Kashmir On The Agenda As Top Officials Go To Beijing3 November 2010
New Delhi: India and China are preparing to meet at senior levels over the next few weeks to grapple with their differences and take forward the positive momentum in their relationship after the just-concluded visit of Zhou Yongkhang, a senior Politburo member of the Chinese Communist Party and in the run-up to Chinese premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Delhi, likely on December 16-17. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is travelling to Beijing on November 16 after she, along with External Affairs minister S M Krishna participate in an India-Russia-China trilateral in Wuhan while National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon will undertake a second visit on November 29-30, government sources have said. On top of the Indian agenda, both on Rao and Menon's visits, will be the questions Beijing has been raising on Kashmir in recent months and their manifestations whether it is a question of denying a visa to Gen B S Jaswal, commander-in-chief of the Indian army's northern command, or issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian officials will also talk about the increased Chinese presence in the Indian neighbourhood, including the presence of thousands of engineers in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The official sources pointed out that the Chinese leadership's aggressive behaviour on Kashmir translates into a questioning of 'India's core concerns, of national sovereignty and territorial integrity'. The Chinese side has evaded a discussion on these subjects, whether it was during the last visit by Menon or during Zhou Yongkhang's meetings with the senior leadership in Delhi yesterday. But Delhi is also getting feelers that the Chinese side will have some answers to India's questions when Wen Jiabao comes to India. In fact, Delhi had been expecting Xi Jinping Vice-President as well as recently appointed vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, a position that puts him in line to take over the reins of the Communist Party of China from Hu Jintao next year but it was informed that Premier Wen himself wanted to come to India. Government sources said it was too early to say whether Wen's desire to come to Delhi indicated a thaw in the political relationship or not, but pointed out that China, always hyper-sensitive to changes in power equations worldwide, had noticed India's growing ties with Japan, as well as the increasingly influential role India was playing both in South-East Asia as well as East Asia. At a day-long seminar organised in Delhi by the Congress party on Monday to take forward relations with the Communist Party, Chinese analysts refused to talk about 'issues of concern' between India and China, only saying these should be put on the back-burner while both countries addressed growing trade between them. It was left to External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to talk about the need for both sides to 'have a high degree of sensitivity to each other's concerns' if both their aspirations to be big powers are to be duly accommodated by the world. Ravni Thakur, a Congresswoman and one of the main organisers of the conference, was the only one to talk of the need to 'address disputes' and not push them under the carpet, otherwise, they would fester and grow and could damage the growing relationship. The Chinese analysts, who spoke off the record, said there was a great deal of concern in Beijing when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the Dalai Lama or visited Arunachal Pradesh an area they call South Tibet, part of the disputed boundary issue between the two sides. The only Chinese official ready to come on record, Liang Wengtiao of the Chinese commerce ministry, on the disparate quality of trade India's trade basket is weighted down considerably by iron ore exports, while China's basket consists largely of finished goods to India pointed out that Indian companies needed to be far more enterprising if they wanted to penetrate the Chinese market. 'Indian companies are only complaining,' Liang said, unlike their Western counterparts, although there is a level playing field for all parties. He pointed out that if Indian pharmaceutical companies wanted access to China's large market and struggled to move through the opaque Chinese bureaucracy, they only had to take a leaf out of what their Western counterparts were doing. Western pharma companies had employed 'hundreds of staff and lawyers' to wade through the complex registration procedures, while Indian companies were content with 'only a representative office and one or two people as staff,' Liang said. Indian government officials said the Chinese comments were 'a wake-up call' to Indian business trying to make money in China, and that unless these businessmen became much more pushy and enterprising they would not only be out-manouevred at their own game by their Western counterparts, but also not able to resist the march of Chinese traders and investors seeking to flood the Indian market with much cheaper goods.