Inscrutable China jittery over Obama's India visit

Manmohan, Wen meet tomorrow amid growing concerns

Inscrutable China jittery over Obama's India visit

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his  China counterpart Wen Jiabao seen at a meeting in Thailand last year. The two leaders are scheduled to meet in Hanoi on Friday. AFP/ File Photo

Referring to Obama’s visit, the state-run “Global Times” said Beijing will not react to it as long as it did not pose a threat to China. On the face of it, such non-reaction reflects a diplomatic coldness to an American President’s visit to an increasingly assertive India.

The fine print, however, suggests that Beijing will keenly watch the Obama visit and how far the US administration and the Manmohan Singh government would be prepared to take the strategic partnership to. The prime minister has described the growing warmth in Indian and US relations as an expression of “enlightened national interests”.
“Washington’s recent moves (in South Asia) are likely aimed at telling others that the US is back in Asia,”Jin Canrong, deputy director of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the daily which carried a report on Obama’s visit to India titled “US eyes India’s bigger role in Asia”.

The US has already displayed such an intention by consolidating its alliances with South Korea and Japan, and strengthening its ties with some Southeast Asian countries. “Now the US is casting its eyes on South Asia,” Canrong said. “Although the Obama administration wants to see New Delhi take a bigger role in Asia, it is not up to the US whether India can take that responsibility,” Canrong said, noting that the two sides might differ on a range of issues.

During former US President George W Bush’s visit to India in 2006, when he projected the idea of an axis of democracies in Asia, China took it as a sign that America wanted to use India as a counterwieght against it.

The Indo-US nuclear deal, agreed in principle between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bush in 2005 raised Chinese fears of encirclement by America and its Asia allies.

Heightened fear

It is a fear heightened by a recent burst of American military and economic activities in Asia where it sought to strengthen security ties with South-East Asian countries, including Vietnam and Indonesia.The war of words between Beijing and New Delhi over the vexed issue of stapled visas, China’s belligerent postures over Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama has soured relations between the two Asian giants.

While skirting the controversial issue over stapled visas for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Singh on Wednesday set a positive tone ahead of his meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

He said in Malaysia that there “are enormous” possibilities of working together as the world has enough space to accmmodate the growth ambitions of both countries.

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