John Kerry extends stay, will now fly to China: Diplomatic message to Beijing?

Pakistan. This could be a couched message of re-hyphenating India, but now with its eastern neighbour China.

Earlier, Kerry’s plan to visits to a temple, mosque and a gurdwara, a choice some were viewing as a subtle iteration of the concerns on religious freedom, got washed away due to heavy rains that lashed Delhi on Wednesday morning. He was expected to visit Gurdwara Sisganj Sahib, Jama Masjid and Gauri Shankar temple – all located within a kilometre of one another – in Chandni Chowk, before he flies out.

Kerry, while speaking at IIT Delhi had a clear message, saying “We have to respect rights of all our citizens irrespective of creed and allow them to protest in peace without fear that they will be jailed”. This comes in the backdrop of the sedition case that was filed against Amnesty International in Bengaluru for holding an event on Kashmir. The secretary of state was originally supposed to visit religious places ahead of official talks, but was rescheduled on the day or his departure a day after talks to avoid any prospect of the symbolism in his visits clouding the talks.

Since his landing in Delhi, downpour and water-logging first brought his cavalcade standstill on September 29 and then on Wednesday played spoil spot to his visit to old Delhi. For over two hours on Wednesday morning Delhi received torrential rainfall, resulting in serpentine traffic jams at various places.

During his last official engagement the meeting with the Prime Minister Modi, Kerry briefed him about the outcome of the 2nd India-US Strategic & Commercial Dialogue. He also shared US perspective on developments in the region and beyond. Sources said while the US secretary of state expressed concern at the rising tensions between India and Pakistan, he was told India’s sincere efforts to bring peace in the region. On Tuesday as well, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj at length explained government efforts to buy peace with Islamabad. “When this government was formed, we invited Pakistan’s prime minister to the oath-taking ceremony, even before the formation of the government. After that we took the initiative to re-start foreign secretary-level talks, but they did something which compelled us to cancel the talks.

“After that when I visited Islamabad, I returned with the decision of starting a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. Later our Prime Minister visited Lahore, but we got Pathankot after coming back,” she said, adding that India’s minimum expectation was that there should be some action on the Pathankot issue. “Terrorism and talks cannot go hand in hand and we have already told them. Hence, it is not a thing to worry, but yes we do have an expectation and talks will resume only after some action is taken on this issue,” she was quoted as saying.
Kissinger’s extended stay in Pak and secret China missive

In 1971, then US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger in a similar circumstances extended his stay, while he was in Pakistan. It was reported that he fell sick and flew to tourist resort Murree to take rest. But years later it was revealed that he had undertaken a secret visit from Islamabad to Peking (Beijing) during July 9-11, 1971. Premier Chou Enlai specifically had mentioned to take a direct flight from Islamabad either on Pakistan’s airline or on a special plane sent by China to Pakistan. His visit opened the dialogue with China. The mission remained secret because the Americans were not sure of its success. Pakistan also guaranteed its secrecy.

Several Chinese leaders arrived in Pakistan and were waiting on a PIA’s plane for Kissinger’s group. Under the plan, Dr Kissinger would arrive in Islamabad and after 24 hours stay, he would disappear in a place in Northern Areas. In fact, he would fly by a PIA Boeing to Peking. A high-level Pakistani official would accompany him to Peking.

On his return from Peking to Islamabad, he would resume his onward journey.

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