China continued its verbal assault on India on Wednesday with the ruling Communist Party’s two official mouthpieces accusing India of “hegemonic” ambitions in South Asia and “provoking” China over the border dispute.
The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, and the Global Times, an English-language paper run by the Party’s information department, launched a co-ordinated onslaught in their editorial pages on Wednesday, accusing the Indian government of “recklessness and arrogance”.
The People’s Daily said India was “obsessed” with a “hegemonic mentality”, had “turned a blind eye" to the concessions China had made over the border issue and "refused to drop the pretentious airs when dealing with neighbours like Pakistan”. The paper also accused India of following a policy of “befriend the far and attack the near”, saying that “resentment still simmered” from India's wars with China and Pakistan. “If India really wants to be a superpower, such a policy is short sighted and immature,” the editorial said.
The strong comments coming from China’s ruling Communist Party underscore how the atmosphere between the two neighbours has fast soured in recent months. Wednesday’s statements are a stark contrast from the conciliatory positions the two governments had seemed to adopt over the border dispute following the last round of talks in August, when officials in Beijing and New Delhi spoke of positive progress.
On Tuesday, China said it was “strongly dissatisfied” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, part of which China has claims on. New Delhi responded saying it was both disappointed and concerned, and that China’s statement did not help in resolving the Boundary Question.
The People’s Daily, a nationalistic newspaper run by the Communist Party’s propaganda wing, often articulates the party's positions on foreign affairs in more strident tones than the official positions stated by the Chinese government's Foreign Ministry. In its editorial, the paper went beyond attacking the Indian government, saying “Indians have become more narrow-minded and intolerable of outside criticism”.
The paper claimed a “rising nationalist sentiment” in India led the country to “provoke” China on the border issue. “[India’s] dream of superpower is mingled with the thought of hegemony, which places the South Asian giant in an awkward situation and results in repeated failure,” the paper said.
The Global Times threatened India would make “a fatal error” if it mistook “China’s approach for weakness”. “The Chinese government and public regard territorial integrity as a core national interest, one that must be defended with every means,” the paper said. “The disputed border area is of strategic importance, and hence, India's recent moves — including Mr. Singh’s trip and approving past visits to the region by the Dalai Lama – send the wrong signal. That could have dangerous consequences.”
The papers also accused India of “ignoring” China’s “concessions” on the border issue, but did not specify what the concessions were.
Indian analysts say China’s positions on the boundary issue have, in fact, hardened in recent months, with Chinese objections to visits by Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh becoming more frequent and strong.
The Global Times also claimed 96 per cent of the over 6,000 respondents of an online poll on its Chinese language Website said they felt “agitated” by the frequent visits by Indian leaders the disputed area.