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  Opinion   Edit  13 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Is there a slight thaw in Delhi-Beijing ties?

AA Edit | Is there a slight thaw in Delhi-Beijing ties?

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 13, 2024, 12:51 am IST
Updated : Apr 13, 2024, 12:51 am IST

A shift in focus from past confrontations with Pakistan to current tensions with China marks the political discourse.

The changing landscape of India's foreign relations becomes a key theme in the 2024 election campaign. — Representational Image/AFP
 The changing landscape of India's foreign relations becomes a key theme in the 2024 election campaign. — Representational Image/AFP

In sharp contrast to 2019, national and local issues are dominating the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama and the consequent surgical strike on Balakot in Pakistan where a school for terror may have been bombed by India had become a big-ticket issue in the 2019 polls.

Conspiracy theories may abound about the events, but the fact remains that a terrible attack on police forces took place and India responded belligerently and a surge of nationalism in the wake of those events may have contributed somewhat to the final verdict.

This time around, Pakistan, ultra-busy with its own economic recovery from an abyss and still smarting from international criticism of a fixed election, has been just a punching bag featuring in poll talk with two senior BJP leaders in Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Narendra Modi reminding people of how India had chased terrorists beyond their borders and killed them on their soil.

While India’s views and actions on fighting terror have been a constant that are never compromised upon, poll rhetoric on events of five years ago have been rich with references to a flashpoint in strained ties with Pakistan that may not have changed despite the government there changing with the dethroning of Imran Khan.

Where the ripostes have been sharper in the hustings this time have much to do with India’s northern neighbour China, towards which India’s approach has been of a different dimension, perhaps even mild and soft, in contrast to its aggressive postures on Pakistan.

It might be dismissed as poll rhetoric when it is stated that India has not ceded an inch to China in, say, the last 10 years, as the home minister said, though such an assertion might not stand the strictest scrutiny. The foreign minister has been accusing China of violating agreements in its troop placements along the LAC.

The Prime Minister’s remarks, much like defence minister Rajnath Singh’s views on the need to pursue dialogue and diplomacy, have been more sober and have just drawn an equivalent response from China. Of course, Mr Modi has only repeated India’s rightful position that the tense situation on the border where troops have been amassed must be addressed to remove the abnormality first.

The relations with China, frozen save in trade since the clashes in the Pangong lake area in 2020 and in 21 corps commander level talks, have not changed any during poll speeches in India in what the home minister said and Congress’ Rahul Gandhi replied in taking him on in poll talk.

Now that Prime Minister Modi has broken his close-to-four-year silence on China, the hope is that the call for “sound and stable” ties to serve the common interests of both countries might just be the trigger for a positive response from China, but well beyond the “diplomatese” attributed to its foreign ministry.

India’s expectation would be that the matter of tackling the pending disengagement at Depsang and Demchok be addressed first. China might be hoping that India would “approach the bilateral relations from a strategic height”, whatever that might mean in real terms. There is, however, the faintest feeling that the ice might be breaking, but whether that leads to better ties is a matter of conjecture.

Tags: aa edit, india china diplomatic relations, 2024 lok sabha elections