We have a PM that has enormous credibility and charisma despite so many issues. But is he using them? He needs to communicate with Indians clearly on his China agenda. And get them onboard. We make it easier for him with this draft speech!
You are aware of the incidents on June 15th at the Galwan valley that resulted in death of 20 of our brave soldiers. Once again I salute the warriors and their sacrifice. I also express my condolences to their families. We will do our best to support them.
The purpose of this speech is to give you some background so you understand the issues and support the efforts of your government. Being open, transparent about our foreign policy is a key aspect of our democracy. As citizens you are also impacted by our decisions and it is important that you are convinced about their moral as well as legal aspects.
As you are aware, right from the time of Pandit Nehru, India has not seen China as an enemy but as our friend and neighbour. Despite the setback of 1962 this remained our approach. When I became your PM in 2014, it was my desire too to continue this policy of friendship and seek to expand and strengthen it further. That is why I invited Chairman Xi to India and also visited China many times. Peace and friendship has always been and will always remain our first and most preferred option. We are impressed by the strides China has made in recent years and we wish to benefit from their economy as well benefit our economy through mutual trade and investment.
We have also been willing to settle the boundary issue, based on the principles of mutual respect, accommodation and long term vision. Numerous rounds of talks have been going on over many years.
But as they say, it takes two hands to clap. In other words we have to consider what China wants out of this relationship. And in doing so we have to be guided by their actions and not just statements.
On this, I am sad to say, we have been disappointed. Even before this government came to power, China has been acting in ways that do not reflect the spirit of cooperation. While we can have no objections to normal state to state relationships or even trade in weapons, we all know how they have helped Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons and the missiles to carry them violating all norms as well as international laws and treaties. There can only be one objective to this - somehow keep India tied up in our backyard and not progress or assume its natural role in the international arena. But this has not worked and will not work. India will march on. We are fortunate to have the friendship and cooperation of democracies with whom we share common values.
It is also very unfortunate that they consider the safety of terrorists like Hafiz Saeed more important than their relationship with 1.3 billion Indians as they have repeatedly blocked international moves to bring them to justice. They have also blocked India’s attempts to enter the NSG, UN Security council and other such fora.
On the contrary India has always tried to respect their strategic interests. Our stand on Tibet, for example, reflects this desire to respect each others core concerns. We have not allowed any anti-China activity in our soil. We have also allowed their companies to invest in India and sell their products here. As a result China enjoys a massive trade surplus that is growing each year.
Our opposition to China’s policies, if any, has been on principles. For example, the bad experience of many countries in Africa and Asia from the so called Belt and Road projects have caused us concern. High levels of debt, excessive loan obligations, non transparent terms and environmentally undesirable projects are not something we can support. But we have not let any one issue affect the overall relationship. We do import power plants, telecom and other equipment from China. Their companies are building our rail lines and trains and even roads. We welcome such investments and investments.
It is difficult to understand the motives behind these hostile moves by China. Apart from language differences, we also have to remember the totalitarian nature of its government. It uses international rules and norms when it suits them and violates them when it doesn’t.
Our best assessment is that the current leadership seems to have ambitious goals and sees China as a superpower that is not longer willing to wait or be patient. May be China’s leadership thinks its economic rise and growth has already heralded the China century or China Age, much like the last century was America’s.
It’s actions in other theatres like South East Asia, conflicts with USA, problems with Europe and Australia show this desire to be aggressive in pursuit of its goals. Even a simple reading of the statements of its foreign ministry and leaders show thsi burning ambition and lack of concern for others’ position. As President Bush so nicely put it “My way or highway” seems to be the slogan.
We can hope that will change but cannot assume that.
Given this background, Where do we go from here?
We have received well meaning advise from many of our leftist friends to approach China in a friendly way and further accommodate its wishes in order to be friendly. Some have even recommended we just become another Pakistan and be a client state of China for ideological reasons.
As we said before, we are for friendship. But we also cannot let any country control our foreign policy or become a vassal. Friendship with USA, Europe, South East Asia or Japan is in our interest and we cannot let that be decided by our relationship with China. At the same time, we have made it clear we are not for ganging up with any other country against China.
This government will continue to try to resolve our differences with China in a peaceful way. It will continue to be non-aggressive both in the border and elsewhere. But it will also continue to build bridges with other nations and in ways that protect our interests and enhance our strategic goals. We will not let anyone tell us who we should be friendly with or partner with.
In the meantime, we will also take steps to improve our economy and our defense forces so we are ready for any eventuality.
As far as the border is concerned, we do not seek others’ land. Our patrols will stay within what we think are our borders. We will respect the Line of Actual control regardless of claims each may have on the other. But we will not let our borders to be violated. If this leads to more incidents in future, that is unfortunate but we have no option but to defend ourselves. In this we need support and cooperation from every one of you.
My sincere message to any Chinese citizen that may be hearing this is that India is and will be your friend. You are most welcome to visit us as a tourist, friend, investor or business person. We will do our best to protect you and your investment.
And to the Chinese leadership our message is also very clear. You have tried one approach over the last few decades. It has not worked. It will not work. But if you change your approach, we are more than happy to walk two steps for every step you take in our direction.