September 28, 2014

On Chinese President’s Visit to India

THE Chinese president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan paid their maiden three day State visit to India. This is the first visit of the Chinese president after his election to these positions in 2012. Sixteen agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed, eleven of them with the central government and another five with the state governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Thus in just over a hundred days of his taking over as the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi has paid official visits to the former Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, Bhutan under the monarchy amongst the SAARC countries and Japan after an initial postponement. He has received the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Chinese president. Soon he will be travelling to attend the United Nations General Assembly and meet various heads of State/government including US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and others. Therefore, the slant in the foreign policy of the country, if any, will be known only subsequently. The minister of external affairs however has gone on record in the parliament to say that the foreign policy of India is a continuum and does not change with changes in the government. It is too early to make a judgement on this now. Prime Minister Modi in foreign lands like Japan has thundered that in his first 100 days as the prime minister he has virtually performed miracles by reversing the ‘paralysis’ that had gripped India for nearly a decade under the earlier government. This was received with great euphoria by India Inc. It was precisely these sections that had once lauded PM Manmohan Singh for having broken India’s nuclear isolation, gloating over his rubbing shoulders with world leaders at the G-20 high table. They are now the chief propagandists of Modi overcoming such `paralysis’. Is PM Modi doing anything different on this score than what PM Manmohan Singh did? Therefore both in terms of foreign policy and the policy of neo-liberal economic reforms, this Modi government is pursuing a similar policy trajectory as that of the previous Manmohan Singh government. This is echoed with a universal applause by large sections of the Indian media. In duly complying with their new found self-appointed role as the cheer leaders of Prime Minister Modi, the major electronic channels are already present in New York and broadcasting from the Times Square days before the prime minister lands there. Amongst the agreements arrived at between China and India a new convenient route for Indian pilgrims to visit the Kailash Mansarovar has been promised to be opened up, enhanced cooperation in the Railway sector for the feasibility and operation of high speed trains, for promoting balanced and sustainable development of economic and trade relations, greater cooperation for development of audio/visual material in each other’s markets, to fight against trans-border economic crimes, cooperation and exploration of outer space etc. At the joint press briefing the prime minister made the following comments which contain India’s assessment of the result of this visit: “I attach great importance and priority to our relations with China. We are two ancient civilizations with a long history of engagement. China is our largest neighbour, and India's neighbourhood occupies a special place in my national development plans and foreign policy. Today, we are the world's two most populous countries and its two largest emerging economies. We are both undergoing economic transformation on an unprecedented scale and speed. “Therefore, a climate of mutual trust and confidence; respect for each other's sensitivities and concerns; and, peace and stability in our relations and along our borders are essential for us to realize the enormous potential in our relations. “If we achieve that, we can reinforce each other's economic growth. We can contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in our region. And, we can give new direction and energy to the global economy. “We agreed that our economic relations do not do justice to our potential. I expressed concern at the slowdown in trade and the worsening trade imbalance. I sought his partnership in improving market access and investment opportunities for Indian companies in China. President Xi assured me of his commitment to take concrete steps to address our concerns. “Our agreements and announcements today demonstrate that people-to-people contacts, culture, tourism and art are central to our efforts to strengthen our partnership. “On behalf of the people of India, I thank President Xi for opening a new route through Nathu-La to Kailash Mansarovar. This will be in addition to the existing route through Uttarakhand. The new route offers many benefits. It makes Kailash Mansarovar accessible by a motorable road, which is especially beneficial to the older pilgrims. It offers a safer alternative in the rainy season, makes the pilgrimage shorter in duration, and will enable a much higher number of pilgrims to go there. “As we discussed how to strengthen cooperation, we have also exchanged views on outstanding differences in our relationship in a spirit of candour and friendship. “I raised our serious concern over repeated incidents along the border. We agreed that peace and tranquility in the border region constitutes an essential foundation for mutual trust and confidence and for realizing the full potential of our relationship. This is an important understanding, which should be observed diligently. While our border related agreements and confidence building measures have worked well, I also suggested that clarification of Line of Actual Control would greatly contribute to our efforts to maintain peace and tranquillity and requested President Xi to resume the stalled process of clarifying the LAC. We should also seek an early settlement of the boundary question.” In addition to the individual statements made by the Chinese president and the Indian prime minister, a “Joint statement between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China on building a closer developmental partnership” was issued in the afternoon of September 19. Amongst others this outlined the joint assessments of India and China on issues of mutual bilateral cooperation and dispute and concerning regional and international cooperation. Amongst other things, this joint statement says: “The leaders evaluated positively the progress of India-China relations over the recent years, and noted that both sides always consider their relations from a strategic and overall perspective. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to abide by the principles and consensus both had agreed to, and further consolidate the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and mutual respect and sensitivities for each other's concerns and aspirations. They agreed that as two large developing and emerging economies, their developmental goals are interlinked and should be pursued in a mutually supportive manner. Recognising that their respective growth processes are mutually reinforcing, they agreed to leverage mutual complementarities and build a closer developmental partnership. The leaders agreed to make this developmental partnership a core component of the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. This developmental partnership is conducive not only to the common interests of both sides, but also to stability and prosperity of the region and the world. “The two sides decided to strengthen political communication, deepen strategic trust as well as intensify political dialogue and consultations at all levels. With this objective, they also agreed upon regular visits at the level of Heads of State/Government. The leaders of the two countries will continue to meet on the side-lines of multilateral fora as frequently as possible. President Xi Jinping welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s early visit to China. Prime Minister Modi thanked President Xi Jinping for that and said he accepted the invitation from the Chinese side with pleasure and looked forward to visiting China at an early date. “Both sides reiterated their willingness to proactively resolve all outstanding differences based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence through friendly negotiation without letting them affect the overall development of bilateral relations. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to consolidate the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity on the basis of the principle of mutual and equal security and mutual sensitivity for each other's concerns and aspirations. “During the visit, the two sides exchanged views on the India-China boundary question and reiterated their commitment to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution, proceeding from the overall interests of bilateral relations. Recalling the Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question signed in April 2005, both sides reiterated their commitment to an early settlement of the boundary question and expressed their conviction that this will advance basic interests of the two countries and shall, therefore, be pursued as a strategic objective. They reaffirmed the utility and significance of the mechanism of Special Representatives for seeking a political settlement of the boundary question and of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs for handling border related matters. “Peace and tranquillity on the India-China border areas was recognized as an important guarantor for the development and continued growth of bilateral relations. Pending a final resolution of the boundary question, the two sides would continue to make joint efforts to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. “The two sides believe that the 21st century should be marked by peace, security, development and cooperation. As developing countries, India and China have common interests on several issues of global importance like climate change, Doha Development Round of WTO, energy and food security, reform of the international financial institutions and global governance. This is reflected in close cooperation and coordination between the two sides within the BRICS, G-20 and other fora. “The promotion of a multi-polar world, economic globalisation, cultural diversity and information revolution are high on the global agenda. The two sides will make joint efforts to democratise international relations and strengthen the central role of the United Nations in promoting global peace, security and development. “The two sides support a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including recognising the imperative of increased participation of developing countries in UN's affairs and governance structures, so as to bring more effectiveness to the UN. China attaches great importance to India's status in international affairs as a large developing country, and understands and supports India's aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations including in the Security Council. “Both sides reiterated their resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations with 'zero tolerance', and committed themselves to cooperate on counter-terrorism. They also emphasised the need to implement all relevant UN resolutions, in particular UNSC resolutions 1267, 1373, 1540 and 1624. “The two sides recognised that climate change is a common concern of mankind and one of the greatest global challenges in the 21st century, which needs to be addressed through international cooperation and in the context of sustainable development. The two sides will work together with other countries to advance the multilateral negotiation to achieve a balanced, comprehensive and equitable agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015, with a view to enhancing the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention in the post-2020 period. The two sides reaffirmed that the 2015 agreement shall be in full accordance with the principles, provisions and structure of the Convention, in particular the principle of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. “The two sides expressed satisfaction at the enhanced bilateral engagement at the working level on wide-ranging issues of regional and global significance. Bilateral consultations on Afghanistan, West Asia, Africa, Central Asia and Counter-terrorism have already been held and found to be meaningful. “The Asia-Pacific region plays an increasingly important role in global affairs. The two sides are of the view that the current priority of this region is to maintain peace and stability of the region, promote regional common development, and establish an open, transparent, equal and inclusive framework of security and cooperation based on the observance of the basic principles of international law. The two sides support multilateral cooperation mechanisms in Asia and agree to broaden cooperation in the relevant regional organizations.” These statements and the joint vision expressed by both India and China should lay the foundation for the emergence of a much closer good neighbourly relations between the two countries and for cooperation on international matters which are of mutual concern and benefit to both our countries. The CPI(M) has always maintained that improved relations between India and China are a vital element for ensuring peace and security in South Asia region and hence in the Asia-Pacific region and therefore the world. While the mutually agreed institutional arrangements to discuss and resolve the disputes between our two countries including the border disputes across the table must continue with regular frequency ensuring the safeguarding of our country’s sovereignty and security, the economic, cultural and people to people relations between our two giant neighbours must improve, which are of mutual benefit to both our countries and peoples. This can only be ensured by carrying forward the ‘continuum’ of India’s foreign policy as asserted by our minister for external affairs in Parliament. (September 24, 2014)