Sunday, February 27, 2005

SAARC: Bull's Eye

India spoke bluntly after being jolted by Nepal's royal coup. But the words were addressed in the wrong direction. Our government reprimands the tentacles of the octopus while kowtowing to its head! Who can deny that China empowers Pakistan and Bangladesh to be intransigent with India? Now China is active in Nepal. King Gyanendra would not have dared incur the US and UK's displeasure without China's backing. After December 24 and in January, Nepal's Prince Paras visited Hong Kong and Beijing twice. A day after his return from his second visit, the Dalai Lama's Tibetan cultural centre in Nepal was closed. His followers were then arrested and deported to China.

Bull's Eye
By Rajinder Puri

Outlining India's South Asia doctrine, foreign secretary Shyam Saran said: "India would not like to see a SAARC in which some of its members perceive it as a vehicle to countervail India." He decried the SAARC nations' attempts to "seek association with countries outside the region to counterbalance India". The reference to China could not be clearer. This column had earlier highlighted Bangladesh and Pakistan's defence ties with China. Bangladesh had once proposed a South Asian alliance with China to check India.

India spoke bluntly after being jolted by Nepal's royal coup. But the words were addressed in the wrong direction. Our government reprimands the tentacles of the octopus while kowtowing to its head! Who can deny that China empowers Pakistan and Bangladesh to be intransigent with India? Now China is active in Nepal.

King Gyanendra would not have dared incur the US and UK's displeasure without China's backing. After December 24 and in January, Nepal's Prince Paras visited Hong Kong and Beijing twice. A day after his return from his second visit, the Dalai Lama's Tibetan cultural centre in Nepal was closed. His followers were then arrested and deported to China.

The foreign secretary's words, thus, sound hollow in light of the speed with which India economically cozies up to China. India has announced joint bidding with China for future global energy supplies. It is lobbying for the proposed Iran gas pipeline to extend to China. Does our government believe that strategic threats should have no bearing on economic ties? Or are ministers running individual agendas without central coordination?

This column has repeatedly speculated about the possibility of the Chinese government's inability to override the Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA). The latter is a government within a government. It may be recalled that the PLA liberated China and empowered its Communist Party. Therefore, no matter how sincere Premier Wen Jiabao and his interlocutors appear, the Indian government cannot bank on personal equations. Bluntly speaking: what can the Chinese interlocutors actually deliver?

Can China accept Arunachal as a part of India? Can China recognise India's claims on Kashmir? Can China support India's entry into asean? Can China stop the supply of missiles to Pakistan? Can China terminate its defence pact with Bangladesh? Can China invite India to the Shanghai Five group to fight terrorism?

No? Well, then how are Shyam Saran's words any better than empty puffs of air?