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Veiled threat or good neighbor?
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15:12, June 19, 2009

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By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online

Some are afraid that a fresh border dispute between China and India would become the spark plunging the two neighbors again into a 'partial military action.' And India seems to have been conspiring to create the picture of an imminent war by deploying 60,000-strong additional troops and four SU-30 fighters along the 650-mile unfenced border with China.

The Sino-Indian border dispute dates back to almost half a century ago, when in 1962, China and India fought a serious border war, with Indian troops retreating with a complete defeat. And in 1986, the region, referred to as Southern Tibet since China laid claim to it, suddenly flared up again, as a result of India's continued and enhanced presence in the Chinese territory.

Decades have elapsed since the border war, but Indians still look on China through the tinted lens, which could merely produce untrue pictures and even distortions. As an Indian military official put it, 'Indians maintain the same national sentiments towards China as the way the Chinese do at the mention of Japan and Japanese,' many Indians actually have very subtle impression upon China, which has been translated into a very complicated mindset—awe, vexation, envy and jealousy—in the face of its giant neighbor.

The reason for this mentality is multi-faceted, and brought about by both historical factors and reality. In 1947, when India freed itself from the British colonization and won independence, it was one of the global industrial powers, ranking Top 10 in the world and far ahead of the then backward China. But today, China's GDP has tripled that of India and per capita income doubled, which turns out to be a totally unacceptable fact to many Indians. And with China's galloping economic growth since its adoption of the reform and opening up policy in late 1970s, the wealth gap between China and India has increasingly widened.

On top of that, some Western powers have been inciting India to challenge China, and even insidiously convince India that China would be the 'greatest obstacle' threatening India's rise. To feed its ambitions, the West has gone so far as to devise ways to extol India as a potentially No.1 democracy in Asia, but meanwhile intentionally play down China's social and economic progress.

India, on the other hand, draws the Western hint trying for dear life to surpass China. For years, it has also attempted, but in vain, to suppress China by taking advantage of its 'friendship' with the West. Obsessed with the crazy idea of 'enemy's friend being enemy,' India has gone out of its way to blemish the brotherly ties between China and Pakistan, which India regards as its arch-foe, even staking out a position that Pakistan would have no courage to challenge it without the back-up of China.

Indian people have heavily relied upon its media coverage to learn about China. Unfortunately, the Indian media have long been so accustomed to calibrating to curry favor with the Western anti-China forces that they invariably present their readers with biased information and fabricated stories about China. This will further deepen the gap between the two peoples, and fuel the national discontent against China among ordinary Indians. Additionally, India media seem always overzealous in spreading the so-called 'China Threat' theory, manipulating its audience and fanning up an intense feud over China.

Indian government, instead of working in a constructive direction to clear up its people's misunderstandings about China, which has gravely hampered the normal development of the bilateral relations, has consistently adopted a hostile foreign policy toward China, in an effort to win the support from its hawkish MPs and strength its rein in the nation. Under the pretext of 'China Threat', India finally launched a nuclear test in 1998. Only in recent years, Indian government shifted to a more pragmatic stance in dealing with China with the aim to enhance the bilateral cooperation.

Emerging from the dust of border dispute, Chinese President Hu Jintao and India PM Manmohan Singh appeared hand-in-hand Tuesday on the same arena of the first ever BRIC summit, hosted by Russia. This seems to deliver a message to the outside world that, plagued by the global financial crisis, both of the Asian giants need to reach out to each other seeking more cooperation rather than confrontation. 'Both sides should make a steady progress in pushing for dialogue and cooperation,' as President Hu was cited as saying.

But what is more irritating, Asia Development Bank (ADB) recently adopted the Country Partnership Strategy for India (2009-2012), involving disputed areas between China and India. The $2.9 billion plan approved this week by the ADB board includes the financing of projects in the so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh', an area which India regards as its 24th state, but actually much of it being part of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

ADB's unbecoming program proves counterproductive, in that it has again dealt a blow to the already rickety China-India relationship. And moreover, the active steps lately taken by the leaders from both sides to thaw the feud would be more or less hobbled by it.

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