BEIJING: After China and India defused the two-month long border standoff between their troops last year, both Beijing and New Delhi expressed their aspirations for smoother and more stable ties.
Thus an Indian media report that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to visit the disputed area it controls and claims as “Arunachal Pradesh” in the early part of this year has naturally raised a lot of eyebrows in China, according to China Daily here on Friday.
India’s claim to China’s South Tibet is an extremely sensitive issue between the two sides and one that New Delhi knows should be handled with care.
Obviously, if the Indian Prime Minister Modi does stake India’s claim to the disputed area in this way it will antagonize China and cast another shadow over bilateral ties, which were thought to be on the mend after the Donglang standoff was peacefully resolved last year.
On Dec 11, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended a trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting with his counterparts from Russia and India in New Delhi.
And later that month, on Dec 22, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi attended the 20th round of talks between Chinese and Indian special representatives on boundary issues in New Delhi.
Both events were seen as signs of improvement in China-India ties, and high-ranking officials on both sides, Prime Minister Modi hailed them as positive signs of improving ties.
But the heralded abatement of mistrust and suspicions has yet to be consolidated, and Modi’s mooted visit would not be conducive to bridging the rankling differences between the two neighbors and resolving their longstanding border issues.
According to a report published in Indian media, the forthcoming visit is intended to send “a strong signal” to China that India is not deterred by China’s protests about Indian leaders’ visits to the “frontier state”.
Another provocation by India would not only elicit another protest, but also would further rock relations, which are already on shaky ground due to New Delhi’s concerns about and competition with Beijing for influence in the region.
Yet as two big countries in the region, the two neighbors have everything to gain by properly handling their differences and disputes. That requires that neither side take any action that might aggravate their border disputes.
Cooperation and competition are natural for such big neighbors, but they need to be mindful that they do not let their differences fuel their rivalry so that it turns to confrontation.
If, as the Indian media report suggests, Modi is planning a visit to the disputed border area, he should reconsider, as doing so would certainly not propel bilateral ties in the right direction. -APP