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Uncomfortable Engagement

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In a world that generally accepts that China is nobody’s friend and certainly not India’s, the Chinese President Xi Jinping makes visits to countries and is welcomed cordially by the hosts. Some do it because they are afraid of China’s displeasure; others do it in the hope of obtaining funding and investment. And why does Jinping take the trouble of honouring the hosts with his presence? Because, China has a grand design, a long term plan, to establish its hegemony over areas it considers necessary for its political and economic stability. Although China’s political ideology is supposedly ‘Communism with Chinese Characteristics’, the fundamental impulse is the ancient belief that its Emperor is the ruler of all kingdoms and it was required for all to pledge fealty. Those who did not were barbarians that needed to be kept out with the help of a wall, if possible. This is why, despite being at the forefront of international affairs for so long, China has not been able to adopt democratic functioning. So, it can be expected that Xi Jinping believes during his current visit to India that he is in a, somewhat troublesome, vassal state. But why has India called him over? Despite all the bonhomie that PM Modi is capable of generating through his showmanship, it will remain an uncomfortable engagement. Quite obviously, India too has a plan in mind and objectives to achieve. Both the leaders will have cards to play and, hopefully, these will be played to mutual advantage, focused mainly around trade and business. However, if there are those who wish that the thorny issues will get any closer to resolution, they are being unrealistic. There is no way China will give up its claims on Indian territory, or stop using Pakistan as a pawn. The internment of a million Muslims in Xinjiang and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong do not embarrass it in the least. Those who protest – individuals or organisations – face immediate punitive action. It knows present day transactional politics cares little for human rights unless it can be leveraged to advantage. It swallowed and absorbed Tibet decades ago uncaring of world opinion. Instead, it will happily and cynically use the present situation in Kashmir in the attempt to obtain concessions from India. It is in this backdrop that the present two- day visit should be viewed. The big question is: what is Modi’s game? What is he aiming to get? This will become known soon enough.