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Sunday, November 19, 2006

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   Study of Hu's Visit to India & Pak

The joint statements issued at the end of Hu Jintao’s visit to India and Pakistan afford an opportunity to assess the extant policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) towards South Asia and more particularly India and Pakistan. - by Mr. D. S. Rajan.

China : President Hu Jintao’s visits to India and Pakistan

             - a comparative study of two Joint Statements  

The joint statements issued at the end of Hu Jintao’s visit to India and Pakistan afford an opportunity to assess the extant policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) towards South Asia and more particularly India and Pakistan.

A comparative study of the PRC-India Joint Declaration (New Delhi, November 21, 2006) and the China-Pakistan Joint Statement (Islamabad, November 25,2006) reveals the following:

Mr. D.S. Rajan is formerly Director in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India. He can be reached at rajan@whatisindia.com

Bilateral relations

Not surprisingly, China’s intention to strengthening its strategic bonds with Islamabad is evident.  While the New Delhi Declaration has said that both sides will further ‘substantiate and reinforce’ the China-India ‘strategic and cooperative partnership’, the Islamabad Statement has observed that China will continue to view its relations with Pakistan from a strategic and long-term perspective and work together with Pakistan to elevate their strategic partnership to a ‘new high’.

Also, unlike in India’s case, Beijing-Islamabad closeness has manifested very prominently in the Islamabad Statement. China has used the terminologies like “all weather friendship and all-dimensional cooperation” and “ old and tested friend, good neighbour, good partner and good brother” to define its ties with Pakistan. Hu even went poetic saying that the relations between the two countries is  “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Indian Ocean and sweeter than honey." The New Delhi Declaration was more matter of fact.  With issues still dividing China and India in mind, Beijing has felt the necessity to underscore the point that both nations are not rivals or competitors, but partners for mutual benefit and that differences on the boundary issue etc should not be allowed to stymie the positive development of bilateral relations.  On the contrary, the PRC has found no need for such views with respect to Pakistan, with no outstanding issues between the two.

The Chinese view expressed in Islamabad  (not in New Delhi Declaration) that the PRC’s relations with Pakistan are a part of Beijing’s Foreign policy of Friendship and Partnership with neighbouring countries, is noteworthy, as by implication, Beijing seems to be emphasising to Islamabad that it has strong interests in improving ties with India.

Another feature distinguishing the two documents is China’s reiteration in Islamabad of its support to Pakistan’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty on the lines of China-Pakistan Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good- neighbourly Relations, signed in April 2005. The Treaty, described as provider of a legal foundation to the China-Pakistan strategic partnership, is said to be unique, as both nations have so far no such pact with any other country.

The documents exhibited an evenhanded approach on the subject of bilateral defence cooperation. The New Delhi Declaration has positively evaluated the India-China MOU for Defence exchanges and cooperation, signed on May29, 2006, while at Islamabad, China-Pakistan Framework Agreement of Defence Cooperation concluded in February 2006 was highlighted.

Science and Technology cooperation finds a separate mention in the New Delhi Declaration, whereas the Islamabad document has made no reference to this subject. This could indicate China’s implicit recognition of India as a source of Science and Technology power.

In New Delhi, both China and India listed energy among other fields as having substantial potential for cooperation. The two sides agreed to promote such cooperation consistent with their respective international commitments. The Islamabad Document on its part, referred to the agreement between China and Pakistan to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector under their framework agreement of February 2006.  

Regional and International issues 

An interesting point is that the Islamabad document has no reference to match Chinese observations in New Delhi that ties with India are of global and strategic significance, the two nations have a similar world view and they agree to play respective roles in the region and beyond, while remaining sensitive to each other’s concerns. It said that China and Pakistan had only a broad consensus on regional and international issues. This could indicate the PRC’s recognition of a globally rising India, unlike its perception with regard to Pakistan.

The Islamabad Document has also no matching mention to what has been said in New Delhi by the Chinese on the subject of world multipolarity. The New Delhi Declaration has stated that China and India would safeguard the interests of developing countries and promote multipolarity and democracy in the world. For the Chinese, the term upholding of multipolarity always meant opposition to the US unilateralism.  Lack of reference to multipolarity in Islamabad statement could signify Pakistan’s reluctance to offend its historical benefactor, the U.S. 

The New Delhi Document has stated that to meet the energy needs of both China and India, international civil nuclear cooperation should be advanced through innovative and forward looking approaches, while safeguarding the effectiveness of international non proliferation principles. By indicating in this way its intention   to begin civil nuclear energy cooperation with India, for the first time, the PRC appears to be giving a positive signal with reference to the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement, though there is yet no clear expression of   support to India in this regard from China as a member-nation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.   It is also interesting that China and Pakistan did not sign the   much speculated civil nuclear cooperation agreement similar to that between the US and India though the Chinese appear to be willing to   continue such cooperation as in the past (Chasma plant). This may be some consolation to Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan have expressed their support to China on the issues of Taiwan and Tibet in the two joint statements. While Pakistan has described Taiwan as an inalienable part of China, New Delhi has avoided such specificity. . 

Agreements on Free Trade Area, Five Year Plan for bilateral trade and economic cooperation (2007-2011) and increasing the volume of bilateral trade in next five years to US$ 15 billion are the hallmarks of Islamabad statement. In contrast, it has been said in New Delhi that both the sides would complete by 2007 the work relating to India-China regional trading arrangement. China’s trade with India is aimed to reach US$ 40 billion by 2010. 

China’s ambivalent position on India’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council comes through both the documents. China has said in New Delhi that it understands and supports India to play a greater role in the UN; also it would be happy to see India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, whereas in Islamabad, it has stated that UN security Council reforms need a formula acceptable to all, through extensive and in-depth discussions. 

The PRC’s opposition to terrorism, separatism and extremism and readiness to cooperate in fighting them, finds mention in both the documents. 

Summing up, it can be said that the as per the Joint statements, Pakistan remains strategically important for China; but Beijing is definitely balancing its relation with both New Delhi and Islamabad. Such a policy conforms to the PRC’s continuing requirement for a peaceful neighbourhood in the interest of its modernisation.  China also appears to have concluded that India is a rising global player and needs to be engaged. The PRC’s readiness to have civil nuclear cooperation with India has marked a new phase in ties between the two


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