The disdainful rejection by China of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen’s call for “meaningful talks” to resolve differences confirms that Beijing is in no mood to rein in its belligerence towards its far smaller neighbour and is determined to punish Taipei for what it calls obstructing “cross-strait exchanges”, its promotion of “independence actions” and its linking up with “external forces for provocations”.
China wants Taiwan to return to a consensus on what it calls the “one China, different interpretations” principle, which essentially means obtaining permission to function as a democracy by acknowledging Beijing’s sovereignty over its territory.
To that end, China has stepped up provocations, its fighter jets constantly buzzing Taiwan. Increasing Chinese prickliness over Taiwan also manifested itself through a wholly unwarranted missive directed at Indian newspapers for publishing advertisements on Taiwan’s National Day, asking that they stick to the official one-China policy followed by the government of India.
While this gratuitous advice was largely ignored by newspapers, the Indian government chose to react by stating that the country had a free media that could report on anything.
No one stops China from advertising its own position if it so wishes, but by bypassing diplomatic channels, its embassy in New Delhi has opened up an opportunity for Indian diplomats to react similarly when Beijing’s state-run media publish articles ~ as it often does ~ that run counter to stated Indian positions. That though is easier said than done, for traditionally, New Delhi has adopted a namby-pamby approach to Chinese excesses, including its annexation of Tibet, its subjugation of Uighurs and its transgressions in Indian territories.
It is all very well to blame Jawaharlal Nehru and Krishna Menon for surrendering diplomatically to Beijing; the truth is that not one of their successors ~ including those in the present dispensation ~ has chosen to revisit the policy on China or proactively addressed Chinese aggressions. Instead India, like many of their batsmen of an earlier era confronting pace bowling has chosen to play off the back foot when not backing away towards square leg.
This reticence in dealing with the northern neighbour must end, and Indian diplomats must, if necessary, take a cue from India’s free Press and tiny Taiwan’s government. The Taiwanese President had responded to a statement by President Xi Jinping in the United Nations where he had claimed that China never sought hegemony, nor to create a sphere of influence.
If Beijing can “heed Taiwan’s voice, change the way it handles cross-strait relations, and jointly facilitate cross-strait reconciliation and peaceful dialogue, I believe that regional tension can surely be resolved,” President Tsai had said. Beijing cut contacts with Mrs Tsai’s government following her election in 2016 and has steadily increased diplomatic, military and economic pressure on her.