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Chinese Impertinence Reaches Depth Of Incivility

The Chinese boast of a great culture, 5000 years old. If that is true, then something drastically went wrong after the communists took over in 1949. Chairman Mao Zedong’s gratuitous insult of a foreign leader – he called Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru a “running dog of American Imperialism”, and the polemical writings of the late 1950s and 1960, are reappearing in some form. Those adjectives are no longer used, thankfully. But arrogance and impertinence still abound, and diplomatic language is thrown to the four winds.

Venting anger against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s one-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh (October 03), the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded not by a protest, but a talking to. Note the following phrases used by the official Chinese spokesman: “China is strongly dissatisfied with the visit by the Indian leader disregarding serious Chinese concerns”, “we demand the Indian side address China’s serious concerns”.

The Chinese are known to protest visits of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh, but the language used earlier had not crossed the diplomatic line. Diplomatic exchanges do not have any written rules, but there is a standard that has been set over centuries. There are also norms for levels of personalities involved. In this case they were talking about the Prime Minister of India. In fact, in such cases it does not matter how big or small a country is. A leader is a leader. In hind sight, the Chinese leaders, heady after the 60th founding anniversary celebrations, had lost sight of reality, intoxicated by self-adulation. Premier Wen Jiabao sought a meeting with Dr. Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the upcoming ASEAN summit (October, 23) may be the only sign of grace.

But the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily (October 14) prempted Wen Jiabao when it carried a commentary accusing Indians of being “narrow-minded” of outside criticism, and even turning to “hegemony” exemplified by “India’s recent provocation on border issues with China”. Very much in the vein of anti-India propaganda of the post Pokhran-II the commenting went on to allege that because India had been colonised, it inherited that mind set and has continued to pursue that policy which disturbs the geopolitical environment. Not so obliquely, it warned that Indian expansionism is blocked by Pakistan and China on two sides, and advised India to ease tension (read: compromise) with Pakistan and China if it wanted to be a “super power”.

While the English language China Daily is the government and Foreign Ministry propaganda arm, the English language Global Times, a subsidiary of the People’s Daily has emerged as the Communist Party’s psy-war and propaganda sentinel. The Global Times has recently been in the forefront in taking jabs at India. In its October 16 issue it quoted one of their security experts to say that a military conflict could be provoked if India’s “uncontrollable sentiment” on the border issue backed by its military strengthening continued. It is not only China’s increasing violation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the borders, but it has begun objecting to India militarily securing its borders with China. This is a strange sentiment, given that China has done far more military construction and logistic work on their side of the borders in Tibet than India has on its side.

The People’s Daily commentary mentioned earlier in this article leaves no doubt that the China-Pakistan alliance is firmly in place to counter India. This was reaffirmed by President Hu Jintao’s message to visiting Pakistani Prime Minster Yusouf Raza Gilani (October 13) offering complete support to Pakistan’s security. This was supplemented concurrently by the head of China’s military-industrial complex saying it would make Pakistan self-reliant in defence with co-production of advanced weapons systems including AWACS.

One does not question Sino-Pak Military co-operation. But China must be careful and be responsible in its military transfers to Pakistan. This aspect is not visible. It military assistance in the prohibited nuclear area also continues.

All these and much more are only markers of China’s strategy to stymie India. Efforts of the Sino-Pak axis recently has been to exploit Sinhalese anti-Tamil sentiments to get Sri Lanka into their fold. Part of the Nepali political section led by United CPN (Maoist) are already in Beijing’s pocket on an anti-India platform.

This sub-regional Chinese strategy has been married with its quest for the dominant power status in Asia, to represent Asia’s voice in the global forum. China was well contended till the mid-1990s. It perceived India as a plodder economically and a sub-continent military actor kept engaged by its ally, Pakistan. Projecting India as a hegemonic threat to its neighbours, and its own aggressive politico-military diplomacy, India’s possible challenge was neutralized. At least that is what the Beijing Mandarins felt.

But it was shocked by the following developments: (a) the prowess of Indian information technology bursting on the world, (b) the least expected Indian nuclear tests in May, 1998, and (c) an unexpected India-US strategic partnership along with the India-US peaceful nuclear deal. It suddenly awoke to the reality of the post-Cold War strategic shift because of many new developments including some that China was a party to.

China shifted gears to attack India’s strategic engagement which could adversely impact India’s economic development.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed territory, where they have no claim. India’s position, adopting a Chinese expression, is clear cut on and consistent that Arunachal Pradesh is India’s sovereign territory. They reneged on the understanding reached in 2003 that Beijing accepted Sikkim as an integral part of India. China went to the wire to stop the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) from giving clearance to allow India to get civilian nuclear cooperation from NSG member countries. Finally, they have now viciously threatened the Indian Prime Minister for his October 03 visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

Therefore, which country is a threat to whom?

(Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group.The Writer, Mr Bhaskar Roy, is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience of study on the developments in China. He can be reached at grouchohart@yahoo.com)

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