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Needling India

Needling India
Highlights

The latest news from Beijing circulated by Reuters news agency is: “At least 18 people are dead after ethnic Uighurs attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in China\'s western Xinjiang region.

The latest news from Beijing circulated by Reuters news agency is: “At least 18 people are dead after ethnic Uighurs attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in China's western Xinjiang region.” These Uighurs are trained and sheltered in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Despite this serious and continuing risk to itself, China has blocked India’s effort to seek UN action against Pakistan for releasing Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi.

China faces no risk from Lakhvi and his Lashkar-e-Toyaba; so it does not mind India being bled, really or diplomatically. India’s concerns conveyed by PM Narendra Modi may have actually hit the China Wall. The message from the development at the UN is that China will not forsake its “all-weather friend,” especially when it comes to India.

Despite all the bonhomie witnessed when President Xi Jinping was in India last year and when Modi paid a return visit earlier this year, the Sino-Pak equation is only likely to strengthen as Pakistan figures big in China’s larger design of reaching the Indian Ocean. Indeed, now that the Western forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan, Pakistan is now China’s frontline state – not America’s – in South Asia.

Add to this China’s known anger at India exploring hydrocarbons for Vietnam in South China Sea that it claims is its backyard, and you have the answer to the sudden rallying of rebels in India’s northeast. Hence, while China may invest in India, pilgrims may go to Manasarovar and Sino-Indian trade may burgeon – but this would be strictly bilateral. Nice words may be exchanged next month when Modi meets Xi at the BRICS and SCO summits in Russia next month – but that would be multilateral.

SCO, in particular, has discussed threats from terrorism – but those are more than words of concerns and lofty intent. China and Pakistan will continue to lean on each other to mutual benefit. All this would have no impact on Sino-Indian ties vis-a-vis Pakistan and its terror network. The Sino-Pak bonds are likely to get stronger as India moves towards a sub-regional arrangement within the South Asian region, wooing Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. This keeps Pakistan out and challenges China’s ties with the three South Asian minnows.

This fast-changing regional and global scenario needs to be digested by India as it deals with the world. It also needs to digest the timeless adage in diplomacy that there are no permanent friends. This is also a timeless reminder of our permanent national interests as India and its neighbourhood see a rapid transition.

For all the friendly noises Beijing has made towards New Delhi, Modi’s phone call may have drawn no response, not even a word of sympathy for those dead in Mumbai in 2008. As for Lakhvi, he is an ‘asset,’ like his relative Hafeez Saeed, like the Kashmiri militants, meant to keep Jammu and Kashmir on the boil and keep India tied down. UN action or otherwise, this is unlikely to change.

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