x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

India sounds caution over 'media hype' on China

Delhi dismisses reports on increased border violations by Beijing as 'misplaced' and says such statements could lead to an 'accident'.

NEW DELHI // India has warned that the "media hype" about a Chinese military build-up near the Indian border and incursions on Indian territory could lead to an "unwarranted incident or accident", something the Asian neighbours have said they want to avoid.

China's ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, met India's home secretary, G K Pillai, on Tuesday and conveyed Beijing's concerns. The meeting came after India's largest daily newspaper, The Times of India, reported on September 15 that two Indian border guards had been shot on the Chinese border by Chinese soldiers. The Indian foreign ministry refuted the report, issuing a statement saying it was "factually incorrect".

On being asked if China had been indulging in aggressive incursions on the Indian border, Mr Yan said: "Nothing is happening. You listen to your leaders." Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, had said on September 18 that there were no reasons for concern and the reports were exaggerated. "The issue has been blown out of proportion. We see no evidence of increased aggression ? The Chinese ambassador met our national security adviser and the two had a good discussion [on the issue]," Mr Singh said at his iftar party during Ramadan in New Delhi.

Last week, India's army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, also warned against the "media hype" about Chinese incursions. "As compared to last year, the incursions or transgressions are almost at the same level. So there is no cause for worry or concern. I request the media to restrain and not overplay," Gen Kapoor said. Quoting unnamed sources in the home ministry, Indian media have reported that the government had taken the issue seriously and might try to identify sources of the "misplaced" media reports and drag the news organisations involved to the Press Council of India.

Underlining the developing nature of relationship between India and China, India's foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, a former ambassador to China, said the leaderships of the two countries were in regular communication over important bilateral issues and the relationship between New Delhi and Beijing was not unfriendly at all. "We remain in constant touch over all mutual issues. The leadership-level understandings and communication remain open all the time," she said. "There are regular communications and a mutual recognition that outstanding issues can be resolved through dialogue and communication between two nations as large as ours with international responsibilities."

In India, some TV channels, publications and their "China experts" are known as "China bashers". In a recent edition of Indian Defence Review, Bharat Verma began an article headlined "Unmasking China" by saying "China will launch an attack on India before 2012". "India's chaotic but successful democracy is an eyesore for the authoritarian regime in Beijing ? the growing irrelevance of Pakistan, their right hand that operates against India on their behest, is increasing the Chinese nervousness," Mr Verma wrote. In an interview with CNN-IBN channel last weekend, MK Narayanan, India's national security adviser, who met the Chinese ambassador earlier in the week over the reports, said that India and China were keen to maintain tranquillity on the border and the media hype could lead to "unwarranted incident or accident".

"In terms of [the] number of incursions or transgressions, there has been hardly any increase. Occasionally inroads are a little deeper than what might have been in the past. I don't think there is anything alarming about it," Mr Narayanan said, adding that there was nothing happening on the India-China border that could lead to a repeat of the situation like the 1962 war with China. "India of 2009 isn't ? India of 1962. I want to make this point very clearly ? We are careful. I think we are careful partly because of what happened in 1962 that we should not provoke a situation, which we don't wish to have. I don't think anybody in India wishes to have a conflict with China. I think that [the same] also goes for China."

srahman@thenational.ae