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Monika Chansoria

Dr. Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

China gets India-Japan ache

Beijing’s resentment over other Asian countries building ties is uncalled for.

bserving the upbeat trend in the bilateral India-Japan equation, frantic reactions by the China's state-controlled media have only exposed its disingenuous policies and approach to Asia further.

Commentaries published in People's Daily and Global Times — considered organs of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party — ran vicious pieces coinciding with the Indian Prime Minister's recent Japan visit.

There is noticeable unease within Beijing over promising ties between Tokyo and New Delhi. Terming the Japanese political leadership as "petty burglars", Chinese media has issued a veiled warning that "with increased comprehensive national strength, China will use more effective ways"—thus establishing that China's rise, both economically and militarily, is not as "peaceful" as China claims it to be. Advising that "India's great wisdom lies in dealing with ties with China in a calm way", opinion pieces in Chinese newspapers often tend to inevitably indicate the line of approach taken by China's political decision makers.

Going by the same logic, India, too, could confront China when its Premier Li Keqiang, on his recent visit to Pakistan, reiterated that "China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners".

From an Indian standpoint, Beijing's approach to South Asia makes it responsible for pursuing an unrelenting policy of keeping India in check by providing Pakistan with nuclear weapons and related WMD technology. China is culpable of changing the strategic setting of South Asia permanently. Beijing's overall nuclear and missile assistance to Pakistan has clearly been established.

This brings into focus, the larger debate structured around the consequential strategic changes taking place in Asia in tandem with the growing power of China. The power differential between China and other Asian players including India and Japan will be a significant factor in determining the regional geo-strategic permutations.

Given its refusal to clarify the current status, or future vision, for the modernisation of its military capabilities, the uncertainty and suspicion surrounding Chinese intentions raise the level of apprehension within Asia and beyond.

The return of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party to power in Japan signals an upbeat phase in Indo-Japanese relations.

Abe has publicly advocated the concept of a broader Asia that constitutes nations in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, most significantly, Japan, India, Australia and the US. While authoring his 2006 book, Utsukushii kuni e (Towards a Beautiful Country), Abe staunchly campaigned in favour of strengthening ties with India.

Even during his previous tenure as the Japanese Prime Minister, Abe had envisioned stronger bilateral ties with India, especially in the security realm which later got manifested in the historic Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between India and Japan signed in October 2008, forming a strong pillar of India's overall relationship with Japan. India's collaboration with Japan has its merits and needs to be further strengthened in time.

China's politico-strategic assertiveness in Asia in the recent past has been witnessed on multiple fronts simultaneously. China's long-standing dispute over the Senkaku islands with Japan got heightened recently when Chinese maritime surveillance ships entered Japanese territorial waters in the East China Sea near the Senkaku Islands.

Around the same time, China's provocative actions led to a border standoff with India in the eastern Ladakh region. Chinese media termed the resolution of this face-off as a "diplomatic miracle" and stated that "China and India properly solved the issue in a short time".

There is still no clarity as to what were the gains that Indian diplomacy managed to extract out of the Chinese while resolving the issue.

By pitching tents in territory held by India, Beijing explicitly sent the message that China can flash the offensive card and covertly notch up tensions with India, at any time and place of its choosing. Beijing keeps the border dispute alive as a tactical pressure point against New Delhi.

Looking through the prism of political realism, every state has the right and is legitimate in acting in pursuit of securing its national interests in the struggle for power. Defining interests to attain security and engaging in power-balancing is a crucial precept of political realism.

For China to express resentment over other Asian countries expanding bilateral ties is totally uncalled for, since, to begin with, Beijing itself has plenty to explain.

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