In his wide-ranging speech at the inaugural session of Raisina Dialogue – a geopolitical conference hosted by India- turning to relations with China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an oblique reference to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying “in the management of our relationship and for peace and progress in the region, both our countries need to show sensitivity and respect for each other’s core concerns”, leaving it to his Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to express his side’s ‘concerns’ on the second day of the conference.
The secretary spoke in general terms about China, stating that the overall broadening of ties has been overshadowed by differences on certain political issues -one such issue is China’s principled stance on India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group – but chose to focus on the CPEC.
Iterating New Delhi’s usual stance, he said: “CPEC passes through a territory that we see as our territory. Surely, people will understand what Indian reaction is.” This ‘core’ Indian concern happens to be about a subject that Pakistan too regards as the core issue vis-à-vis relations with India, namely Kashmir. What India claims as “our territory” is Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Interestingly, in so doing it acknowledges that Kashmir is a disputed territory. People can understand New Delhi’s reaction if it seeks a resolution of the dispute and the other side refuses to respond, but it is the other way round. The Modi government has been continually spurning Pakistan’s overtures for a negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues of conflict between the two countries, especially the Kashmir question.
Unfortunately, as the present example shows New Delhi chooses to bring up Kashmir when that suits its purposes. It needs to take a realistic view of the CPEC. As the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson pointed out, the project “targets no third country” and is for regional peace and development. In fact, it is not even Pakistan-specific but is part of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road” initiative to build connectivity and co-operation between China and various Eurasian countries. It is open to all interested, including India.
It is pertinent to recall here that in his speech Modi also talked about his government’s focus on international engagements that, among other things, includes “rebuilding connectivity, restoring bridges and rejoining India with our immediate and extended geographies.” Indeed, as a ‘rising power’ India can chart its own path in that direction. That though would be made easier if it gets over its fixation on settling old scores with Pakistan and resolves Kashmir, paving the way for a mutually beneficial co-operation.
To rephrase Chinese President Xi Jinping’s perceptive remarks he made in Davos in a different context, the present policy brings not only the wind and rain-in the form of a threat of war, bloody violations of the LoC and Working Boundary, and militancy- but also blocks out the sunshine and air. -Business Recorder