Chinese dissidents virtually took India for a ride by wresting visa to attend an anti-Beijing conclave at Dharamshala until South Block woke up to the costly diplomatic folly and revoked the visa given to an Uyghur leader and two others, writes Ranjit Kumar
At a time when the India China relations are stable and peace has been achieved along the 4,000 kilometre long Sino-Indian border after sustained diplomatic efforts and also when the Chinese President Xi Jin Ping has invited President Pranab Mukherjee to China on a State visit, the grant of visa to a Chinese militant and two of his cohorts would have resulted in drastic deterioration in Sino-Indian relations.
In fact, a major diplomatic row has been averted after India corrected its mistake of granting visa to the Chinese militant Dolkun Isa and two other Chinese dissidents. The visa was granted by the Union Home Ministry without consulting the Ministry of External Affairs which has laboured hard over the years to build an environment of trust vis-a-vis the disputed and un-demarcated Line of Actual Control with China. This muscle flexing with India’s giant neighbour would not have been in tune with India’s interests. The visa was granted probably because of the decision to permit the Tibetans in association with an American entity to organise an event to discuss the current state of various communities in China.
Obviously, this was an anti-China event the like of which China has never permitted against India on its soil. The Home Ministry and External Affairs Ministry are not in sync with each other. This development happened only a few days after Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor and Special Representative of Prime Minister on border issues with China, held a very constructive and positive 19th round of border dialogue in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart, the State Councillor Mr Yang Jie Chi. There are reports that Chinese have conveyed a message to the Indian leadership that they are sincerely interested in early resolution of the boundary and territorial dispute with India. Mr Yang also offered that China is willing to go halfway in resolving the boundary issue. Perhaps this is first time that China has indicated that it is ready for a concession.
Amid this backdrop of growing understanding between the two neighbours it was inconceivable for India to rock the boat midway. When the news of grant of Indian visa to the Chinese Uyghur militant Dolkun Isa was flashed across the Indian media as breaking news, many in the strategic circles rejoiced over the step describing it as a brave tit-for-tat in response to Chinese decision to block the 1267 UN sanctions committee move for including the name of Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar in the list of terrorists and when the visa was Chinese dissidents was revoked three days later, they talked in utter confusion about India’s foreign policy. Critics also lambasted Indian Government for kowtowing to the Chinese power.
Muscle flexing for a nation is not a kid’s play. This game must be played only on the basis of the inherent strength of the nation. Unlike, schoolchildren who without considering the consequences challenge the rival group leader with dire consequences and in turn get beaten up. Similar thing happened between India and China also. When the news of grant of visa was flashed across the Indian media, the Chinese foreign ministry reacted with caution and indirectly warned India without taking name that relevant countries should follow norms. But the Chinese did not rest the matter only with this casual reference to norms. It has been revealed later that the Chinese also summoned Indian diplomat in Beijing and warned in clear terms the likely consequences of Indian grant of visa to the Chinese militants whom China describes as terrorist. This so called terrorist is in fact the President of the World Uyghur Congress and was invited to take part in the Initiatives for China organised by a US body. The visa was refused on the basis that he did not correctly reveal the purpose of his visit and he applied for a tourist visa for India, during which he intended to address a meeting.
The Government back home taking a u-turn on its decision attracted the attention of the strategic community and drew ire of the people who projected Indian Foreign Ministry as succumbing to the Chinese dictates. In fact, it was a blunder in first place to allow the Tibetans to hold a meeting in Dharmashala and invite all those who love China bashing. The Home Ministry should have considered this before granting permission to invite the Chinese dissidents. Hence, it was natural for the Government to also deny entry two days later to two other Chinese dissidents Ms Lu Jinghua and Mr Ray Wong. It is well known that Dharmashala hosts are the Tibetan government in exile. The Government has given a commitment to China that the Tibetans would not be allowed to organise anti-China political activities in India. In view of this Indian Government had to take a stand, which seemed to be submitting to the Chinese pressures, but in fact was in national interest. However, it has exposed the lack of coordination between one arm of the Government with the other.