India averts irking China in Hong Kong too

India averts irking China in Hong Kong too

India has been carefully avoiding irking China on the issue of Tibet and Taiwan

In his first visit to Hong Kong, Ambassador Vikram Misri called on Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China. (Twitter/@CGIHongKong)

India has reached out to the Hong Kong government a week after it avoided irking China during recent protests at the Special Administrative Region of the communist country against a proposed extradition law. 

Vikram Misri, New Delhi's envoy to Beijing, was on a visit to Hong Kong this week. He called on Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China, on Friday. “They discussed areas of mutual interest and ways to further strengthen the historic and deep ties between India and Hong Kong,” according to a post on Twitter by the Consulate General of India in HKSAR.  

Misri had a separate meeting with HKSAR Government's Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin Chung. He also met Paul Chan Mo-po, financial secretary of HKSAR Government, and held discussion on “areas of mutual interest, especially in the business, trade and investment fields”, tweeted the Consulate General of India in Hong Kong.

His meetings with top HKSAR Government officials came just days after the Consulate General of India in Hong Kong declined to send out any official to meet the protesters opposing the move to enact a law that would allow Beijing to get people accused of committing crimes to be extradited from the autonomous territory to the mainland of China.

Hundreds of protesters marched to the consulates of the 19 G-20 nations in Hong Kong on June 26. They urged the leaders of other members of the 20-nation-bloc to put pressure on China during its summit at Osaka in Japan on June 28 and 29 and call upon Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop curbing rights and freedom that the HKSAR citizens had been enjoying despite being a part of the communist country over the past 22 years.

The United States, United Kingdom and 14 other G-20 nations sent out officials from their consulates in Hong Kong to meet the protesters, listen to them and accept the petitions. India, however, did not jump on the bandwagon. Neither did Russia and Indonesia. 

New Delhi decided against sending out its officials out of its consulate to meet the protesters, apparently because it did not want to put in jeopardy its détente with Beijing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the G-20 summit. He and Xi had joined Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend a Russia-India-China meeting on the sideline of the summit. The three leaders also joined the leaders of Brazil and South Africa for another meeting of the BRICS (a bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the margin of the G-20 summit. 

Modi and Xi earlier had a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's summit in Bishkek – the capital of Kyrgyz Republic – on June 13. 

This was Prime Minister’s first meeting with Chinese President after he led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections held in April-May and thus retained the top office in New Delhi for the second five-year term. It was also the fifth meeting between the two leaders after an “informal summit” between them at Wuhan in central China on April 27 and 28, 2018 resulted in a thaw in bilateral relations, which had hit a new low over the military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in June-August 2017. 

India has since been carefully avoiding irking China on the issue of Tibet and Taiwan as it has been trying to mend its ties with its eastern neighbour over the past one-and-a-half years. 

Modi did not invite the chief of Tibetan Government in Exile, Lobsang Sangay, to witness him being sworn-in for his second term in office of Prime Minister on May 30 – ostensibly to avoid irking Beijing and derailing efforts to mend India-China relations. Sangay had been among the guests, who had been in the Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 26, 2014 – the day Modi had been sworn-in to the office of the Prime Minister for the first time. This had irked China, which had issued a démarche to India, lodging a strong protest over the invitation to the head of the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGiE). The Government also did not invite Taiwan's de facto envoy to India, Chung-kwang Tien, too, as his presence at the Rashtrapati Bhavan could be perceived by Beijing contradictory to New Delhi's “One-China” policy. Like TGiE chief, Taiwan's envoy to India too attended the first swearing-in ceremony of Modi Government in 2014. 

Ahead of the “informal summit” in April 2018, Modi Government had issued an advisory asking “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” in the states as well as at the Centre to stay away from events attended by Dalai Lama. The advisory had fuelled speculation that India was shifting from its traditional approach on Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetans to avert any complication in its efforts to bring back on track its ties with China. Besides, although the TGiE had been keen to hold a “Thank You India” in New Delhi to mark the beginning of the 60th anniversary of Dalai Lama's escape to India in 1959, Modi Government had made it scale down the event and shift its venue from the capital to Dharamshala. 

The Chinese Government had been accusing Dalai Lama as well as the TGiE of leading a separatist movement. Beijing had been protesting over foreign leaders meeting Dalai Lama.

It had also been sensitive about visits and other activities of Dalai Lama and the TGiE chief in India and other foreign countries.

Beijing had also nudged New Delhi in July 2018 to virtually re-assert its adherence to “One-China policy” and make Air India to change “Taiwan” with “Chinese Taipei” in the list of destinations on its website. Taiwan strongly reacted, stating that the move by Air India could be seen as a “gesture” by India “of succumbing to the unreasonable and absurd pressure from China”. New Delhi had earlier refrained from reaffirming its commitment to “One-China policy” for almost eight years.