Thursday, Nov 21, 2002
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By P. S. Suryanarayana
As the parleys will take place at the sub-political level of officials, the comfort level of both sides will come under the spotlight as much as any progress that could be attained as regards the main issues. The talks will mainly focus on the 14th round of the Sino-Indian Joint Working Group that deals with the border dispute.
China's official negotiating strategy has been propelled, for quite sometime, by the principles of "mutual accommodation" and "mutual understanding" insofar as the boundary issue is concerned. But this issue is not the only defining element in the Sino-Indian equation. Beijing's diplomatic exchanges with New Delhi at present are largely determined by the "readjustment" of the policy that gradually occurred after the Cold War ended over a decade ago. This "readjustment", reflected by China's "neutrality" towards India as also Pakistan at the time of the Kargil crisis and the unequivocal denunciation of the terrorist strike at Parliament House in New Delhi, is now acquiring a new meaning. The new connotation is that it will be in the interests of China as also India and even the international community to help Pakistan be a "moderate" state.
According to Wang Hongwei, a strategic expert, Pakistan's stability as a country with the stated goals of fighting terrorism and staying moderate would be a supportable proposition in the Sino-Indian context itself. In his view, this would make sense following the paradigm shift in China's post-Cold War foreign policy. Today, "China no longer supports Pakistan against India and will not support India against Pakistan," he underlined.
Ma Jiali, an expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, saw much scope for a new dynamic in Sino-Indian interactions following China's "readjustment" of its South Asia policy in an effort to nullify a "Cold War mentality". The new big picture of Sino-Indian diplomacy could be determined, partially though, by what Mr. Ma Jiali characterises as the combined efforts of China as also India and Russia to try and "influence" the U.S. foreign policy without forming any strategic triangle among themselves.
In Mr. Wang Hongwei's reckoning, too, the efforts by China as also India towards the creation of a multi-polar global order and America's bid to "contain and contact China" (or "co-engagement" as explained by Hu Shisheng) would be factors in the foreign policies of both Beijing and New Delhi. The strategic and political dimension of the Sino-Indian equation is not complete without the growing economic content of the bilateral ties.
India's Ambassador to China, Shiv Shankar Menon, drew attention to the relatively unheralded linkages in bilateral trade and economic cooperation, a sphere where New Delhi's showing was quite strong beyond the information technology sector too.
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