Friday, September 3, 2010

China’s double-dealing India must respond firmly

by Inder Malhotra

TWO facts stand out in the wake of China’s offensive refusal of a visa to one of India’s top generals bound for Beijing to lead the Indian delegation in a high-level exchange with the northern neighbour and the calibrated Indian reaction of “suspending” but not snapping military exchanges between the two countries. The first is that both sides are trying to play down the friction generated by the ugly episode though China is doing so vigorously and this country in a low key. The Chinese defence ministry has even announced that China has “not suspended military exchanges with India, and has received no word that India has stopped military exchanges between the two countries”.

Secondly, it is not the first time that China has acted in this contradictory manner that bespeaks of double-dealing and doublespeak, nor is it going to be the last. This approach may be particularly pronounced in the case of India but is in no way confined to it. Beijing treats most countries, including the United States, in a similar though not identical manner. It is also possible that there are divisions within the Chinese leadership because the issue of succession to President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, scheduled to retire in 2012, is still unsettled. Some China watchers believe the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is more assertive and aggressive than the political leadership and even tends to act on its own.

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