China may match Obama support for India for UN seat

November 10th, 2010 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Manish Chand
New Delhi, Nov 10 (IANS) With US President Barack Obama declaring support for India’s bid for a permanent seat, China may move beyond its stated position by announcing a more pointed support for New Delhi’s place on the global high table during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit next month. The Chinese premier is expected to visit India Dec 16-17, his first trip to the country in five years.

Highly-placed sources told IANS there were some indications already that the Chinese premier may announce a more evolved position on India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which will be more advanced than its articulation on the issue so far.

Sources disclosed that Beijing may surprise New Delhi and belie critics who think the US support was meant to counter China’s ascent on the global stage.

“The Chinese premier may come out with a clearer support for India’s Security Council ambitions.It’s quite possible,” Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert who closely tracks Beijing’s moves, told IANS.

India will seek China’s support for its candidature for a reformed UNSC when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna goes to Wuhan to attend the trilateral meeting of foreign minister of Russia, India and China Nov 14 and during National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon’s boundary talks later this month, official sources said.

These meetings will also firm up the agenda for Wen’s visit next month.

A day after Obama endorsed India’s bid for permanent seat in the UNSC, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Tuesday said in Beijing that China was ready for consultations over the issue and values India’s status in the international affairs and understands India’s aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations. Beijing’s willingness to discuss the issue is seen here as “a step forward” ahead of Wen’s visit.

Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary, feels that Beijing may make feel-good noises, but is unlikely to announce unequivocal support, which would be deeply resented by its all-weather ally Pakistan.

“As with the nuclear deal, however, Beijing won’t stand in India’s way if the US throws its full weight behind India,” he said.

President Pratibha Patil sought Beijing’s support for Security Council seat during her visit to China in May. Chinese President Hu Jintao assured her that China was ready to discuss the complex issues relating to India’s quest for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, a marked improvement over its earlier stance about India playing a bigger role in global affairs.

Wen has also said China wanted to ensure “a greater role for India in the UN especially in the Security Council.”

Wen is coming to India amid a stressful period in bilateral relations that has been clouded by a host of issues, including the Chinese stapled visas for Indian citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and massive investment plans in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

If the Chinese premier does declare Beijing’s support, it could generate a powerful positive momentum in bilateral relations, sources said. Interestingly, Beijing has already begun to acknowledge India’s surging global status. Recently, Beijing elevated China’s ambassador to India Zhang Yan to the position equivalent to that of vice foreign minister, a status it gives to only Chinese ambassadors to P5 countries.

Significantly, Wen last visited India in April 2005 barely two months after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proclaimed for the first time at a university in Tokyo that the US will help India in becoming a major power.

Wen’s 2005 visit saw India and China elevating their relationship to the level of strategic partnership and finalizing guiding principles and political parameters to resolve the boundary dispute. Again, after India and the US struck the landmark nuclear deal in July 2005, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India in Nov 2006 during which the two sides finalized the 10-point strategy to deepen bilateral relationship.

“This is a pattern. Every time the US inches closer to the US, Beijing watches it carefully and tries to assure India that it’s is not against India’s rise.

“This time, China may announce support to dispel the impression of rivalry,” Kondapalli said. With Obama declaring US support for India’s permanent seat bid, only China remains to express its support among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Britain, France and Russia have already pledged support for India’s permanent seat in the global body. French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev are also set to visit India in December and are expected to reiterate their support for India’s UN aspirations, making 2010 the year of India’s UN diplomacy.

India was elected by a record margin to a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council last month and will take charge in the council from Jan 1, 2011.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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