out CORRUPTION and devote every possible penny to keep our defence forces always at “STAND TO” to launch simultaneous devastaing punches on the hostile countries in our neighbourhood as and when required.

  18. What is she trying to say? Do u even read yourself what your write? She-khar Lutyens Gupta is this what you started print for.

  19. When you can write such an useless analysis without being a part of the Govt. Don’t you think govt would have think thru it? What kind of writing is this?

  20. Doval : Policy formulator
    Shah : policy enforcer inside INDIA
    Jaishankar: policy enforcer outside India

    Damordas’s Trishul.

  21. The writer does not understand the a,b,c of foreign policy. But belongs to the Lutyens club. So a favorite of the Print. And readers have to read this foolishness.

  22. Aksai Chin is a frozen desert / dessert the Chinese thought they had taken off the table ages ago. Great pity these recent constitutional changes have brought it back into focus. Relations seem to have cooled. The reference to UN Resolutions on Kashmir endorses the Pakistani position in the manner that the bland suggestion that Relevant parties resolve all issues bilaterally does not. Unless some understandings are reached, Varanasi could become just a photo opp, sailing on the Ganges.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here