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A change of mood before Wen arrives

Premier Wen Jiabao needs to see for himself the recent changes in India, an official Chinese strategist who has visited New Delhi every year for a decade, told me over a cup of green tea. He pointed out that observing the visible infrastructure changes in the capital would help the Premier envision the outlook for future bilateral relations.

world Updated: Nov 12, 2010 03:07 IST

Premier Wen Jiabao needs to see for himself the recent changes in India, an official Chinese strategist who has visited New Delhi every year for a decade, told me over a cup of green tea. He pointed out that observing the visible infrastructure changes in the capital would help the Premier envision the outlook for future bilateral relations.

The state-run Chinese media largely ignored US President Barack Obama’s emphatic declaration that India has emerged. But in some official think tanks there are perceptible signs of a new reality check on relations between the largest Asian neighbours. The announcement of Wen’s visit to India next month was met with some surprise and a sense of purpose in Beijing’s elite academia. They are awaiting the boundary dispute negotiations scheduled this month with renewed interest, not just skepticism.

The message of Obama’s India visit hit home among the Chinese India experts though it may not be obvious in the media which downplayed his speech in Parliament and focussed on containment theories. Some India watchers admit to being aware that Beijing should not miss the big picture in improving relations with India while obsessing over the US hand in South Asia. “I wish China, rather than the US, would speak more loudly for India, but without disturbing Pakistan,” a strategist said this week, off record.

A day after Obama’s endorsement of a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council, the foreign ministry was prepared with a statement promising dialogue with India and UN member states. There are a growing variety of internal views influencing Beijing’s India policy, but it’s rare when a strategist makes a case for India. “To be a permanent UNSC member, a country doesn’t need to be fully responsible. The US invaded Iraq, it has not been deprived of its UNSC permanent membership,’’ said Shen Dingli, a South Asia strategist who spoke approvingly to HT of US support for India’s bid.

“China reaches out to Asian nations,” said the China Daily front-page today. The big question is how much the mood among certain think tanks to reach out to India will prevail in tackling longstanding disputes.