China has maintained a diplomatic poker face on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s high-profile India visit. But that has only barely hidden Beijing’s bitterness against New Delhi’s decision to invite Abe to the chief guest at 65th Republic Day parade at the Capital’s grand boulevard, Rajpath, on Sunday.
It is India’s decision to reserve the best seat for Abe at the parade on January 26, but academics and strategic analysts told HT that New Delhi better deal with the situation in a sharply nuanced manner.
Abe’s warm welcome to India does not entirely unbalance Sino-India ties – beset with the issues of border, water, trade and Pakistan anyway— but does cast a shadow on the tenuous bilateral bond, they said.
“It did not happen at the right time. We cannot ignore this,” Lan Jianxue from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) told HT. With the Communist country’s history of violence and occupation with Japan, there probably would never be a right time for India – in China’s eyes – to invite home a Japanese leader.
But when Lan indicated that now wasn’t the right time, there is added context to it.
Since the middle of 2012, Beijing and Tokyo have been locked in an aggressive diplomatic tussle over the uninhabited Diaoyu (Senkaku in Japanese) islands in the East China Sea. The islands are under Japanese control – it was owned privately before the Japanese government purchased three of them – but China has staked historical claims on it.
But the Sino-Japanese hostility goes back in history to protracted wars and the Japanese occupation of large swathes of China between 1937 and 1945.
China accuses Japan of committing large-scale war crimes on civilians including the slaughtering of hundreds of thousands in the city of Nanjing in eastern China.
And when Abe recently visited the Yasukuni war memorial in Tokyo that houses the remains of the war dead, including that of Japanese generals said to be responsible for massacres in China, Beijing launched its latest salvo of rhetoric.
“Most Chinese may think India’s invitation for Abe to attend the Republic Day as the chief guest an offence in terms of the current problems between Beijing and Tokyo, especially Abe’s recent pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine. Almost surely, New Delhi’s initiative will produce political implications for China’s relations with India. And it seems hard to rule out the likelihood of some negative developments in the near-future bilateral relationship,” said Zhang Li, Institute of South Asia Studies, Sichuan University
One of China’s leading experts on South Asia, CICIR’s Hu Shisheng said Abe’s visit might not have a “tangible negative result”.
But concerns, HU said remain about military cooperation, joint research, security dialogue and joint military exercises between India and Japan.