CHENNAI, India, 5 October 2019
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be receiving the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mahabalipuram near Chennai in India shortly. One can be sure that Modi will leave no stone unturned to give a grand reception to the Chinese President, similar to the other reception that was hosted by Modi to Xi Jinping in Gujarat earlier. In the last few years, the two leaders have met several times not only in India and China but also in other places internationally.
It is really not clear as to what is the objective of Modi meeting with the Chinese President at the present time, just after he has completed high-level meetings with Russian President Putin and US President Donald Trump. If there are any strategies for Modi, it has not been convincingly explained by him so far.
In spite of several meetings, handshakes, and smiles exchanged between Modi and Xi Jinping, there is no change in the stance of China towards India on several issues. In fact, China has been hostile and unyielding in dealing with India in recent years.
The latest is China’s hostile attitude towards India with regard to the Kashmir issue in the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting. China openly supported Pakistan, and termed India an occupier of Kashmir. China has blocked efforts in UNO to declare as terrorist one of the known Islamic extremists in Pakistan. It has been occupying for the last several years sizable land in Aksai Chin in northeast India, which it occupied during the Indo-China war in 1962. China continues to claim that Indian province Arunachal Pradesh is part of China, and has even refused to give proper visa to the residents of Arunachal Pradesh to visit China.
China aggressively entered Tibet around six decades ago, mercilessly suppressed the liberation movement in Tibet which resulted in the respected Holiness the Dalai Lama leaving Tibet along with many followers to stay in India with refugee status. China has been objecting to any friendly approach of India towards the Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugees, forcing India to play soft in the issue.
In such circumstances, what is the need for Modi to have repeated meetings with the Chinese President, when China adopts such a stubborn attitude towards India?
Modi’s repeated meetings with the Chinese President reminds one of British Prime Minister Chamberlain meeting with Hitler before the Second World War — in spite of knowing Hitler’s hostile attitude and aggressive postures. It also reminds us of former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s appeasement policy towards China and then Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai, which proved to be costly later on.
At present, China is facing a difficult situation on several fronts due to its slowing economy, trade confrontation with USA, unrest in Hong Kong, and more. With the US market for China becoming constrained due to US President Trump’s hostile trade policy towards China, significantly impacting Chinese industry and economy, China is facing an uncertain future. In such conditions, China desperately needs alternate markets for its products, and the Indian market can provide some relief. One gets a feeling that today China needs India’s support more than India needs China.
No one is in doubt that China has an ambitious expansionist policy, and that it is adopting various methods to achieve this end. It has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan and has now a definite stake in Pakistan’s economy, making Pakistan excessively dependent on China. Many believe that China now views Pakistan as its extended territory. Pakistan has gifted part of the land in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China. Therefore, China is unlikely to change its stance on Kashmir, and will never support India on the Kashmir issue.
China’s economic corridor projects are clearly intended to expand China’s influence in the global sphere and also find outlet for China’s markets in other parts of the world. This is a long-term policy of China, with definite expansionist ambitions in mind.
Why is Modi repeatedly meeting the Chinese President and making friendly gestures, in spite of China’s hostile attitude towards India? Is Modi trying to keep China in good humour, so as to prevent China from joining with Pakistan to have a military confrontation with India by starting a border war?
It is in India’s interest that China be resisted, just as it is in the interest of Japan, USA, and other countries to resist China.
Unfortunately, Modi is giving the impression that he is trying to appease China to buy peace with China. But peace with China cannot be bought by appeasement — it can be won only by resisting.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.