Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What do the Chinese want from India?

First, a disclaimer: I am not an expert on Indo-China relations. But as one who sticks to a basic journalistic quality of tracking news and events that make headlines, I am aware that all is not well in the relations between the two countries. From the news I have been reading and watching in the last few weeks, it is quite obvious that the two Asian giants have upped the ante against each other.

The Indian media appears to be egging on New Delhi to adopt an aggressive stance and match the rhetoric of the Chinese, who have staked fresh claims over the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to the North Eastern State evoked strong reactions in the media – quite justifiably.

In my view, China is behaving like the typical school bully, who would pick up fights with every other boy in the school, just to show who the boss was in the campus. The bully would have a free run till he gets his nose bloodied some day or someone at least stands up, looks him in the eye, and says, “Ok, dude! Let’s fight it out, if that’s what you want.” India has to respond in a language that the Chinese would understand.

English daily, Deccan Chronicle, adopted a balanced view in its editorial titled “It’s time to speak frankly to China.” While advocating a bilateral summit to resolve the standoff between the two nations, it noted in the issue dated 19 October 2009: “India needs to prepare itself to deal with any situation that may be thrown up. Economically, politically, militarily, and in terms of its weight in the international system, it is a more capable entity than it was in 1962.”

However, contrary to the general thinking in the media, The Hindu continues to believe that the Chinese and Indians can remain friends forever. It perceives the current turbulent phase in the Indo – Chinese relations in a refreshingly optimistic manner.

In an editorial dated 19 October 2009, “How to end this discordance,” the paper noted: “The tone, although not the substance, of India – China relations has recently been through a problematic phase, with misperceptions and motivated media campaigns creating the impression of some kind of crisis.”

The Hindu further added for clarity: “That this is not so has been made clear by the governments of both countries; in their own ways, they have made the point that the positive overall trend of the “China – India Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity” remains unaffected.”

Is it so? Well, an IANS report from Kathmandu, which was carried by many dailies the following day (20 October 2009) - The Hindu was understandably not among them – provides a contrasting picture.

Deccan Chronicle ran the report with the headline: “Kashmir not part of India, claims China.” The report said: “Besides issuing separate visas to Indian passport holders from Jammu and Kashmir, China is also projecting the disputed territory as an independent country in other ways.

Visitors to Tibet, especially journalists invited by the Chinese government, are given handouts where Kashmir is indicated as a country separate from India.

Media kits providing "basic information" about Tibet - which China attacked and annexed in the 1950s - says Tibet "borders with India, Nepal, Myanmar and Kashmir area".

It could be noted that barring the so called “Kashmir area,” the other three are sovereign countries. So what are the Chinese trying to say? Or still better to ask, what is it that China wants? That’s some food for thought.

The writer PC Vinoj Kumar is a Special Correspondent for the Indian weekly magazine - Tehelka. The views expressed are his own.