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  Opinion   Columnists  04 Aug 2023  Abhijit Bhattacharyya | Beijing’s ‘wolf warriors’ in fresh games: Watch out!

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | Beijing’s ‘wolf warriors’ in fresh games: Watch out!

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.
Published : Aug 5, 2023, 12:46 am IST
Updated : Aug 5, 2023, 12:46 am IST

Mr Jaishankar, in Jakarta, made it clear that till there was “peace and tranquility” at the border, there couldn’t be any progress in ties.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (DC Photo)
 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (DC Photo)

The abrupt replacement by the Communist Party of China (CPC) of its foreign minister Qin Gang, who had served just over six months, and around whose fate there had been considerable speculation before his late July ouster, should make New Delhi ponder on what’s really going on in the Middle Kingdom. The return of longtime foreign minister Wang Yi, the tallest living Beijing “wolf warrior” diplomat with a history of abrasive and arrogant interactions with Indian and Western representatives, is reason enough for watchfulness. Mr Wang, previously a State Councillor as well, was “promoted” as head of CPC’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, a post that he continues to hold, making him a kind of “super foreign minister”.

India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval, who met Wang Yi in South Africa in late July, on the sidelines of a Brics meeting, just a day before the latter returned as foreign minister, can testify to the nature of Mr Wang’s doublespeak. The two have a long history -- they have had regular interactions as Special Representatives of their countries on the India-China boundary question, under a mechanism set up in 2003. And just prior to the Doval encounter, Mr Wang met external affairs minister S. Jaishankar in Jakarta, on sidelines of the Asean Regional Forum. At both meetings, Wang spelt out China’s line: that both countries should find a mutually acceptable solution to the border problem, normalise ties on all other issues like trade, without letting “specific issues” define the overall relationship. This, of course, was completely unacceptable to New Delhi, especially after the betrayal, treachery and deception by the CPC’s People’s Liberation Army at Galwan in June 2020, and the unresolved aggressive stand by the CPC/PLA in eastern Ladakh for the past three years.

Just look at Mr Wang’s record: It’s not just New Delhi and Washington which have faced the brunt of Beijing’s targeted lies and ire -- he’s audacious enough to sermonise Seoul and Tokyo with racial “nose and hair comparisons” alluding to those of Korean and Japanese ethnicity in comparison, of course, to the “superior” Han people!

India’s foreign minister and NSA have had the misfortune of bearing the brunt of hearing the “old tape recorded” cacophonic semantics of the irrational thoughts of “His Master’s Voice”. The same nagging, bragging and repetitive monologues faced (for years) by every Indian delegation to China or to multilateral meetings. Can Indians recall the condescending, choreographed and patronising words of previous Dragon “diplomats” in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri: Luo Zhaohui and Sun Weidong? “Let’s forget the border dispute; Beijing and Delhi have more in common than a mere land dispute; let not our differences spill over into dispute; we should do more for convergence of interests rather than divergence, for our mutual benefit as Asian giants”.

This is what Mr Wang told Mr Jaishankar in Jakarta in mid-July: “Our two sides should support, rather than suspect, each other. We must focus our energy and resources on development, and not let specific issues define the overall relationship”. The parting shot was like a “warning” to India: Forget about the border: China was not going to relinquish control anytime soon. And “specific issues” related to border violations, the killing of Indian soldiers, the pitching of permanent PLA tents deep inside Indian territory and other cases of violation of sovereignty.

Mr Jaishankar, in Jakarta, made it clear that till there was “peace and tranquility” at the border, there couldn’t be any progress in ties. India’s NSA, in Johannesburg, too told Mr Wang that the PLA’s incursions at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh since 2020 had “eroded strategic trust and the public and political basis of the relationship” in India, and till this and other “impediments” were restored, there couldn’t be any normalisation of ties.

China, of course, wants its companies and citizens to do unhindered business in India, for Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Huawei and Meizu to sell their telecom products and MG its cars and vehicles (that don’t match up to their Japanese and Korean rivals), and a plethora of inferior consumer goods and be allowed to take locals for a ride, to defraud the Indian exchequer through non-payment of taxes and money-laundering and let Chinese nationals buy land next to India’s military installations for 24/7 espionage.

Contextually, one really wonders about the psyche and motivation of a section of unscrupulous traders in this country who virtually work as a pressure group for Beijing, against their own country’s interests. Are they now so addicted to China’s cheap goods to make high profits, almost like the Chinese were once addicted to the opium consumption thrust on them by the British Raj in India?

Regrettably, most Indians can’t read Chinese minds, see through their psyche, and anticipate the CPC’s malice owing to their lamentable lack of knowledge about Chinese history and culture. Having been almost continuously betrayed by the Dragon since the 1950s, Delhi is inexorably digging its own grave.

At a time when much of the world’s finally woken up to China’s uncivilised diplomacy and perfidy, the West’s pushback has started

crystallising, responding to complaints even from American farmers that China is quietly buying thousands of acres of rural farmland and building bases near military installations. Beijing is brutally bypassing diplomatic norms to directly approach Western corporations, offering morsels and urging them to betray their own governments and do business directly with Beijing. From the EU to the US, India to Africa, virtually every country is under malicious attack from the CPC.

The United States, like India, is under pressure from its businessmen to avoid “unnecessary conflict” because of cash-for-profits. India must remember that it doesn’t have the vast land mass of the US or Europe’s 27-member EU. For India, it is 24/7 Chinese betrayal. Just last week, Chinese vice-premier He Lifeng celebrated the 10th anniversary of the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan, which together have been consistently trampling upon India’s sovereignty. Can India compromise with its sovereignty for the sake of few unscrupulous traders and lopsided investments which bring sub-standard goods to Indian consumers? Understandably, the Dragon is gleefully exploiting India’s sorry history of a love of all things foreign.

Nevertheless, it must be remembered, India’s Constitution doesn’t have any provision to concede land to any foreign nation. If needed, it must amend the Constitution to do so. Delhi today, therefore, must bluntly tell CPC overlord Xi Jinping and his “new” foreign minister Wang Yi that India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remains non-negotiable.

The days of “one-way” Chinese business is over. India cannot trade its territorial integrity, violating its own Constitution and sovereignty.

Tags: ajit doval, eam jaishankar, chinese foreign minister wang yi