Empires and underbellies

When Chinese Premier  Wen Jiabao  lands in India  on December 15, his hosts would expect  him to resolve the issue of the  stapled visa for the residents of Jammu and  Kashmir.  It is of great importance for   India  to insist on this. No country would ever accept such a situation and Indians would be within their rights to tell Beijing that it cannot take a unilateral stand on issue.

Almost every nation on this  planet has a trouble spot . There are countless places in them world where two or three neighbhouring countries   have different positions. China , too , has its  trouble spots. It has dealt with those people ruthlessly.  The whole world was a witness to that brutality.

To deny a regular visa smacks of arrogance. China, as an emerging global power, should be aware of its increased responsibilities as well. The unilateralism cannot succeed always. There are enough lessons to be learnt from the fate that has befallen on the United States of America, once an unquestioned world policeman after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.  Once the  most powerful country, the US  is now being challenged by  almost every one. It has lost the aura of being the most powerful nation which could dictate terms to rest of the world. Today it is being told what  to do or not to do. Even the nations that are living on its dollars have started doing so.  Afghanistan offers a classic example of  this . President Hamid Karzai is throwing open challenges to the Obama administration and defending the indefensible corruption in his government.

As Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has rightly observed that it is in the interests of good neighbourly relations between the two countries that the stapled visa system should come to end. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be made to suffer because of the whims and fancies of mandarins in Beijing. The residents of the sensitive border state that has borders, though temporary  better known as Line of Actual Control, with China, have the right to travel to any place across the world. China should realize that by denying them a regular visa, it was denying the basic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who have been traveling on the Indian passport to almost all parts across the globe. China  too has underbellies.  Therefore, it is important for Beijing to understand that there can be a counter- diplomatic punch as well.

Some of the countries demonstrated it in full measure at Oslo, Norway, when they attended the Nobel Prize award ceremony despite severe warning by Beijing not to do as it was  angered by the award to an imprisoned Chinese intellectual Liu Xiaobo. That was a great snub to China. Moreover, the chair for Liu was kept empty, something that happened for the first time in the 75-year-old history of  Nobel Prize  Peace prize award ceremony. Accordingly, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident, was honored in absentia. As if that was not enough scores of supporters of the Chinese dissident who has been jailed, calling for democracy and grant of human rights in China, shouted calls for democracy in China as guests arrived for this year’s controversial award ceremony in Oslo City Hall. The demonstrators stood behind police barricades, to make a point.

That point was understood by the entire world, and surely by China despite it being in denial. Beijing is angry at the Norwegian Nobel Committee for awarding the prize to a “criminal,” who was sentenced to 11 years
in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” after co-authoring the political manifesto Charter 08. The award was given even though China was recognized as  a country engaged in rapid economic growth, its success in lifting several hundred million people in China out of poverty, and its ratification of United Nations and International Labor Organization’s major international conventions on human rights.

In the words of chairman of Norway  Nobel Prize Committee Thorbjom Jagland: “China’s growing economic status bore with it the responsibility for accepting criticism. Even though authoritarian states could have long periods with fast economic growth, it was no coincidence that nearly all of the richest countries in the world were democratic”.
“Historical experience has given us reason to believe that continuing rapid economic growth presupposes opportunities for free research, thinking, and debate. “Without freedom of expression, corruption, the abuse of power, and misrule will develop.”
There is a lesson for Beijing that it needs to change its attitude. Its economic or military power is not sufficient to make it a global power.