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Speaking in two voices

Open a newspaper in Beijing these days, and chances are you’ll find an opinion about Sino-India relations that sounds nothing like the official statements of both foreign ministries with pictures of diplomatic handshakes, writes Reshma Patil.

world Updated: Aug 14, 2009 00:41 IST
Reshma Patil

Open a newspaper in Beijing these days, and chances are you’ll find an opinion about Sino-India relations that sounds nothing like the official statements of both foreign ministries with pictures of diplomatic handshakes.

This week, the People’s Daily had a lengthy essay criticising the Nehru government's handling of boundary issues as “arrogant, aggressive and irrational”. Mid-way, the writer rants against a ‘considerable number’ of Indian politicians, military figures and think tanks who have ‘not liberated their minds’ after the 1962 war and hang on to ‘colonial-era strategic perceptions’.

China is in readiness to take defensive action against India’s border deployments, said the writer, before concluding on the official note that a “glimpse of light looms at the end of the tunnel”.

China is speaking in two voices, pointed out D.S.Rajan, who heads the Chennai Centre for China Studies.

“Its diplomatic interlocutors have always shown understanding during dealings with their Indian counterparts, but its selected media is pouring venom on India in their reporting,’’ Rajan wrote. “Which one to believe is a question confronting the public opinion and even policy makers in India”.

The latest India view circulated within Chinese strategic websites came from a closed and premier Beijing think tank funded and tasked by the military. The anonymous strategist’s bizarre stance suggested that China break up India in nation states to further its own interests in Asia. An Indian analyst who declined to be quoted theorised that it was the military’s attempt to get the Chinese leadership to sense its impatience with the dragging border dispute.

On the record, the thirteenth round of border talks ended on the usual “positive note” in New Delhi last week. For unofficial versions of Beijing’s India view, keep reading the party’s official press. You could start with a June editorial that is still listed under the “most commented” section on the People’s Daily website and titled India’s unwise military moves.