In a subtle,yet strong signal to China for not treating Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India,the Indian side today held back its explicit commitment to the One China policy for the first time in,at least,the last four summit-level joint statements. Instead,the principle of mutual respect and sensitivity for each others concerns and aspirations was stated alongside the Panchsheel as the basis for carrying forward strategic cooperation.
The joint communique,issued today following deliberations between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao,also left out the routine Indian comfort line to China that it recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of Chinese territory. This,despite the fact that in previous statements India has gone to the extent of ensuring that it will not allow protests against the One China principle.
The new addition this time reflected what India has been saying since the Chinese side conveyed that the Northern Army Commander would need a stapled visa a respect for Indias sensitivities just like India has been doing all these years.
The two sides decided to enhance strategic communication,advance functional cooperation,broaden cultural exchanges,and deepen and enrich the India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence,mutual respect and sensitivity for each others concerns and aspirations.
All this in no way can be interpreted as a shift in Indias long-standing position on One China or Tibet because todays joint communique does make a reference to both countries abiding by the basic principles and consensus set out in the previous joint statements including the 2003 Declaration of Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation. The commitment to One China and recognition to Tibet being part of Chinese territory is mentioned in all these documents.
While Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao refused to elaborate much on this,sources confirmed that this was a conscious decision on the part of New Delhi to drive home the message that it expects Beijing to reciprocate Indias commitment by not questioning the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
In fact,the last joint document called A Shared Vision for the 21st Century issued during PMs visit to China in January 2008 stated: The Indian side recalls that India was among the first countries to recognize that there is one China and that its one China policy has remained unaltered. The Indian side states that it would continue to abide by its one China policy,and oppose any activity that is against the one China principle. The Chinese side expresses its appreciation for the Indian position.
Prior to that,the broad line in the previous two joint statements of November 2006,when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India,and in April 2005 during Wens first visit to India,was: The Indian side recalled that India was among the first countries to recognize that there is one China and its one China policy remains unaltered. The Indian side stated it would continue to abide by its one China policy.
On Tibet,the stated line mentioned in these joint statements,was: The Indian side reiterated that it recognized the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of the Peoples Republic of China and that it did not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India.
The firm Indian position on this issue seems to have had an impact on the conversation as Wen raised the stapled visa issue even before the Indian side could mention it. Both sides agreed to his suggestion that officials from both sides would meet to discuss the matter.
We would have brought up the issue. Before that the Premier raised the issue, said Rao and went on to add that he suggested officials from both the countries should have in-depth consultations to resolve the issue. She,however,reaffirmed that in Indias assessment the ball was in Chinas court.