China sees a newly assertive India

The postponement of the 15th round of border talks, following India's refusal to accede to Chinese demands to reschedule a Buddhist conference that was organised on the same dates and involved the Dalai Lama, has been seen in China as part of a trend of India taking an increasingly “bold” and assertive position on disputes.

State media and Chinese analysts on Tuesday appeared to dismiss suggestions that the holding of the Buddhist conference in New Delhi in the same week as the visit of Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, China's Special Representative on the border negotiations, was accidental and not political, as Indian officials had said.

The Communist Party-run Global Times, in an editorial on Tuesday, described India as beginning to adopt “a bold stance when dealing with China” and an approach that was “a bit pushy,” in reference to the boundary talks and recent differences over India's cooperation with Vietnam on exploration projects in the disputed South China Sea.

“The country appears to be highly interested in facing off with China,” the newspaper said, however adding that China needed “to treat [India] seriously.”

The newspaper, known for its nationalistic views, struck a moderate tone in the editorial, calling for both countries to settle their differences and “keep the border issue from worsening by focusing on keeping goodwill talks alive.”

The border talks, as well as the South China Sea issue, have led to the perception among Chinese analysts of India beginning to take a different, more assertive approach.

“If the holding of the 15th round of border talks coincides with the Buddhist conference in New Delhi, which the Dalai Lama will attend, then it is really not a coincidence. It could be regarded as a purposed arrangement,” Hu Shisheng, a leading South Asia scholar at the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a Beijing think tank, told The Hindu.

“Because border talks are of so much importance, how could the Dalai Lama's participation [be] pure coincidence? Who is foolish enough to believe that?”

Shen Dingli, director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University, told The Hindu that China would view the holding of the conference, at the same time as the talks, as a provocation considering Chinese sensitivities on Tibet.

Mr. Hu said because China sees India as using the Dalai Lama in the long-running border dispute to boost claims, it would find it difficult to accept Indian officials' statements that the holding of the conference, although one of many that the Tibetan religious leader regularly attends, was without a message.

“From China's side, Indian governments, in the past successive years, have utilised the Dalai Lama to legalise India's claim on the disputed territories,” he said. “We can see these developments, such as Indian governments encouraging the Dalai Lama to revisit Tawang [in Arunachal Pradesh, which China has claims on] once and again, [forcing] Dalai to support India's territorial claim publicly, etc.”

Mr. Shen and Mr. Hu said they also did not see India's involvement in the South China projects as “purely commercial” — as India has suggested — echoing recent editorials by influential State-run media that saw India looking to take sides with China's neighbours.

“We try to believe that ONGC's involvement is purely out of commercial purpose, but the involvement itself has in fact enhanced the argument from Vietnam on its claim upon its disputed waters,” Mr. Hu said, drawing a comparison with India's objections to Chinese projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), viewed as China taking sides over the Kashmir dispute.

However, the consensus among Chinese analysts and the media is that these disputes, while creating temporary strains, would not derail the overall development of ties. Mr. Hu said they were likely to have “some spill over effects” and “some negative bearings.”

The Global Times said that behind the mistrust was common anxieties. While India feared Chinese encirclement, China, too, similarly viewed India as part of a U.S.-led containment strategy.

“Both countries should avoid overreacting to their disputes, but that does not mean these issues should be hidden away,” the newspaper said. “What we need to do is not aggravate it.”

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 1:10:28 PM |

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