Wang Qi and India-China ties

Wang Qi and India-China ties

Wang's return to China after more than five decades illustrates the complex dynamics of India-China relations.

The facilitation last month of the Chinese PLA personnel Wang Qi, who strayed into the Indian side of the India-China border in 1963, to China from India after more than five decades of his stay in India, in a way illustrates the complex dynamics of India-China relations. The ties between two neighbours oscillate between strategic mistrust, security dilemma and cooperation and coordination. The apt handling of this poignant human ordeal should not be trivialised as an insignificant incident in the relationship between the two countries and their people. It reflects what the two countries often call the wisdom and maturity of their leaders to handle the relationship between the two countries in a mindful manner.

Wang wanted to go to China earlier, but couldn’t due to some reason or other. His decision to take his son having the Indian name Vishnu, daughter in law and grand daughter to China may speak more than what meets the eye. Although he is a Chinese, holding a Chinese passport eloquently speaks of his sentimental attachment with his Indian family, otherwise he could have gone China alone without taking his family members. It is reported that his Indian wife and daughter couldn’t accompany him to China due to ill health and are likely to join him later. Whether he decides to settle down in China or comes back to India may not be his decision alone. If he decides to come back to India, it will clearly reflect his personal choice and preference. But he being a former PLA personnel, it is highly unlikely that he would come back to India.

What is ideal perhaps is he decides to continue to hold the Chinese passport, while also maintaining his familial ties with his Indian wife and children born out of the wedlock. It would be difficult for Wang to forget his life and times in Tirodi village in Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh, where he earned his livelihood, persuaded by his Indian friend to get married to a local woman and raised a family. There is no report of him being harassed, although his return to China was inordinately delayed. The appreciation of the Chinese government of the goodwill gesture of Indian government is favourably received by India.

It is not for the first time that the two countries have resolved such a piquant situation amicably without acrimony or rancour of any consequences. In the recent past, India and China have handled at least two such cases very deftly. It may be recalled that in September 2009, three Chinese engineers of the Shadong Electric Power Construction Corporation of China working in the Vedanta –controlled Balco chimney at Korba in Madhya Pradesh were accused in the collapse of the chimney which claimed 40 live, and injured six persons.

The local administration and the police handled the situation very thoughtfully and swiftly avoiding any kind of backlash. The Chinese were immediately given police protection and were taken to Bilaspur to avoid wrath of the local people. The accused were given bail and were subjected to the law of the land. A fair amount of leniency was shown to them without compromising the legal and judicial procedure of the country. They were not jailed. Some of the accused were permitted to visit China by the judiciary after furnishing the bank guarantee.

Diamond traders
In another case, the Chinese authorities showed their sensitivity when 22 India diamond traders were detained by the Chinese authorities in Shenzen near Hong Kong in January 2010 on charges of evading $7.3 million in customs duties. After protracted judicial procedure for about two years, the court in Shenzen pronounced a relatively lighter punishment bringing relief to the excruciating agony and anxiety to the accused and their family members.

According to the court verdict, 13 traders were allowed to be deported to India while remaining were given jail terms between three to six years. It is believed that the accused were given lighter sentences .The issue was taken up by India at the highest level. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat also took up the cause of the arrested diamond merchants during his visit to China prior to pronouncement of the verdict.

The deft handling of these two cases was admirable and reflected the goodwill of the two governments. Although the Balco chimney incident and the ordeal of the Indian diamond merchants are seldom remembered, Wang’s saga will be yet another footnote in the narrative of relationship between the two countries and their peoples.

There are international laws, customs, and conventions to govern and regulate such incidents and those need to be followed. There should also be sensitivity and creativity in application and interpretation of laws are sacrosanct, but if they are handled and interpreted creatively and with sensitivity, they can avert unpleasant and unsavoury situations.

(The writer is former Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)