India refuses to take sides in China air defence row

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Dec 03, 2013 00:12 IST

Walking a tightrope, India has kept a studied silence over China's announcement of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea while stepping up engagement with regional countries that don't see Beijing's rise as benign.

Though the possibility of long-term strategic tensions are brewing with the US already sending two B-52 bombers to fly through ADIZ without notifying China, New Delhi isn't keen to take a  position on the issue.

Senior officials say New Delhi doesn't have to "join the issue" on the ADIZ or "make its position known" even as it is prepares to host the South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in January next year.

Experts like former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh approve. "India has its own set of problem with China. It's better not to take positions on other countries' problem with China", he told HT.

The government has studiously stayed away from mentioning China of late. Speaking at the influential Central Party School in Beijing in October, PM Manmohan Singh had stressed "...frankly, old theories of alliances and containment are no longer relevant. India and China cannot be contained and our recent history is testimony to this. Nor should we seek to contain others."

India, however, is making efforts that its 'look east' policy and engagement with countries doesn't send wrong signals to Beijing.

"We have been managing our differences with China and we both focus on many areas of cooperation that exist between us. The issue (ADIZ) is not something we think we are compelled to respond to", sources explained.

This doesn't mean India isn't playing its cards. It hosted Vietnam's topmost leader Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the communist party last month, firming up ties in energy and security areas. "India should step up ties with regional nations, especially naval cooperation. This could be India's answer to China's behaviour in the region," sources said.

Emperor-PM meet marked by warmth
A Japanese official on Monday said the visit of emperor Akihito to India will go a long way in furthering ties between the two countries after a meeting between the prime minister Manmohan Singh and the visiting dignitary that extended beyond the scheduled time, and was marked with warmth.

Sakutaro Tanino, a former envoy of Japan to India and a spokesperson for the royal visit, said. "The PM thanked the Emperor for the assistance that had been rendered to India. He also mentioned the contribution of Suzuki, whose Chairman is a friend of the PM," Tanino told reporters. He said issues that came up during the meeting included agriculture and alternate sources of energy.

Tanino also spoke of enhancing people-to-people relations. "There are 573 Indian students in Japan compared with 87,000 Chinese students. We should not be satisfied", he concluded.


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