Laying down fresh rules of engagement with China, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made it clear to her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during his recent visit that while the new BJP government supports Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy, it would also expect China to adopt a ‘One India’ policy.
It’s learnt that this came up in the context of dealing with sensitive issues during the bilateral conversation between both leaders on Sunday. While Wang sought to remind Swaraj about the Vajpayee government’s commitment to the One China policy, the External Affairs Minister raised concerns over Chinese military presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and stapled visas for residents of Arunachal Pradesh.
In fact, sources said, Swaraj made this point while summarising the discussion towards the end of their meeting. “Mr Minister, we support the One China policy. However, we expect you to also have a One India policy,” said Swaraj and promptly ended the conversation with “xie xie (thank you)”, leaving little scope for a counter.
This was for the first time that India has articulated this position at a political level, which by itself is a significant shift as for over a decade New Delhi has always endorsed the ‘One China’ policy. For Beijing, getting this endorsement from all major countries has been a major diplomatic effort because it inherently negates claims like that of Tibet among others.
The underlying message in Swaraj’s remark was clearly pointed at Chinese role in PoK and the constant use of stapled visa as a tool to emphasise dispute, be it in Arunachal Pradesh or earlier in the case of Jammu and Kashmir. India has always protested this practice and for that reason, residents of Arunachal Pradesh are at times not part of many exchange programmes.
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Later, Wang sought to justify the Chinese position on stapled visas for Arunachal Pradesh residents as a “gesture out of goodwill and flexibility” claiming that this was meant to facilitate travel for people from these areas. His remarks, sources said, only confirmed that Beijing will maintain a segregated approach to areas it considers disputed in India.
By putting the “One India,” idea on the table, insiders said, India was not looking to make this conditional to supporting the “One China” policy but keen to underline that New Delhi, too, has leverage.