India should not focus on containing or bashing China but cooperate and build mutual trust, the Chinese state media said on Wednesday, in reaction to the upswing in India-US ties as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tours the United States.
The op-ed piece in the nationalistic tabloid Global Times suggested New Delhi should look to multilateralism and “balanced international relations” because picking “one side or camp against the other is not the way India will rise”.
The piece is one of several articles in the state media that is closely tracking Modi’s visit to the US. The op-ed noted the US was “always hoping that India could serve as its right hand to counterbalance China’s rise”, but its calculations have so far not worked.
Policy stands of the Chinese media are often seen by western academics as a proxy for its government’s views.
Following the meeting between Modi and Obama on Tuesday, the US recognised India as a “Major Defence Partner”. The two sides announced they will begin work on building six nuclear reactors in India and Obama backed New Delhi’s candidature for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
But China has opposed India’s entry into the 48-member atomic trading club and yoked India’s membership to that of Pakistan. In recent weeks, China has also blocked moves by India to sanction Pakistan-based terrorists such as Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council.
The op-ed noted that Modi had ramped up the India-US relationship to an unprecedented level with four visits to the US and seven meetings with Obama in two years since he took office in 2014. The transformation of the geopolitical landscape is the “major driver” drawing the two countries closer and Washington’s “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific makes the US realise India’s strategic significance, economic potential and ideological commonality”, it said.
“Although rivalling China in many aspects, India knows its great vision cannot be realised by bashing or containing China. Instead, they should expand cooperation, explore the potentials and build mutual trust for their own good,” the article said.
“China is more of a help than a competitor for India. This will eventually constitute India’s fundamental understanding of China.”
The article further said India has always employed “independent and pragmatic approaches” while fulfilling its ambition to be a major power. “A balance between other major powers will be its primary and optimal choice,” it suggested.
China would have also noticed that the joint statement issued after Modi’s meet with Obama did not have any mention of the South China Sea, which would have come as a surprise to many.
Beijing would be happy that the joint statement only referred to the “freedom of navigation” and said territorial disputes should be resolved by peaceful means.
As recently as 2014, a joint statement issued after a Modi-Obama meeting had expressed concern at tension in the South China Sea and talked about maritime security in the region.
The state media in Beijing has closely followed the visit for various reasons, including the deepening defence ties between India and the US.
“Indian PM Narendra Modi comes to the US expecting to close a deal for deeper defence cooperation begun by his defence chief in April. That’s when US defence secretary Ashton Carter and Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar announced a deal in principle which would facilitate greater interoperability between the Indian and American navies. It’s a measure Beijing is watching closely,” state broadcaster CCTV said in a report.
Quoting Rick Rossow of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, CCTV said countries such as China could look at US-India defence ties with some amount of concern.
“This just facilitates the sharing of logistics on the ground when you already give an agreement of an American ship docking at port or something like that. Or when you engage in an exercise or something but still any time you have a tangible marker like this, and I’m sure that countries that look at this with some concern like China, they will point out that they’re concerned about the growth in the US-India security relations,” Rossow said.