By Claude Arpi
Indian diplomats need to pick up negotiating skills from Beijing before Delhi can claim win-win friendship
President Hu Jintao has come and gone. The 13 agreements, protocols and MoUs signed during his visit have brought nothing very new or exciting. Most of these are geared to closer economic relations. An amusing one is the MoU between the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (Mr Hu used to be the Director of the school).
It states that "it reflects the desire of the public administration institutions of the two sides to better understand each other's systems of governance and promote cooperation and exchange of experience". Perhaps at least now Indians (possibly, some Communists) will be able to better understand how totalitarian regimes function.
The 48 articles of the Joint Declarations run on the same lines. Basically, all controversial issues have been kept safely under the carpet except for the fact that Delhi unnecessarily reiterated that it "does not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India".
Nothing was discussed (or appeared in the Joint Declaration) on more controversial issues. Rather, there was the outburst of the Chinese Ambassador on Arunachal before President Hu's visit, who claimed: "The whole of what you call the State of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory and Tawang (district) is only one place in it and we are claiming all of that - that's our position."
India's diplomacy is weak simply because Indians are intrinsically good and compassionate and this makes our officers unsuited for hard bargaining. Clearly, Indians have to be more like the Chinese insofar as diplomatic skills are concerned.
Take the invasion of Tibet in 1950. Sardar Patel took up with Nehru the case of KM Panikkar (Indian Ambassador to China), and wrote: "We have an Ambassador who is eminently suitable for putting across our friendly point of view... My own feeling is that at a crucial period they manage to instil into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence." Panikkar was a nice man, but did not serve Delhi's interests. A few months later, it was too late: India had a new neighbour.
So, what would a "Chinese-minded" Indian diplomat have said? First, it would have said, like Deng Xiaoping did about Mao, that Nehru's policies were 70 per cent good and 30 per cent bad. Most pending problems with China, such the border issue, are a result of Nehru's 30 per cent wrong policies.
Then, such a diplomacy could raise the issue of the Simla Convention of 1914 and point out that for more than six months, a Chinese plenipotentiary called Ivan Chen had participated in the conference. He eventually initiated the convention. Though his Government did not ratify it, he knew about the clause stating that if one party does not ratify the convention, it could not be entitled to its benefits. This is important because Beijing today claims Arunachal Pradesh on the ground that it did not participate in the Simla Convention.
A "Chinese-minded" Indian diplomat could further point out that the delineation of the McMahon Line between India and Tibet did not form part of the convention as it was signed a few months earlier by the representatives of British India and Tibet. There was no objection from the Chinese then, who had never set foot in this area of North-East.
India could then announce that it is envisaging offering its good offices to mediate between the Dalai Lama and Beijing, with the rider that there was nothing unfriendly towards China in this as the Dalai Lama had now dropped his claim for Tibet's freedom; Delhi would just like to help Beijing and Dalai Lama to find a win-win solution for both parties. The outcome could respect the autonomy of Tibet as promised in the Chinese Constitution and fulfil the aspirations of Tibetan people for a 'genuine' solution.
In view of the friendly relations between the two nations, Delhi could further announce the immediate opening of negotiations on the following points: The reopening of the Karakoram Pass and the ancient trade route to Yarkand and Kashmir. Traditionally the business between the State of Jammu & Kashmir and Central Asia has flourished and even today, many in the region remember with nostalgia the caravans taking Indian goods to Xinjiang and further on the Silk Road.
The reopening of an Indian Consulate-General in Kashgar. The opening of the Ladakh route through Demchok for Indian pilgrims wanting to visit Mount Kailash. This will be much quicker than the UP road. A special status for the village of Minsar near Mount Kailash. This village traditionally belongs to J&K. From this base, India could help maintaining shrines and temples around the holy site.
The signing of a water treaty for rivers originating in Tibet and flowing into India in line with the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan. The return of Shagsam Valley illegally offered to China by Pakistan in 1963. As India is in control of the Siachen/ Saltoro range, there is no reason why this area should not be returned to India.
With Sino-Indian ties under 'enhanced exchanges' mode, Delhi could permit Beijing to hire some of the Indian Communist comrades who could teach the Chinese leadership parliamentary democracy.