Who's afraid of the Chinese dragon? Certainly not the Indian government, nor the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi. Don't you dare, they even shared the traditional Gujarati swing, or, quite likely, the visitor had the experience of swinging in jhoola all by himself, swinging to the beat of the garba dancers of Gujarat. And don't you forget the several rounds of talks Mr. Modi's man for all seasons, his National Security Adviser, the former intelligence chief, Ajit Doval has had with his Chinese counterparts to clear the mess which the former colonialists and this man Nehru made of the borders separating the two big Asian nations.
Yes, the Chinese continue to be the all-weather friends of India's enemy, neighbouring Pakistan, a country which we are always reminded has become a party to Beijing's policy of encirclement of India, helping the Chinese build the Gawadar port in Balochistan, building the Karakoram road link that gives the Chinese mainland direct access to the new port and which in any case was built by the Chinese themselves. Yes, the very very Chinese who had vetoed a UN initiative invoking international sanctions against Azhar Masood, chief of the Jaish-e- Mohammad, a hate figure in India and allegedly the man behind the recent Pathankot terrorist strikes.
New Delhi was infuriated by the Chinese move, even surpassing the one triggered by the refusal of visas to Indians on the questionable ground that they were from areas to which China had laid claim to (Arunachal, for instance). Such Chinese perfidies we had been told, time and again, were unacceptable but accepted nevertheless. Well, trust the inscrutable Chinese to throw their weight around whenever they suspect an affront or someone trying to come closer to where their nose begins.
And in the instant case the Chinese made no bones of it when they objected to India having granted visas to three Chinese dissidents living in lands as far away as Germany, the US and Hong Kong. The grant of visa (now withdrawn) to the Uyghur dissident Dolkun Isa who is the voice in the West of Uyghur population of the Chinese western most province of Xinjiang, formerly Sinkiang was probably done innocently, without considering the possibility of a negative Beijing reaction..
Isa was to attend an international conference sponsored by an NGO headed by Ajit Doval's son, Shaurya Doval along with two other Chinese dissidents, Lu Jinghua from New York and Ray Wong from Hong Kong, both with pro-democracy credentials with Lu of the Tiananmen square lineage. Isa, the Chinese, has a made-in China – red corner notice standing against him while the other two were denied for laughable reasons such as illegible writing etc.
The truth is that China has a serious problem on its hands in Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim area, which has witnessed serious unrest for several years, the Chinese having resorted to the familiar ploy of changing the demography of the province by encouraging migration by mainland Chinese, as they have successfully done in the case of Tibet. And hence the aggravated suspicions of the Chinese authorities to the holding of the two-day Dharamsala conference. Dharamsala, I don't have to tell you, is home to the Dalai Lama and a large Tibetan refugee population.
The Indian retreat, causing it to withdraw or refuse visas to the three Chinese, stands out in sharp contrast to the chest thumping that marks the ruling party's stance when it comes to its dealings in similar conditions with some of the "lesser" countries in the neighborhood. For instance you can see the ruling party shouting itself hoarse when it comes to sorting out a problem with say a Bangladesh or Srilanka, even Maldives, for the matter. Or even that Big Brotherly stance of M. Modi the other day when India launched another satellite offering neighboring countries use of the satellite services (on payment) if they wish to shift from their existing arrangements with other countries. Why expect others to changeover, from the known to the unknown.
The willingness of the ruling dispensation in New Delhi to look the other way or bend over backwards when it comes to kowtowing to Chinese concerns is unfathomable.The withdrawal/refusal of visas to the three Chinese dissidents, considered in the background of the observations made by a former Indian National Security Adviser and a former Ambassador to Beijing does make interesting reading in this context.
Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon concedes that the Chinese take the Uyghur rebel movement in Xinjiang very seriously, people like Dolkjan Isa and Rebiya Kadeer, but asks must India too see Isa as a terrorist? The way the whole thing has been handled, Menon says, leaves one confused. Wondering whether it was India's calculation that giving visa to an Oghyuor dissident would change China's position on Azhar Masood, Menon says he does not think that "we should make the mistake of thinking that somehow listing of Azhar Masood will change counter-terrorism in any fundamental way, or change direction of India-China relations."
A very confused and confusing situation. Such meaningless exercises like denying or granting visas, don't make much sense. Particularly so when you are constantly reminded how fortunate you ( all of us Indians) are to have an omniscient, omnipotent man like Mr Moldi at the helm in India who you are again reminded is the tallest of the tall leaders on world stage now. And my worm's eye view tells me that Mr Moldi knows better than most that kowtowing is not the ideal path. Granting and denying visas may be crucial to the existence of humble people like Isa and the other two or three Chinese but it does raise larger questions, particularly when people of the eminence of the Indian Prime Minister figure among the dramatis personae. perceive as a loss of self-respect or their longing to live as a free people.
To my mind there is no one better placed than Mr Modi to appreciate the hurt it causes when someone espousing a cause however much you may personally disapprove of it. Mr Isa, committed to non-violent struggle, or the Hong Kong pro-democracy Chinese, whose only fault is that he was a leader of the non violent protests in the island territory, deserve a hearing. Denying visas is not the answer to serious discussions etc. And Mr. Modi doesn't need a reminder of that: he himself was denied a US visa for a number of years. And the same Mr Modi is now set to address the US Congress next month.