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Who Is Really Losing Their Dignity As A Big Power—India or China?

China’s extended petulance over the Dalai Lama's Arunachal visit belies its stature.

04/05/2017 2:52 PM IST | Updated 04/05/2017 2:52 PM IST

The tone has changed, and the stage is set for a direct face-off between the tiger and the dragon as the Dalai Lama issue continues to ruffle feathers in Beijing. The Chinese media is on a roll too, issuing provocative statements like "Beijing should not hesitate to answer blows with blows."

Taking the rhetoric several notches higher, Zhu Weiqun, a top Communist Party official, said that China may be forced to interfere in the Kashmir issue because of the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Zhu also lamented that India is losing its dignity as a big power.

Now, what can I even say about the intellectual fitness of leaders like Zhu. What position is he really in to invoke the "dignity" of a "big power" even after the cultural genocide in Tibet and the autocratic rule that China has imposed on its own people, resulting in severe human rights violations.

China has to mind that it is 2017 and not 1962. A sturdy India is emerging, able to withstand strong winds and cold weather.

Unlike his predecessor Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been following a strategic China policy since May 2014. He started with a sensible diplomatic approach that gave every indication that the emerging superpowers would strengthen their ties, both in terms of trade and security, despite ideological differences in sensitive issues.

However, China, as is its wont, didn't exactly play ball.

From blocking India's bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group to vetoing the country's request to naming Pakistani militant Masood Azhar to a UN Security Council blacklist, the anti-India bent of Communist China has been evident in recent times. Yet, at the same time, Beijing has shown great energy in expanding its business tentacles to multiple sectors in India, ranging from smart phones to cricket. Note that more than 30% of India's smart phone business is now controlled by Chinese brands such as Oppo and Vivo.

China made provocative statements in the past too over the Arunachal issue. What makes the situation different is Narendra Modi's unwavering stand in dealing with affairs related to the integrity of the nation. India's different and bold stand on Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal was a surprise for China. That's why the Chinese official media has been engaged in communicating warning messages to India for weeks over the same issue.

Earlier Indian governments were specific in directing diplomats and leaders not to air any statements that provoke China. With the status quo changing, China is bristling. Just look at the outraged tone of this article appeared on Global Times, a state-backed tabloid:

"The 14th Dalai Lama started his visit to 'Arunachal Pradesh' (South Tibet of China) on Tuesday. The Dalai Lama has been to the disputed region before, but what makes this trip different is that he is received and accompanied by India's Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju. When China raised the concern over the visit, Rijiju commented that China shouldn't intervene in their internal affairs'."

The Dalai Lama has visited Arunachal Pradesh six times earlier and the Tawang Monastery four times. Tawang assumes great importance for the Tibetan spiritual leader, as the sixth Dalai Lama was born there in 1683.

What the Modi government is doing now is strategically the right approach as the China-Pakistan-Russia axis is gaining momentum.

China continues to claim that Tawang, a border town situated 47km south of the McMahon Line that separates India and Tibet, belongs to them. Thus it believes that the Dalai Lama's visit challenges their territorial integrity. India, of course, stood its ground. The Dalai Lama was received and accompanied by an Indian minister to Arunachal Pradesh.

Kiren Rijiju was dead right about China needing to stop meddling in India's internal matters. Their talk of "dignity" and claims on Arunachal don't make any sense in any context. History is a reminder that India's policy of appeasing China over the Dalai Lama has not yielded any result. What the Modi government is doing now is strategically the right approach as the China-Pakistan-Russia axis is gaining momentum.

China has to mind that it is 2017 and not 1962. A sturdy India is emerging, able to withstand strong winds and cold weather. Meanwhile, given China's business interests in India, it should play smart and put a lid on the "blows with blows" rhetoric—it could backfire.

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