New Delhi, June 1: Beijing has said it has the “political will” to solve the Sikkim dispute if India reciprocates with a better understanding of China’s security concerns.
The clarification is significant as it comes ahead of A.B. Vajpayee’s visit to China on June 22, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in a decade after P.V. Narasimha Rao’s tour in 1993.
China does not recognise Sikkim as an integral part of India though the state joined the Indian Union in 1975. Beijing felt strongly about Sikkim in the mid-1970s, but it is no longer an emotive issue between the two countries.
Recognition by Beijing now would have more of a symbolic value as it would convince sceptics on both sides that the leaderships were serious about forging strong bilateral ties, removing some of the “irritants” in the way.
The biggest “irritant” for India, perhaps, is China’s close relationship with Pakistan. Delhi has accused Beijing of playing a key role in secretly developing Islamabad’s nuclear and missile programmes, a charge that China denies.
“We want to have good and strong relations with both India and Pakistan. Our relations with the two countries are independent of each other,” a senior Chinese official said, showing no change in China’s policy towards Pakistan.
Referring to the current Indo-Pak peace initiative, the official said: “We want relations between India and Pakistan to improve. When the relations of these two countries become normal, India will stop feeling concerned about our relations with Pakistan.”
Thus the clarification of China’s position on Sikkim is an attempt at paving the way for a successful visit by Vajpayee to Beijing.
Speaking at the Sindhu Darshan festival in Leh, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani indicated one point on the Prime Minister’s agenda, saying he would request Vajpayee to ask the Chinese leaders to permit Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar to travel along the Indus as it would considerably cut down the journey. The trip, which now takes 27 days, would then be only four days long.
China’s linking of Sikkim with its own security concerns is a hint to Delhi to come up with a reciprocal clarification on Tibet and Taiwan. India recognises Tibet as an “autonomous part of China” and follows a “one-China policy”, resulting in zero diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Interactions between Taipei and Delhi have been restricted to trade and economic cooperation.
A senior Chinese official said his country needed to prepare its domestic audience, particularly hardliners within the Communist party, if it was to recognise Sikkim as an integral part of India.
“We have to prepare the Chinese people for this and there are bound to be questions as to what India has agreed to give China in return for this gesture,” the official said. The indication was to Delhi’s stand on Tibet and Taiwan.