Each side had enormous and perhaps exaggerated expectations at Mamallapuram, but it is apposite to recall that Xi’s participation was confirmed barely two days before the projected event. Modi had invested a great deal in this summit, both in terms of internal politics and world equations. Xi had seen that India under Modi was ready to embrace USA and that he (Xi) needed to ensure, if possible, that the embrace is delayed or not extended, which would have been the case if the summit was not held. The summit happened and here we are counting and assessing the sands.
Modi, Jaishankar and Doval should feel relieved that there was no mention of Kashmir at the summit. Indian response was ready – if the question of Kashmir was raised. In fact, Modi must have disappointed Xi to no end that he did not respond when Xi said that Imran had complained that India did not respond to his suggestion of a dialogue. Kashmir did not come up and Pakistan was barely mentioned – one imagines, to the relief of both.
Among the weightier questions, there was barely a mention in passing of the boundary question, which, in the view of some in India, is central to the Indian attitude and policy towards China. The special representatives have been asked to hurry up with their labours, but that’s about all. The talks did not lead to an expectation that the boundary question may be resolved in the foreseeable future. We in India may be forgiven if we think that China uses the boundary dispute as a means of putting pressure on India.
Then, Indians heaved a sigh of relief that Pakistan was barely mentioned – in terms of Imran’s grievance aforesaid. In broader terms, if someone like me had been at the talks, he would have said in so many words that if China goes on promoting Pakistan, then China should not hope to make good relations with India.
But there, China seems to have made its choice already: it will stand with Pakistan in everything right or wrong. Listing up of someone as a global terrorist by the UN does not hurt Pakistan very much, but that’s where China’s neutrality ceases. For the rest, China needs Pakistan in order to make its road from Khotan to Gwadar. It does not matter if India does not like it.
It was extravagant of China to have thought at one time not so long ago that it would be willing to mediate between India and Pakistan to bring about better relations between them. China must have known that India knew that China was too far committed to be an ‘honest broker’ between India and Pakistan. A mediator at the very least had to be neutral towards the parties between whom it was going to mediate. Naturally, India had no choice but to decline the offer – as it declined other offers. Kashmir is India’s internal affair – full stop.