China Master At Manipulating Time: Ex-Foreign Secretary In New Book

Vijay Gokhale’s comments come amid the border standoff between India, China in eastern Ladakh (File)

New Delhi:

China is a master at manipulating time and one of the moves in the Chinese playbook is to play the victim, says former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale about the negotiating strategy of the neighbouring country.

China’s strategies and tactics may vary depending on the situation and the relative strength of the two parties but it is possible to discern the common threads that run through the way the Chinese deal with the outside world, Vijay Gokhale said.

“Indian interlocutors may do well to remember these in preparing for talks with China,” he suggested.

Mr Gokhale made these remarks in his new book “The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India”, which explores the dynamics of negotiation between the two countries through the prism of six historical and recent events in the India-China relationship.

His comments come amid the border standoff between the two countries in eastern Ladakh.

“China is a master at manipulating time. If the interlocutor is reluctant to bend to the Chinese demands, they will start by referring to the long history of China and their capacity to display patience,” the book read.

China will always try to set the agenda for negotiations and tries through such means to determine the direction of talks, and to avoid discussing subjects that may paint it into a corner or compel the Chinese negotiator to disclose their position prematurely, Mr Gokhale writes.

It is, therefore, important for the other party to raise its own issues of interest in the working-level negotiations even if these are not on the formal agenda, as a means of conveying to China that the other party has equal interest and the right to put forward its own issues in the discussion, he suggested in the book.

Mr Gokhale is of the view that on any contentious issue, the Chinese side routinely follows the practice of enunciating “principles” before tackling an issue in detail.

“The Indian side might, therefore, wish to closely examine the ‘principles’ proposed by China, and negotiate them in a manner that limits Chinese flexibility or does not allow the Chinese side to constrain India’s position on the specifics of any issue,” he writes.

Elaborating on these contentions, Vijay Gokhale said it is vital to be mindful of two sorts of Chinese plays on issues that are particularly contentious or important.

“They will keep saying ‘no’ for as long as possible and, by doing so, keep all options on the table,” he says, adding the other one is to “fall back on the power of silence”.

The book explores six important events in bilateral relationship – India’s recognition of China on December 30, 1949; the trade deal between the Tibet Region of China and India of April 29, 1954; India’s nuclear tests of 1998; China’s formal recognition of Sikkim as a part of India on April 11, 2005; India-China diplomatic negotiations on the 123 nuclear deal in 2008; and listing of Masood Azhar as a terrorist in the UNSC 1267 Sanctions List on May 1, 2019.

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