11.03.2021 Author: Vladimir Terehov

The China-India-Pakistan Triangle on the Verge of Détente

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The February 25 phone conversation between the Foreign Ministers of India and China (Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Wang Yi) was quite remarkable in terms of assessing the political game in the Indo-Pacific region and in the world at large. For the first time since last September, when the same ministers met in Moscow on the occasion of the next ministerial forum of the SCO member states, the two Asian giants had direct contact at the governmental level.

The author’s prediction regarding the end of another cycle of deterioration in Sino-Indian relations seems to be confirmed. So far, we can cautiously hope for their subsequent improvement, as well as for the fact that “outside forces” will not once again be able to warm their hands over someone else’s fire.

Meanwhile, the Quad project initiators (consisting of Australia, India, the United States and Japan), whose regular ministerial conference was held on February 18, have quite unconcealed hopes for such a possibility. The Quad is the dough from which the Asian NATO pie is supposed to be baked. The latter should replace the unnecessary “just NATO,” that is, a political dinosaur that has long outlived its allotted historical time.

An article commentary in the Chinese newspaper Global Times described Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s conversation with Wang Yi as “a signal of the end of confrontation and an intention to restore bilateral ties”. This is about finally breaking the stalemate in the multi-year negotiations between the delegations of both countries to resolve the conflict in Ladakh, the most dangerous in decades.

The Global Times, noting that the disagreement over the border remained, reported (with reference to an “insider source in India”) that in a telephone conversation the ministers agreed “not to allow the said disagreement to lead to serious disputes”.

Such an interpretation of the conversation is consistent with the official report on it by China’s Foreign Ministry (, which drew attention to Wang Yi’s assertion that relations between India and China are not limited to border issues and that joint efforts to improve them further and create a climate of “pragmatic cooperation” are quite possible.

Note also the other positive signals Beijing is sending to Delhi. In particular, how was presented to the public (for the first time after months of silence) a video testimony about one of the incidents last summer at the highland section of the border conflict and the funeral ceremony of the four Chinese border guards who died then.

At a regular press conference on February 22, an official spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared his “support for India” as the host of the next BRICS summit and “readiness to work with her” in various areas of the forum.

In the recent official rhetoric accompanying the Ladakh conflict, one cannot help but detect signs of Beijing’s awareness of its special role as a second global power. Its foreign policy cannot be held hostage to relatively minor incidents. It is, after all, not about fighting against India, but for it. Meanwhile, in the international arena it is easy to see, again, those who are not at all interested in the success of this kind of struggle.

In this regard, the vector of transformation of India’s own foreign policy, where there is a very wide range of opinions on the issue of relations with the PRC (), is of crucial importance.

The same report of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the content of the discussed telephone conversation notes that S. Jaishankar referred to the “consensus reached in Moscow,” which predetermined the success of subsequent negotiations by the military delegations of the sides. Jaishankar also expressed his country’s willingness to “take into account the long-term development of relations with China … and put them back on track”.

As for the Indian press, its comments on the significance of the conversation between the two ministers, the results of the last (10th) round of talks to resolve the conflict in Ladakh and the general state of affairs along the entire bilateral border (which is about 3,500 km long) are generally more restrained than those of the PRC media. In particular, citing sources in the Land Forces Command, the PLA talks about the modernization of border infrastructure near the northeastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

Using information “from government sources“, it is suggested that the topic of a possible visit of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to India in connection with the (planned) BRICS summit mentioned above not be updated yet. Since nothing is yet clear about the date of the event itself due to the same SARS-CoV-2 epidemic.

Equally contradictory signals have been noted on the issue of the possible reversal of India’s course (following similar American attempts in the Trump-Pompeo period) to comprehensively compress the scope of trade and economic relations with the PRC. But it is still important that the topic is at least being discussed.

The easing of tensions in Sino-Indian relations could not but have a positive effect on the state of India’s relations with Pakistan, China’s closest ally. Like four years ago, another peace initiative from Pakistan was spearheaded by the military, which has long been tightly behind the official “civilian” authorities. That, once again, is undoubtedly a positive factor for the Pakistani reality, as, indeed, for a number of other “developing” countries.

On February 2, Ground Forces Commander General Qamar Javed Bajwa declared that “the time has come to extend a hand of peace in all directions”. It is not unimportant to note the moment chosen for the said statement. First, Pakistan is at yet another stage of deterioration in its internal political situation, which, however, deserves a separate review.

Second, it is now two years since the last serious armed conflict with India erupted after a savage terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which served the same General Qamar Javed Bajwa to make some very harsh remarks about India. In fact, various aspects of the situation in this state have been at the center of the Pakistan-India conflict since the independence of both countries in the late 1940s.

There is now evidence that the above-mentioned statement by Qamar Javed Bajwa was not spontaneous, but was the result of negotiations that had been conducted by representatives of both countries “in a closed format” over the previous few months. It was essentially a unified process of relieving acute tensions in India’s relations with both of its main opponents. As for Pakistan, on February 24 an agreement was signed with its military representative to prevent further military clashes on the so-called Line of Actual Control, which separates the two countries in the area of Jammu and Kashmir.

Let us note an important circumstance that seems to have greatly contributed to the adjustment of India’s course towards these opponents. This is another step towards the development in the human rights problem in connection with the situation in the same state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the second half of February, India had to agree for the second time to an “inspection” trip to the state by a group of representatives of foreign (mostly Western) embassies in India.

Professional “human rights activists” do not doze off either. Especially ones from the UN. The government of India has once again had to give a public rebuke to this noisy office, sticking its nose where its current behind-the-scenes master, the global trader of political air, tells it to. The list of “goods” is dominated by fakes with the labels of “freedom,” “democracy,” and “human rights”.

The looming détente in the China-India-Pakistan triangle is important in and of itself, because it involves three nuclear-armed countries with a total population of about 3 billion people. The first two have been the engine of global economic activity in recent years.

But no less important is the fact that this détente narrows the maneuvering room for global thieves, in particular, those who have recently arrogated to themselves the authority of the “leading world power”.

Vladimir Terehov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.


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