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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 46, October 31, 2009

Two Messages


Sunday 1 November 2009, by SC


The one-day trilateral summit of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) successfully concluded in Bengaluru on October 27 with the joint communiqué issued at the end of the meet (their ninth) highlighting the need to coordinate their approaches to several major problems before the world today. These included terrorism, climate change and reform of financial institutions, issues on which their common positions came out in bold relief alongside the question of resolving nuclear-related issues with Iran and North Korea.

In fact the terror threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan dominated the bilateral talks between the Indian and Chinese FMs as well as the trilateral summit. With India and China agreeing not to let contentious issues result in the deterioration of Sino-Indian relations in public, the Dalai Lama’s trip to Tawang did not acquire the kind of importance that was given to the problem of terrorism (being experienced in Afghanistan and Pakistan) at those talks this time. At the same time of considerable significance was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assailing the latest terror attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul; in his words,

Terrorism is a regional problem. We cannot stand aloof from what is going on in Afghanistan and adjacent countries.

The reference to Pakistan was unmistakable.

All the three Foreign Ministers—S.M. Krishna (India), Yang Jiechi (China) and Lavrov (Russia)—stressed the necessity of bringing to book the perpetrators of all terror attacks even if the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai did not come in for specific mention. Indeed Yang echoed the concern and axiety of both Lavrov and Krishna on the Afghan developments since China itself is a victim of terror acts in Xinjiang in particular. Likewise India and China supported Russian efforts to stabilise the situation in the Caucasus.

With Moscow and Beijing expressing appreciation of New Delhi’s renewed interest in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as seen from PM Manmohan Singh’s participation at its recent gathering in Ekaterinburg, India promised to give more attention and prominence to the Organisation’s functioning in future. Krishna intimated to his Russian and Chinese counterparts of India’s eagerness to actively participate in several of the SCO’s sectoral meetings, particularly those relating to economic activities, counter-terrorism and Afghanistan.

The Sino-Indian talks at Bengaluru too had a positive outcome with Krishna and Yang deciding a step up dialogue between the two countries with the objective of developing trust at various levels. The meeting between the two FMs yielded “warm” and “fruitful” exchange of views on “all aspects” of bilateral ties, according to Krishna, with Yang not raising the matter of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. (Perhaps this was not unexpected given the Chinese proclivity to blow hot and cold especially after PM Manmohan Singh’s rebuff to Beijing’s strong objection to the Dalai Lama’s proposed trip to Tawang by characterising him as a “honoured guest of India and a religious leader” free to travel anywhere he chose to in the country.) Instead the Chinese FM took up the issue of India cancelling business visas and converting them into employment visas; the Indian side promptly explained that it was based on an uniformly applicable policy to stop the misuse of the business visa regime. Both sides further agreed to befittingly observe the 60th anniversary of the establishment of India-China diplomatic ties.

The message from Bengaluru on the Sino-Indian front is thus amply clear: India and China must address their grievances and differences through well-established mechanisms without resorting to a war of words in public. Hopefully this would be adhered to in the days ahead in the interest of both and provocative actions avoided.

Meanwhile the six-hour drama staged by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district on October 27 when the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express was detained to press the demand for unconditional release of their leader Chhatradhar Mahato at a station called Banshtola between Sardia and Jhargram once again brings out the Maoist phenomenon in the area. The PCAPA is, contrary to whatever is being claimed in the media, neither a Maoist outfit nor a front organisation of the Maoists. However, it is quite possible that Maoists are backing it in their own interest and to further their own objectives. The poor tribals organised under the PCAPA banner were also protesting against what they described as atrocities by the security forces involved in the Centre-State joint operations in Lalgarh.

While such actions as detaining trains are unacceptable and must necessarily be decried, there is no turning away from the problems faced by the hapless adivasis in the area. These cannot be tackled by paramilitary operations against the Maoists or organisations like the PCAPA while branding the latter as Maoist outfits and detaining their leader. The basic issues of deprivation and destituation of the tribals must be addressed forthwith. In the absence of any such move peace with justice cannot be restored in tribal India. And till such time as the authorities are able to decipher the real message behind such actions beyond the Maoist-anti-Maoist syndrome, the unrest will continue to persist to become a festering sore in our tribal heartland.

October 28 S.C.

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