India and China plan to sign an internal security co-operation agreement on October 22, during the visit of Zhao Kezhi, China’s Minister of Public Security, to India. The proposed agreement covers a wide range of areas from intelligence sharing and cooperation in disaster management to sharing ‘best practices’. The so-called ‘Wuhan spirit’ appears to be propelling this pact. In April, just months after the Doklam crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for an informal summit at Wuhan, where they vowed, among other things, to co-operate on issues of concern to the two countries. It is to give concrete shape to the ‘Wuhan spirit’ that the two sides seem to have decided on the proposed internal security pact. Some will argue that any co-operation between the two countries, in whatever field, is good if it calms tensions with China, which has taken on an aggressive avatar, believing it’s now a superpower.
However, the proposed internal security agreement is ill-conceived, especially with regard to its implications for India. Has the Modi government thought it through or is it one of those moves that is simply aimed at impressing voters ahead of general elections? There is little that is common between India and China to merit internal security co-operation. China is an authoritarian state that brooks no criticism of its leaders and policies. There is no freedom of speech or assembly there. In contrast, the Indian Constitution entitles every citizen to
an array of rights, including those of freedom of speech and expression, to assemble peacefully and move freely throughout the country. Worryingly, the Modi government has already sought to undermine some of these fundamental rights. It has already shown an inclination to turn India into a surveillance state. What does it want to learn from China? The proposed pact envisages intelligence sharing. How can such sharing happen when India and China do not even agree on the definition of a terrorist? China has stubbornly refused to join the rest of the international community in including Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar in a United Nations blacklist of terrorists. What kind of intelligence on Azhar’s movements, for instance, will China be willing to share with India? Or, will Beijing be willing to provide India with Lashkar-e-Taiba plans for attacks on India?
India does not have internal security agreements even with friendly countries that are fellow democracies. Such an agreement with a rival country, one with whom we have fought a bloody war and were on the brink of another last year, one that has sought to box India in South Asia by arming Pakistan with nuclear arms and missiles, is dangerous and a threat to our national security. Modi must desist from signing this pact.