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Tricky card: Look West Policy: Will the new leadership adopt a conciliatory tone?
Will the new leadership of China reset its ties with India under its proposed Look West Policy? The country is undergoing a leadership change, which is expected to come into effect from March 2013.

Fresh winds are appearing on the horizon, which if true will transform the Sino-Indian relations. A very influential member of China’s Foreign Policy Advisory Committee Prof Wang Jisi has indicated that committee is drafting a new Look West Policy.

This will give primacy to relations with India and rebalance China’s decades old all weather friendship with Pakistan which will correct the tilt towards Pakistan aimed at containing India.

That China may adopt a course correction on its India policy is also indicated by a commentary by the Chinese Communist Party run Guangming Daily which said a week before the beginning of the 18th Party Congress.

The border issue does not define the whole of the bilateral relationship and therefore not affect the overall development of the Sino-Indian relations.

Renewed efforts

Before a final settlement is reached on the border dispute, the two sides must work together to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the border areas.

The pacifying tone has come as a welcome move, which is considered to be coming out from the Party leaders responsible for India policy.

The commentator Lu Yang referring to the 1962 war on which Indian media has devoted lot of space, said, “once our two countries went to war in the very same border region-but the smoke of that conflict has long dispersed.”

Reflecting Dr Manmohan Singh’s views he goes on to say that the world is large enough for India and China to strengthen cooperation with each other to achieve common development and prosperity.

The Guangming Daily also listed number of bilateral confidence building measures and agreements relating to boundary issue which also included the most recent joint mechanism to avert any crisis on the 4000 km Line Of Actual Control in order to maintain peace and tranquility in the area.

China had backed out from the 2005 agreement on political parameters and guiding principles but the mention of that landmark agreement seems to reaffirm Chinese commitment to the agreement, which in India has been regarded as China informally accepting whole of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory.

The new leaders Xi Jinping as President and Le Ke Qiang as Prime minister, whose names were endorsed during the 18th Communist Party Congress which commenced in Beijing on 8th November for a week, will be facing multifarious challenges not only  on domestic front but internationally also.

The Chinese intellectuals are already asking, can an emerging China afford to take on simultaneous challenges at the cost of its domestic stability?

If China and its people have to enjoy the fruits of its economic development, the country must shed its confrontationist attitude and policy towards its neighbors and its people.

The Chinese people who are increasingly getting exposed to the international environment and testing the sliced-fruits of free speech on the internet domain, are getting restless and any State effort to suppress their voices will lead to greater discontent and instability in the Chinese society.

Especially when reports of large scale corruption are appearing in international media, the rights conscious youth are getting restless and may lead to a rebellion like atmosphere in the society.

The Han dominated Chinese society, which is largely homogenous, will not stay united in the event of the leadership adopting the Mao era policy.

The outgoing President Hu Jintao has perhaps realized the dangers of the Mao era aggressiveness and has purged the pro-Mao Politburo leader Bo Xilai, under the excuse of firing him on corruption allegations.

The Hu regime had in fact gone too far in its strategic posture vis a vis its land and maritime neighbors and probably has realized its follies of continuing with the same policy under the next Xi-Le regime.

There are fears of these hard line policies affecting the political stability of the country, especially when the Chinese youth have become very demanding.

Policy shift

The Chinese strategists perhaps now seem to be moving towards a more conciliatory policy and working on the new challenges the country will face in the coming decades and how the new leadership should tackle these challenges.

With the leadership giving no indications of allowing more political freedom to its people, they are worried how to keep them under check to protect their own turf.

The news of recent exposures of top level corruption involving billions of dollars, in western media has already percolated to the Chinese masses, the security establishment has done enough to prevent this from spreading, either through internet or print media, a section of which sometimes dares to write critical commentaries.

The challenge before the new leadership will be to maintain their credibility as leaders of integrity among the masses.

Since the new leaders, even the family of the president Xi Jinping has been accused of amassing huge wealth and if there are further revelations against his family’s treasures, he will have to face the music of the rival factions within the party.

Observers of the Chinese diplomacy are of the opinion that China is worried about the increasing focus of US towards Asia-Pacific region in which India is supposed to be the lynchpin of the US strategy.

China would like to preempt this American move, which has already declared its intention to position 60 percent of its naval assets to the Pacific Ocean, a maritime area, whose waters are on the rise now because of the ongoing tension over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The South China Sea has already been boiling ever since China has started claiming sovereignty over the entire maritime area.

Prof Wang who is consulted by the Chinese leaders on international issues recently said, the Americans are looking towards East and we look towards West.

Prof Wang explained that West means starting from India, the sprawling South and West Asia and beyond.

Taking a very positive view of deepening trade and economic relations with India Prof Wang explained that China ignored the West for long and it is time for rebalancing not only for oil, natural gas but also very big economic opportunities.

According to Prof Wang, trade with India and other Asian countries grew seven times faster than Beijing’s growth rate of trade in recent years.

Besides playing an advisory role in the Foreign Policy Advisory Committee, Prof Wang is also the Dean of the School of international Studies, Peking University and Director of the Center for International and Strategic Studies.

Prof Wang hinted that under the new Look West Policy the Pakistan policy of China would be guided not with the intention to contain India but to seek cooperation from Pakistan to help check the Uighur militants of Xinjiang.

According to Prof Wang “some people may make the argument that we should support Pakistan because of India but actually the motivations are not mainly driven by that.”

Chinese leadership seems to be getting overly concerned with the rising tide of terrorism in the Xinjiang region and the concern has been exacerbated with the self immolation incidents of the Tibetans, which is drawing international opprobrium.

China as an emerging superpower, would not like to feel ashamed of its human rights record on international forum.

Chinese scholars feel Tibet and Xinjiang are giving bad name to the Chinese government and the new Chinese leadership would like to start the new government on foreign policy front with fresh slate.

Prof Wang explained, “First of all our relations with Pakistan are fundamentally to thwart any scheme to make Xinjiang any international issue or something like that.”

“Also we have to fend off extreme Islamic terrorism from getting into China from Pakistan and we need Pakistan more like all weather ally. It is useful and significant in our strategic thinking. Some people may say this but I doubt that,” he said.

As far as India is concerned the Chinese see its western neighbor as emerging market of great possibilities with which they have overwhelming trade balance in their favor and if they cannot mend fences with India on political matters, they cannot afford to lose Indian market by raising the pitch of the military tensions on the border.

The border issue between the two countries has been put on cold storage and the Chinese of late have been suggesting that both countries should maintain status quo on the border, an indirect indication that China in long run will put a seal over the current un-demarcated boundary between India and China.

If the two countries are able to reach an understanding on the resolution of the boundary issue, this will remove major cause of friction between the two nations which according to the Chinese observers will obviate the need for India to go closer to the Western   lobby.