The greatest gain from the Sino-Indian disengagement at Doklam is the clearing of the decks for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the BRICS summit being held in Xiamen in Fujian province of China from September 3 to 5, writes P.K.Balachandran in South Asian Monitor.
Intense, sustained and painstaking backdoor diplomacy involving senior Indian and Chinese diplomats seems to have broken the ice between India and China on the dispute over the border in Doklam.
Disengagement is taking place according to both Indian and Chinese spokespersons. As per the unspoken deal, India is withdrawing its troops from the disputed territory of Doklam, and China has stopped construction of a road there. It was road construction by the Chinese in Doklam which had triggered the standoff in the first place. Apparently, India is not averse to Chinese troops patrolling Doklam.
Peace on the border is good in itself, as fighting could have easily escalated into a major war with both countries being better armed than they were the last time they fought each other in 1962.
But the greatest gain from the disengagement is the clearing of the decks for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the BRICS summit being held in Xiamen in Fujian province of China from September 3 to 5.
Modi’s participation in the summit was in doubt till Sunday as China kept up its shrill chant that India must vacate Doklam for any talks to begin, and India kept insisting that China had intruded into Doklam, a disputed area which is also too strategically located for India to ignore.
Diplomatic engagement over two months was not yielding results though Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Astana on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 9, and India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met Xi in Beijing on the sidelines of the BRICS NSAs’ conference on July 28.
But come August, with the BRICS summit coming closer with every passing day, diplomatic activity got invigorated and infused with a sense of urgency and purpose. The result is now here for all to see.
Both Xi and Modi are intensely interested in holding the BRICS summit.For Xi, BRICS is part of his grand One Belt One Road (OBOR) project knitting the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Xi is already thinking of BRICS Plus with several other countries included in its ambit. He is keen on knitting these alliances before the upcoming Communist Party conference in which he hopes to be re-elected as Chairman and hailed as China’s Supremo who has taken the country from prosperity to Great Power status.
The BRICS summit is being held in Xiamen in the Fujian province which has a special significance for Xi. It was here that he started his meteoric career as a Communist apparatchik and leader.
The absence of Indian Prime Minster Modi at the BRICS summit would be a blot on the summit and on Xi personally. It is not a secret that China has been desperate to get India on board OBOR. It has been trying to convince India that the OBOR is a purely economic project for the good of all participants, and that political issues like the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) should not be allowed to forestall economic cooperation.
Even as the standoff at Doklam was on, and the Chinese official media was indulging in vituperative attacks on India, Chinese think tanks kept hosting Indian academics and experts at seminars in an effort to convince the Indians that China had nothing but good intentions.
As regards Modi, being an internationalist wanting India to play an international role befitting its size and economic potential, he could not seriously contemplate a boycott of BRICS. BRICS is as much Indian as it is Chinese. India is an original member of BRICS apart from Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.
Modi would not like to disentangle himself from an association which has in it, friendly countries like Brazil, Russia and South Africa. And BRICS plus is to have Chile, Guinea, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt – countries with which India would like to have close ties.
(The featured picture at the top shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi)