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China goes ballistic ahead of minister’s visit
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
Days before Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing is scheduled to arrive here on February 11, Beijing has adopted a hardline approach against New Delhi in trying to pressurise India.

In a recent article in the official newspaper China Daily, a member of China's council of advisers has held India guilty of attacking China in 1962 in order to hold on to Chinese territory illegally. The author, Lau Nai-Keung, a Hong Kong National Committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) alleged that instead of publicly acknowledging Chinese sovereignty over the territory, India attacked China and had to be driven out.

The remark comes ahead of the China-Russia-India foreign minister-level trilateral meeting next month. The Chinese Foreign Minister is to hold formal talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee in the bilateral format as a follow up to President Hu Jintao’s recent India visit.

Lau's article needs to be read with another recent Chinese TV programme involving an Indian student of Chinese studies attached to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The topic was population control, but a map was shown incongruent to the programme, depicting J&K and Sikkim as independent countries. To different political and other interest sections this may prompt different reactions.

Lau also made the point that China remained magnanimous in victory, reiterating that the Chinese army withdrew 20 kms behind the "disputed" MacMohan Line. True to the tradition of Chinese diatribes against India, Lau's article heaped insults on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and charged that India was building its military targeting China.

Post-mortems of the 1962 war by independent military strategists make it quite clear that it was impossible for the Chinese army to hold on to the grounds it occupied. India's restraint in not using its airforce, which was at hand, proves India was not inclined to expand the conflict in the interest of peace.

Lau Nai-Keung's 'China Daily' article, “China's re-emergence should be welcomed" was written on a much larger perspective. It was written following the international condemnation of over the Chinese anti-satellite missile test on January 11. The test, in which a ground based missile destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite, could have violated a twenty year unwritten truce not to weaponise space. The technology was not a leap in development, but the breaking of trust among the community of nations.

Beijing's admission of the test a good ten days after pressure from the USA and Japan, accompanied by the qualifier that China will not militarise space, has not convinced other nations. A conference of Air Chiefs in New Delhi from about forty countries last week expressed both dismay and concern over the Chinese test.

Lau's article was officially crafted since, as a CPPCC National Committee member he cannot air his personal views of China's foreign policy or military strategy. While he did not mention the anti-satellite test, Lau was at pains to explain that China was neither an expansionist nor a threat on its way to superpower status.

Why India was picked to exemplify Chinese peaceful intentions or "otherwise" is not difficult to comprehend. While Japan is USA's most important ally in Asia and should not be challenged beyond a point, India is a rising obstacle to China's overwhelming domination of Asia albeit still in an uncertain position in the new world power order. In China's perception, India is still in a vulnerable position and could be deceived, shocked, awed.

Such Chinese strategy against a perceived opponent is well known.

A notable feature of Chinese broadsides against India recently is through Hong Kong media assets, and personnel controlled by Beijing. Hong Kong was always maintained as a window to outside world, even during the Cultural Revolution. This window could be opened and shut at will. The significance of this message through Hong Kong should not be lost. China watchers in the Indian government see Lau Nai-Keung's article as one which is typically in Chinese tradition. It tried to fend off the big powers with peaceful intentions, told the smaller neighbours not to worry of a Chinese threat as long as they did not align with the biggest power, and served notice on India to decide how it wants to interface China. The intention was to raise nervous questions among Indian policy-makers and those who influence policy.

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