‘Propaganda that India can counter China seeks to raise spending on foreign weapons systems'

Following the launch of Agni-V, India and China must guard against “vested interests” that were playing up the “China threat” and promoting an arms race between the neighbours, the Communist Party-run The Global Times newspaper said on Sunday.

In the wake of the launch of India's first intercontinental ballistic missile with the capability of reaching most cities in China, both countries “should beware of efforts to create widespread fear and tension,” the paper said in an editorial on its website, due to be published on Monday.

“By playing up the ‘China threat' and postulating that India can ‘counter and contain China,' vested interests are hoping to ensure that more and more money is spent on foreign weapons systems rather than domestic manufacture,” said The Global Times, which is known for its strong nationalistic positions but also seen to echo the views of the more hard-line sections within the party and military.

Several state-run media publications have in recent days published commentaries hitting out at the launch of Agni-V, which was widely seen here as being directed at China. The government, however, played down the launch, with the Foreign Ministry stressing that both countries were not rivals but partners.

“Although there is an international effort to paint India and China as enemies and to make the two countries go to war with each other, such an effort will fail,” the newspaper said. “The Chinese and Indian people share a long history and culture, and what is needed is more discussion between the two about their economics, education, tourism and culture.”

It said bad relations would “hurt both countries and aid those who seek to subjugate Asia and the world.”

Strength in unity

“Together, India and China can make Asia strong. Divided, not only these two countries but all of Asia will remain weak,” the editorial said.

The commentary did, however, also echo recent articles published in the official media that played down the threat to China posed by the Indian military.

The Global Times said China had “raced ahead and “outclassed India” in both economic and technological fields, and celebrations in India over Agni-V “conceal the inadequacies” of the missile programme. It claimed that “pressure from NATO member countries” had slowed down the speed of development and restricted the range of Indian missiles. As India, unlike China, imported most of its critical weapons systems from France, the U.S., Russia and Israel, it also faced the risk that these countries could “cut off supplies ammunition during a conflict”.

“By now, India ought to be a space power,” the editorial said. “However, the country is so far behind China in this field that it is embarrassing.”