In its much vaunted face-off with Beijing over ‘terrorist’ leaders, New Delhi has blinked first. The Indian government’s meek climbdown on Monday in cancelling the tourist visa it issued to Chinese dissident Dolkun Isa last week comes as yet another anti-climax. It has reinforced the belief that the Chinese will continue to hold the upper hand in such diplomatic shadow boxing in the foreseeable future. After Chi blocked India’s bid to get Jaish-e-Muhammad chief and Pathankot attack mastermind Masood Azhar blacklisted as an intertiol terrorist by the UN, there was supposedly much outrage at the ‘highest level’ in the Indian government. So when New Delhi decided to allow World Uyghur Congress leader Dolkun Isa to visit Dharamsala, it was interpreted as a ‘tit-for-tat’ message to Beijing. Expectedly, Beijing bared its fangs and ramped up the pressure, calling Isa a terrorist on Interpol’s red corner notice and sought by the Chinese police. New Delhi has now buckled under the pressure, with the Home Ministry confirming cancellation of Isa’s visa. The Congress has termed this flip-flop as ‘a Himalayan blunder’ of Modi’s foreign policy on Chi. tiol Conference leader Omar Abdullah has rubbed it in by asking ‘what came of all the self-congratulatory chest thumping earlier about standing up to Chi’. The Modi government’s bid to engage more with Beijing on trade and investment, and therefore its perceived anxiety to keep out irritants like border incursions and stapled visas that can queer the pitch — is likely to come under scrutiny in the coming days. But New Delhi ought to learn a lesson from this fiasco — that it is not wise to have too much on its plate when it comes to dealing with a neighbor as self-serving and obdurate as Chi. After all, Dolkun Isa was scheduled to take part in a conference in Dharamsala, along with Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, which is being organized by a pro-democracy group led by prominent Chinese dissident Yang Jianli. The participants in the April 28 meet are expected to discuss ‘democratic transformation in Chi’. Surely, this would have been a huge provocation to a Chinese leadership utterly paranoid about Uyghur militancy and Tibetan unrest. So despite protesting Chi’s ‘double standards’ and ‘selective’ policy towards terrorism, the NDA government has backtracked to buy peace. The same abundant caution was displayed by the UPA government in 2009, when it discouraged a visit by exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer. So instead of playing more politics over another New Delhi climbdown, it is high time for the Indian political establishment to devise a tough, calibrated approach in dealing with Beijing.
New Delhi blinks, again