A European think-tank has said that New Delhi must review its 'One China Policy' after Beijing's remark on India bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
"China's acrid statement on the day of India's bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) into two Union Territories (UT) begot an equally stinging retort from India. The shrill war of words between the two countries on the issue underscored the pitfalls of India's acceptance of a 'One China Policy', as also the limitations that such acceptance places on India's strategic outlook," says European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) in its research paper.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, commenting on the bifurcation, said, "The Indian government officially announced the establishment of so-called Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory and Ladakh Union Territory that included some of China's territory into its administrative jurisdiction. China deplores and firmly opposes that. India unilaterally changes its domestic laws and administrative divisions challenging China's sovereignty. This is unlawful and void and this is not effective in any way and will not change the fact that the area is under Chinese actual control."
India was prompt in its response to the Chinese statement, and the retort of Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson of India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), was bathed in meaning.
Describing the UTs of J & K and Ladakh as integral parts of India, he averred that "China is well aware of India's consistent and clear position on this issue. The matter of reorganisation of the erstwhile state of J & K into UTs of J & K and Ladakh is entirely an internal affair of India. We do not expect other countries, including China, to comment on the matters which are internal to India, just as India refrains from commenting on internal issues of other countries."
The last twelve words of this statement were the most significant and revealing.
India has, since 1949, been supporting the 'One China Policy'. After the Communist Party of China (CCP) came into power in 1949 by driving out the nationalist Kuomintang government into Taiwan in the Chinese civil war, Beijing made the 'One China Policy' a prerequisite for countries to establish diplomatic ties with it.
This formulation required countries to acknowledge that Taiwan and Tibet were part of China's mainland.
In the phase of initial bonhomie between the newly independent Indian government and the freshly empowered People's Republic of China (PRC), India was quick to shift the recognition from the Republic of China (ROC) to the PRC. It also played an important role in China's inclusion in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
The immediate provocation was the new practice that China had initiated of issuing stapled visas, as against the usual visas pasted on pages of passports, to residents of J & K.
The Indian government viewed the stapled visas as a Chinese ruse to question India's claim over J & K and to support Pakistan's narrative.
Since then, the 'One China Policy' has not made a re-entry into India-China joint statements, although some members of the Indian leadership have sporadically referred to the policy verbally.
A strong signal was sent to China by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he chose to transcend tradition and invite the representatives of the Taiwanese government and that of the Tibetan Government-In-Exile to his swearing-in ceremony when he first came to power in 2014.
During her first meeting with Wang Yi in New Delhi in June 2014, India's former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had made it clear that China would need to adhere to a 'One-India Policy' and stop supporting Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir if it wanted India to stick to its 'One-China Policy'.
More recently, India's new External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during a visit to Beijing in August this year responded to concerns on J & K that were articulated by Wang Yi by underlining that J & K was purely an internal matter of India, and that India's moves in J & K had no international ramifications as bifurcation of the state and dilution of Article 370 did not alter the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries. He also called for both countries to be "sensitive to each other's core concerns".
EFSAS said: "Unlike the earlier defensiveness that was perceptible in India's dealings with China, Jaishankar's message reflected a bold and aggressive posture. He effectively told China that in the absence of Chinese sensitivity to India's core concerns on J & K, India would be constrained to review its stand on the 'One-China Policy' and leverage the Taiwan and Tibet issues, as also those of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea."
In light of the latest statements by China on J & K, questions about whether India's adherence to the 'One-China Policy' is strategically sound are bound to arise.
As Tibetan author Tenzin Tsundue asserted in an article on 23 October, "Today, India is a democracy and only has to deal with the Kashmir issue. But China is facing resistance movements in Tibet, East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and Southern Mongolia. The five-month revolt in Hong Kong is also hugely significant for it shows the limits of Chinese power, and may be inspiring citizens inside China. Taiwan too remains a concern for Beijing. This makes Delhi's One-China policy absolutely lopsided in terms of diplomacy. India has to remain silent on 60 per cent of the contested area under China's territorial control, and also its rule over Hong Kong and claims over Taiwan, while China has to stand with India only on Kashmir. And it does this too unfaithfully, as we have seen recently at the United Nations."
EFSAS said: "The cordiality of the Wuhan and Mamallapuram informal meetings between Indian Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping notwithstanding, India appears to be finding itself increasingly at the crossroads in its relationship with China. It may be constrained to seriously reconsider the desirability of towing an unreciprocated 'One-China Policy'".
"Indications are that India has already begun looking at this policy in transactional terms, and the latest Chinese statement would not sit well with it," said the think-tank.
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