China wary of India’s Look-East diplomacy

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BEIJING - India must take into count China’s reaction if it attempts to use its ‘Look East Policy’ to try encircle Beijing, a Chinese commentator asked testily in the influential People’s Daily Thursday, saying the policy was “born out of failure” of India’s Cold War strategy.

Li Hongmei wrote in the official newspaper of the Communist Part of China that although Indian hawks were intoxicated that India was starting to face China’s rising regional clout with its `Look East Policy’, “India cannot relax its spasm of worries about China nor can it brush aside the fear that China might nip its ambitions in the bud”.

Li’s column, headlined “India’s `Look East Policy’ means `Look to encircle China’?”, appeared on the day Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew into Vietnam on the final leg of a three-nation tour that also took him to Japan and Malaysia.

The ‘Look East policy’, said Li, “was born out of failure - the failure of India’s Cold War strategy of `playing both ends against the middle’… Today, India is harping on the same string but should wisely skip the out-of-tune piece.

“The savvy Indian leadership will never rashly board the ship of Japan without giving a glance at China’s expression. After all, it is not Japan, but China that acts as India’s largest trade partner, with the overall volume in 2010 to exceed $ 60 billion.”

Manmohan Singh’s trip to Japan, his first halt, came at a time when Sino-Japanese ties have hit a new low. Vietnam, like India, has border disputes and has gone to war with China.

The columnist referred to what she said was the Indian media hype over Manmohan Singh’s Asian journey, “…to pursue the geopolitical and economic goals and achieve a ‘Big Power’ status in the region, if not the leading power”.

Commenting on Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan, where the two countries signed a sweeping economic pact, the columnist wrote that the Indian media hoped it would help Tokyo prevent “China’s expansion”.

“Japan and India have both placed high expectations upon each other in combining strengths to counterbalance China,” Li said.

She, however, quoted some Japanese military observers as saying that it would be risky for Tokyo to get too close to New Delhi.

They also felt that a new alliance among Japan, India and Vietnam “might seem a logical response to China’s ambitions in the South China Sea.

“The logic goes like this - India cannot protect Vietnam against China but its presence in Vietnam (if Hanoi gives Delhi access to a naval base) would raise tensions with China, and Japan would get drawn into the conflict.”

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