National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has said the media needed to more “accurately reflect” the reality of India-China relations rather than “manufacture” stories, a day after Navy Chief Admiral D.K. Joshi said the Indian Navy was prepared to go to the South China Sea to protect India’s economic interests.
Mr. Menon, who on Tuesday wrapped up a two-day visit to China for wide-ranging talks on the boundary and strategic issues, said the media needed to introspect on its credibility and ask “whether you are accurately reflecting the reality or whether you are just generating another story and another story and another story.”
In a response to questions at a briefing on Monday, Admiral Joshi said the Indian Navy was “prepared” to go to the South China Sea to protect Indian interests. ONGC Videsh is now involved in three oil exploration blocks in the South China Sea, whose waters and islands are claimed by China and several other countries.
Asked about the comment, Mr. Menon said: “First, you [the media] ask [the Navy Chief] if you can operate anywhere, and he says wherever. Where ever Indian interests are? Yes, wherever Indian interests are. So that means South China Sea also? Yes. So the end result is, you write a story saying the Navy Chief says he will operate in the South China Sea.”
“Now that is stretching the truth… That is not what he started out saying,” Mr. Menon said.
“When you look at the range of India-China engagement… the fact at how peaceful that border is… the fact that we have made progress even on the boundary settlement discussions… the kind of congruence we have on several international issues and the way we work together on it, then you get a more balanced picture of the relationship, of its potential, for us and, for them, for the region, for the world, that it can actually do good together,” Mr. Menon said.
Mr. Menon said the Chinese side did not raise the issue in Tuesday’s talks. “The Chinese also know how these things happen. They recognise the media plays a role. In the past they have complained about the role that the media has played,” he said.
The recent spat between both countries on passports also did not figure in the discussions. China had angered several of its neighbours after including a map in the newly-issued passports, displaying Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh and the South China Sea as Chinese territory. India responded by issuing new visas in its Embassy here that displayed an Indian map with the borders as seen by India. That China had appeared to quietly accept the visas had suggested the row had blown over, Indian officials said.
“There were no discussions on the passport issue,” Mr. Menon said. “They have always published their maps on their documents, we have always published our map on our documents.”