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Bull's Eye

This column had given an identical warning twice. On September 27, 1999, and again on December 25, 2000, it said: "Having failed in Kargil, China ...

Bull's Eye
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This column had given an identical warning twice. On September 27, 1999, and again on December 25, 2000, it said: "Having failed in Kargil, China will now try settling with India on its own terms before Delhi can befriend Pakistan. That would make it the Big Brother friendly to two mutually hostile neighbours."

Has Prime Minister Vajpayee made this prophecy come true?

He made a stunning somersault. He swallowed his earlier preconditions. Musharraf has had his way without giving any assurance on cross-border terrorism, without even its condemnation.

Islamabad justifiably crowed. This was what Pakistan wanted, it reminded us. Musharraf welcomed talks anywhere at any time without preconditions.

What made Vajpayee change his stance?

Did Li Chan Chung's visit to India at the same time as Zhu Rongji's visit to Pakistan have anything to do with it? Li made soothing noises in Delhi. Zhu patted Musharraf at Islamabad. But what did really happen at both places behind the curtain? Musharraf offered a clue. He urged China to intervene in South Asian disputes.

Today, India is kowtowing to China as never before. China snubbed India by spurning its global naval exercises. It recently consented to joint naval exercises with India. Meanwhile, our air force chief is visiting Beijing for consultations.

Last week, an article in The Hindustan Times quoted an official report by China's pla. The report outlined China's long-term strategy. It recommended subjugating South Asia "by psychological warfare, use of media and undermining rival economies".

After reading the article, Jiang Zemin and Vajpayee appear like the spider and the fly.

The pro-China euphoria mounts. The Kanchi Shankaracharya has been invited to China for three weeks. The saffron brigade is ecstatic. It doesn't mind China supporting Taliban or crushing Falun Gong. That proves how tolerant Hindus are! Then why mind talking to Musharraf while he describes Afghani terrorists as jehadis?

During a recent book release, our leading intellectuals bashed India's China policy. They bashed the Dalai Lama. The Chinese ambassador benignly watched. The scene seemed symptomatic.

So what will talks with Musharraf yield? Perhaps Vajpayee does have a card up his sleeve. But Musharraf is not merely the president of Pakistan. He has been up to now the unflinching instrument of China. The prospect could
be ominous.

Come into my parlour
Said the spider to the fly,
In our little corner
We'll be bhai-bhai!

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