India Insight

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.

A soldier of the Indian army stands guard in Medo village, an insurgency affected area, on the road to India-China border in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh September 6, 2007. Picture taken September 6, 2007. REUTERS/Parth Sanyal

However that appeared to be out of date on Friday as General V.K. Singh, Chief of Army staff said neither side was bolstering its border troops, four days after trashing media reports of potential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.”

Does the Indian media overplay Indo-Chinese tension?

New Delhi’s flat-out denial of the most recent reports by state authorities of Chinese military incursions across its border with India in Jammu and Kashmir may show a tendency to gloss over such seemingly insignificant events — in favour of bigger strategic and trade interests — that the media appears to ignore. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 16, 2010. Wen pressed on with a charm offensive in India on Thursday, vowing "friendship and cooperation" a day after striking business deals with his hosts worth more than $16 billion. REUTERS/B Mathur

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 16, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files

On Monday afternoon, amidst a lull in the seemingly endless Indian news cycle, all major TV news channels flashed a breaking story of Chinese troops crossing the Indian border in the disputed northern state.

Is India downplaying Chinese border intrusions?

In response to recent reports that two Chinese helicopters intruded into Indian territory in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said he did get reports of Chinese intrusion but “this is not a new thing.”

“I want to tell you that the press sometimes hypes this but the numbers of intrusions which have taken place this year are on the same level as last year,” Kapoor said.

Soon after that the Indian media reported that Chinese soldiers had crossed the border in Ladakh last week and painted some rocks red.

India, China take a measure of each other at border row talks

China and India are sitting down for another round of talks this week on their unsettled border, a nearly 50-year festering row that in recent months seems to have gotten worse.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan are unlikely to announce any agreement on the 3,500 km border, even a small one, but their talks this week may well signal how they intend to move forward on a relationship marked by a  deep, deep “trust deficit”, as former Indian intelligence chief B. Raman puts it.

While the entire Himalayan border is disputed, including the Aksai Chin area, it is the row over large parts of India’s Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern stretch of the mountains that has strained ties in recent months.

Xinjiang – the spreading arc of instability

China’s troubled Xinjiang region shares borders with eight countries, which is perhaps one reason President Hu Jintao dropped out of the G8 summit to head home, underscoring the seriousness of the situation and the need to quickly bring the vast oil-rich region under control.

Xinjiang touches Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, besides the Tibet Autonomous Region.

China, as this piece for the Council on Foreign Relations points out, has long been concerned that these states on its periphery both in central and south Asia may be tempted to back a separatist movement in Xinjiang because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to its neighbours.

Is India bending over backwards to please China?

India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has accused the government of a “craven” and “slavish” attitude to China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (L) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee before their meeting in New Delhi February 13, 2007. REUTERS/B Mathur (INDIA) The BJP and others argue that the coalition government has failed to prevent repeated Chinese incursions along the disputed border, from Ladakh in the northwest to Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast.

And by trying to muzzle the Dalai Lama and close down Delhi during the Olympic torch relay, it has shown weakness, which will only encourage China to throw its weight around more.

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