Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on October 26, 2009
Check out this Xinhua picture of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at their meeting over the weekend. Wen has a wan smile, and Singh can’t even manage that. Not surprising, given the accusations flying back and forth between China and India recently over their disputed border. “We have reached important consensus on promoting bilateral ties, and I believe that our two countries could maintain a good relationship in the future,” Xinhua reported Wen saying after the meeting at the ASEAN summit in Thailand. Singh, according to the Chinese news agency, said “We share with the Chinese people their pride of success.”
The Times of India account of the meeting explains why the leaders made for such an unhappy uncouple in front of the photographers. “The contentious issue of the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh remains unaddressed, prompting analysts in India to predict the Wen-Singh meeting will not mean a softening of Beijing’s tough stance toward New Delhi,” the paper wrote.
Indeed, the Times reports that the Indian suspicions of China are actually getting worse, as Indians warily eye Beijing’s efforts to build influence in Nepal. “Silently but speedily China is spreading its wings in the erstwhile Hindu kingdom, mainly to unleash anti-India propaganda. Besides acquiring some major construction projects in Nepal, the Chinese are also making their presence felt by opening language centres in Nepali cities on the Indo-Nepal border. These centres are teaching Chinese language. But, what raises suspicions on Chinese intentions is the fact that these centres are open only for Nepali citizens.”
The Times gives us no examples of the “anti-India propaganda” that Beijing has unleashed in Nepal. Similarly, it’s hard to believe Mandarin-language centers are really sinister plots to create fifth columnists for China in the Himalayas. Indians are concerned about Nepalese plans to re-direct rivers that flow into India, with help from China, but worries about Nepal becoming a Chinese satellite seem premature. It’s New Delhi, not Beijing, that is about to sign a new free-trade treaty with Nepal.