At the invitation of the Defense Ministry of Sri Lanka and Nepal, China's State Councilor and Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan on Sunday embarked on a visit to the two South Asian countries. As observers started to predict that the tour could unnerve New Delhi, such analysis was swiftly verified by Indian media.
The tone of a report in the Hindustan Times sounds vigilant and sour. Claiming that Chang's visit to Nepal and the first ever China-Nepal joint military drill has made New Delhi "nervous," the newspaper also noted that the Nepalese government "cannot afford to say no to Beijing," as if China is carrying a stick around when interacting with its neighbors.
The truth is, however, it is India that has been treating South Asia and the Indian Ocean as its backyard with a hard-line manner. Its uneasiness toward Beijing's growing influence in the region is obvious. For instance, New Delhi is one of the crucial reasons why China and Bhutan, which is controlled by India economically and diplomatically, have not yet established diplomatic relations.
India's vigilance against China has also affected Sri Lanka and Nepal's relations with Beijing. Even if they are trying to balance between the two giant neighbors, New Delhi still regards their neutrality as a pro-Beijing policy. Whenever a top leader from those countries visits China, the Indian media would hype that India is losing them or China's emerging weight in South Asia will be New Delhi's new threat.
Nevertheless, most of India's peripheral countries are also Beijing's neighbors. Promoting stable relations with surrounding nations plays a vital role in any country's own domestic development. New Delhi should stop being extremely sensitive toward each and every move between China and its neighbors. Sri Lanka and Nepal are actually looking forward to joint projects with China, given their poor infrastructure. When an increasing number of Chinese companies get established in these countries, it is inevitable that Beijing will boost defense collaboration with them to protect not only China's, but also the region's interest.
So far, the Indian government is confused when it comes to policies toward China. It seems that New Delhi is attempting to find a way, including intensifying its communication with the Dalai Lama, to display its strength and leverage in order to put pressure on or counterbalance Beijing. Just this past Friday, the Dalai Lama was invited by New Delhi to an international Buddhist seminar in Bihar, India.
China hopes India can understand the pursuit of China and regional countries for common development, and be part of it. However, New Delhi doesn't share this thinking, instead seeking to balance China.
If such tendencies in India continue, China will have to fight back, because its core interests will have been violated. This is not what we hope for, but the ball is in India's court.