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Modi’s China-bashing won’t shake Sino-Indian ties

By Yu Jincui Source:Global Times Published: 2014-2-26 0:08:06

The Sixth China-India Annual Defense Dialogue concluded Monday with both sides agreeing to enhance concerted efforts in maintaining peace and tranquility on the disputed border. This came two days after Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate in national elections due by May, warned China must shed its "expansionist mindset" in a rally in the South Tibet region which is claimed by India as its territory.

Speaking to a cheering crowd on February 22, Modi vowed to protect his country, urging China to "leave behind its mindset of expansion." The harsh remarks by the candidate, who has made reviving the sagging economy a central plank of his campaign while so far rarely commenting on diplomacy, were soon interpreted by Indian media as evidence Modi will adopt a tougher stance over the border dispute and a more strident position in relations with China than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh if he is elected.

With India's election campaign reaching its climax, it's no surprise candidates and their parties will try to win more attention by showing their brawn in dealing with China, especially over the border dispute. China figured prominently during India's 2009 national elections. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh kept emphasizing that "India can do even better than China." Other political figures, such as then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, also targeted China on different occasions.

Given the neighborhood relationship and economic interdependence over the years, India and China have more common demands for cooperation rather than confrontation. Future bilateral relations won't be affected a lot due to changes in leadership. There is no need to exaggerate the significance of Modi's remarks. 

Border issues are a historical knot in China-India bilateral relations. A three-week stand-off in April 2013 aggravated border tensions but was solved through hotline contacts and consultations, demonstrating that a border war is the least desirable choice for both sides, despite India's often bellicose stance. The two nations have the capability to maintain peace.

It's laudable that a series of recent moves, including the 17th round of border talks in New Delhi early this month headed by Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, and the annual defense dialogue, have maintained a good momentum to further promote boundary communication. 

A rational choice for both China and India is that they should create a favorable atmosphere for border dispute negotiations, thus avoiding aggravation of problems that damage full-fledged bilateral relations and ensuring that potentially volatile situations can be defused quickly.

Posted in: Observer