New Delhi: China has inveigled Narendra Modi into accepting it as an informal mediator between India and Pakistan. India’s formal opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will also dissolve as the alleged benefits of road links via Pakistan and Afghanistan to Central Asia and beyond are hyped by interested parties. Indian diplomats speaking unattributably to the papers are already reconsidering singling Pakistan as a terrorist state. It should be no surprise when India accepts Pakistan’s position that it is also a victim of terrorism. What is the quid pro quo for India? There isn’t any. Pakistani terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is unlikely to wind down. The Pakistan-China alliance would have scored its first major success by wearying Narendra Modi into surrender. So much for Modi’s much vaunted personalized diplomacy.

There are of course obvious problems with Chinese mediation. To start with, China is in occupation of portions of Jammu and Kashmir in addition to territories of the state ceded to it by Pakistan. There is absolutely no possibility of these annexed lands being returned to India. Naturally, this is not the end of it. Pakistan is not satisfied with the part of Kashmir it has occupied since 1948. If it were, the matter should have been resolved in Simla in 1972. Once India comes under Chinese pressure and accepts it as a mediator, which is where the denouement seems headed, India would be in no position to hold such Kashmir territories as it presently possesses. Once capitulation begins, it is difficult to predict the end.

And it is not simply about imperilled territories in the northwest. China and Pakistan are colluding against India principally to advance China’s interests and only secondarily that of Pakistan. China has staked claims to Indian Arunachal Pradesh which it calls South Tibet. As long as Arunachal Pradesh remains with India, China’s hold on Tibet will be tenuous, or so it believes. There is also the threat from the Dalai Lama who has taken permanent residence in India. The Narendra Modi government has clamped down on such political activities as the Dalai Lama-sponsored Tibetan government-in-exile undertook from time to time. A future government may not do China’s bidding against Tibetans. If China mediates between India and Pakistan, its reward would be loosening Arunachal Pradesh from India’s grip. China’s ambition ranges beyond Arunachal Pradesh. It wants to render India territorially disjointed so that it no longer poses a strategic threat.

Narendra Modi has no understanding of China’s deepest impulses. It is an expansionist Major Power and it cannot risk India’s competition which presents the only credible threat to it in this part of the world. Modi has made the cardinal mistake of revealing his geopolitical anxieties to the Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. Being obsessed with Pakistani terrorism to the neglect of everything else, he has provided an opening to China, which has nudged Eurasian client groups to issue anodyne counterterrorism statements without making efforts to alter the situation on the ground. Indeed, it has every reason not to desire a rollback of Pakistani terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, because it keeps the pressure on India. Every time India has tried to challenge China, Pakistan and other Chinese allies like the Maldives have made trouble for this country. In the week when Narendra Modi’s visit to China was splashed across the front pages, the news that Seychelles had withdrawn the offer to host an Indian base was buried inside in a single column.

India’s present problems in dealing with China have two sides. The first concerns Narendra Modi. In four years in office, he has not learnt to be a strategic thinker and executor. Having no exposure to geopolitics prior to coming to the Centre, he has yet to find his feet there, and confuses socializing and event management with diplomacy. Atal Behari Vajpayee and P. V. Narasimha Rao had long exposure to foreign affairs before becoming prime minister, and the freedom struggle gave wide and varied experiences in geopolitics to Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Narendra Modi is also deprived of classical education. How could he, for example, compare himself with Barack Obama or Emanuel Macron or technocrats like Angela Merkel? Poorly equipped, Modi is inordinately dependent on foreign policy officials, who are trained to be reactive and cannot, for the most part, think creatively and strategically. The Chinese have read through Narendra Modi and nicely cornered him. From now on, you will only hear of China dominating conversations between India and Pakistan while having its own way as well on territorial disputes with India.

Narendra Modi has led the country into China’s trap.