The Chinese proposal for a tripartite meeting between China, India and Pakistan to resolve Indo-Pak border disputes, floated by Beijing’s ambassador in India Luo Zhaohui in what he claims to be his personal capacity, is evidently a trial balloon to test Indian waters.
In China’s scheme of things, it is virtually inconceivable that an envoy could have made such a far-reaching suggestion without the knowledge and active participation of the Chinese Government. Significantly, Luo Zhaohui was China’s ambassador in Islamabad from 2006 to 2010 and was posted in New Delhi recently.
It is just as well that the External Affairs Ministry has reacted promptly to the ambassador’s suggestion, clarifying that India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for involvement of any third country.
The envoy’s take was that the meeting could take place on the sidelines of the next meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) of which India and Pakistan have recently become members.
That the seminar that Luo Zhaohui spoke at in New Delhi was attended by NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, former Indian ambassadors to China Ashok Kantha and Nalin Suri, Russian ambassador Nikoley Kudashev and Bhutanese envoy Vetsop Namgyel shows that his comment was well-thought-out.
The attribution of the idea to “some Indian friends” was also deliberate and well-calculated.
Citing a recent example, the ambassador said if China, Russia and Mongolia could have a trilateral summit, then why not India, China and Pakistan? He qualified it by saying that the idea could be tried if not now, sometime in the future.
The Chinese Government has, in the past, said that China supports resolution of disputes between the nations bilaterally. This is a nuanced departure from that traditional position.
Last year, Luo had suggested renaming the China-Pak Economic Corridor to include India as well but this country was firm that it would have nothing to do with China’s Belt and Road initiative which envisages the road passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
It goes without saying that India can ill afford to trust China beyond a point. The manner in which Maldives and now Seychelles have been drawn away from Indian influence through clever manoeuvring by China should make India wary of Chinese designs.
In the Indo-Pak context, Chinese ambassador to India Luo’s suggestion for a tripartite meeting of China, India and Pakistan to resolve Indo-Pak border disputes is a trial balloon. Happily, the Modi government has indicated it does not favour it. Were we to agree, the Chinese could hoodwink us by leaning towards Pakistan.
Already, the Chinese have shown no sensitivity towards India’s objection to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which India regards as Indian territory.
It would indeed be great folly for India to get carried away by the recent show of Chinese bonhomie.
The Chinese under Xi Jinping are working simultaneously on many fronts to establish their hegemony in Asia and on the sea lanes in the region.
Finding that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is rallying together Opposition forces against Narendra Modi and the BJP, they have invited her on a visit to China from June 22 with the added purpose of lobbying with her for India to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Several meetings have been lined up with political leaders, government functionaries, business leaders and industry chambers for Mamata and her team which includes Finance Minister Amit Mitra.
There are specific plans for China to rope in West Bengal but the External Affairs Ministry has made it clear that all proposals will have to pass through the ministry. The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor is one such ambitious plan which would be dangled before Mamata.