Where has India’s hawkish stance on China gone?
India’s complex diplomacy with China became further muddled on Friday as the chief of the Indian army categorically denied any troop build-up on either side of the Asian giants’ shared border in response to recent reports of Chinese military incursions into Indian territory.
India’s civil government and army officials strike a delicate balancing act in their position on the country’s powerful neighbour, with a hawkish military stance traditionally tempered by more reserved – but domestically unpopular – rhetoric from New Delhi.
However that appeared to be out of date on Friday as General V.K. Singh, Chief of Army staff said neither side was bolstering its border troops, four days after trashing media reports of potential acts of Chinese aggression on Indian soil last September.
“Force deployment on both the sides of the Sino-Indian border has not increased. The force deployment is exactly the same as has been there for a large number of years,” Singh told reporters.
“In this region, the Chinese patrols go up to their perceived region and our patrols go up to our perceived region.”
“When our patrols go to our perceived region, you do not report because they are our patrols. But, when their patrols come, you report that an incursion or transgression has taken place,” he added.
Almost 40 years after a war between the two countries, the economic rivals remain suspicious of each other’s diplomatic and militaristic intentions, especially as Beijing and New Delhi pursue programs of rapid military improvement.
Border issues, including the India territories of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims, and Jammu and Kashmir, which Chinese ally Pakistan claims, are one of the biggest sticking points in Sino-Indian relations, and India appears keen to avoid direct confrontation.
The media reports emerged over 3 months after the alleged incursions took place, attracted the complete attention of a fiercely nationalistic media, but have been dismissed out of hand by both the civilian government and the Army.
Has the Indian media been earmarked by New Delhi to be the hawkish player in the complicated game of Indo-Chinese geopolitics?