The media in China, which has been carefully following the ongoing elections in India, has appeared divided in its assessment of whether or not the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls will impact India-China relations.

Media outlets here have devoted most attention to the prospects of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, but from the perspective of how either leader might influence diplomacy with China.

“If Rahul Gandhi gets elected, it’s very likely that he will follow the current China policy of the Congress Party. As with Modi who is famous for ‘development’, we can expect more economic interactions between India and China. What’s more, as a pragmatic and assertive political leader, it’s possible that Modi will bring his style into the Sino-India relationship,” wrote the Reference News, one of China’s mostly wide newspapers, published by the official Xinhua news agency.

Interestingly, the article also asked how an Arvind Kejriwal-led government might approach foreign policy. “For Kejriwal, as he is focusing on anti-corruption and people’s livelihood, and has no complete foreign policy agenda, it is a feasible option for him to continue the current policy towards China,” said the commentary, authored by Tang Lu, a scholar at the World Affairs Research centre run by Xinhua.

No great impact

The article concluded that the outcome of elections would not have any “great impact” on ties: “No matter who gets elected, a big change in the Sino-India relationship is very unlikely.… [t]here is a great chance that the three top candidates will continue with the current friendly attitude…,” it concluded.

The China Review News had a different view, expressing the concern that elections could strain ties. “Bilateral ties can be the victim of party politics in India”, it said.

“Border issues are always a tool used by politicians to advocate nationalism and attract votes”.

On Mr. Modi’s comments in Arunachal Pradesh that China was “expansionist”, the article said “his action can be considered as a signal of showing his strong foreign policy stand to the voters”, adding that “we must be cautious that some politicians use China as a controversial issue in the election”.

“This will definitely affect the Sino-India relationship, as the Sino-U.S. relationship has shown previously. The mutual trust between China and India is built step by step, so we should focus on how to strengthen it, rather than sabotage it out of personal or party interests.”

Tang Lu, the author of the Xinhua commentary, in an interview with The Hindu suggested that a “strong leader” in New Delhi could, on the other hand, push forward ties with China on deadlocked issues more decisively.

“If the new government is stable and has a more decisive leader, that will be not only good for India, it can also push India and China to make agreements on some substantial issues,” she said, stressing that she was speaking in an individual capacity.

“Personally,” she added, “I regard Modi’s words as campaign language, as his audience was domestic.”