As PM Modi and US President Obama kept themselves busy by displaying bonhomie and improving ties, the Chinese Dragon was seen breathing fire. When Obama and Modi began their discussion on a long list of issues, the first 45 minutes were reportedly dedicated entirely to China. Much to Obama’s surprise, Modi’s analyses on China’s rise and its possible ramifications were closely aligned with the US. It has come to pass that both India and US are tad anxious about China’s efforts to strengthen its clout in the region.
India-US Joint Statement on Asia Pacific angers China
What do you think could have irked Beijing? For the first time in recent political history, both India and US have been able to articulate their thoughts about the need to contain China’s ambitions. India’s impregnable neighbour is clearly not happy with the fact that both the nations signed a ‘Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region’ document that elucidates their joint outlook.
Why is China taking the joint statement so seriously? Besides making a pointed reference to China’s contribution in provoking conflict among its neighbours over the control of the South China Sea, the statement reiterated the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. In a short but sharp response to the statement, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson asserted that there is no problem with navigational freedom in the region.
China’s latest stand on India’s bid for NSG Membership
As Obama gave strong indications of US backing India’s bid for a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), China did not forget to raise the red flag. According to China, any such move needs ‘very careful consideration from all member countries.’ These very utterances indicate Beijing’s intention of playing an active role in NSG’s decision making, especially in India’s case. One should not forget that China is fast emerging as a major exporter of nuclear technology and would want to have a greater say on NSG’s membership.
Chinese media react to Obama’s visit to India
While Chinese state media termed India’s ties with the US as ‘superficial’, the other national dailies unanimously sent across a word of caution for India. They categorically cautioned New Delhi not to fall into the ‘trap’ that was being laid by the US to pit India against China. One of the Chinese newspapers questioned West’s ‘ulterior motives’ to portray the ‘Indian elephant’ and ‘Chinese dragon’ as archenemies. Another news daily tried to send across an emotional message by affirming that the common interests shared by India and China are ‘way larger than any differences.’
Chinese President’s message to India on 66th Republic Day
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s guarded message to President Pranab Mukherjee appeared affable. In no unclear terms he stated that Beijing is willing to make ‘concerted efforts’ with India to strengthen their strategic partnership since both China and India are ‘pursuing a great dream of national rejuvenation.’
China’s efforts to renew ties with Pakistan
China might have felt threatened by Obama’s visit to India, but it cannot make truce with the feeling of being left out in the cold. That partially explains China’s warming up to Pakistan as it welcomed Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to Beijing for talks on countering terrorism. This effort towards renewing their friendship is loaded with symbolism. As Modi pumps in new energy into the India-US ties, China wants to show that it has other friends in the region. Could there have been a better way than to call Pakistan an ‘irreplaceable’ all-weather friend?
Adding another dimension to this is the Pakistani media. A common string of thought that was observed across most editorials, articles and commentaries is the possibility of US siding with India in the Indo-China battle for the regional supremacy. This, according to Pakistani media, will not be taken too well in Beijing. What seems to have touched the right chord is an observation made in a Pakistani daily – Modi sees no contradiction in pursuing friendly ties with the US and China.