Intro: Disputes about India-China border are fundamentally meaningless, since they were drawn up in a hurry when the British left India.
So China’s President Xi Jinping has returned home after signing several significant pacts of considerable importance. What has the Indian media got to say about the visit in all its variety? Let us start with The New Indian Express (September 18). It said that despite the inking of those pacts “trust deficit continues to plague India-China relations. Hours before President Xi arrived in India there were signs of aggressive gestures from Beijing. China expressed its displeasure over the India-Vietnam offshore oil exploration agreement. And, said the paper, about the same time there was a stand-off in Dechok area of Ladakh with Chinese nomads pitching tents inside Indian territory with the help of the Chinese Army. Said the paper: “The Modi government should clear that improvements with China will depend on how quickly China stops provocations on the border and dumping goods in India.” It added “The relationship should be based on equality and reciprocity… Our trade deficit is growing and China must give Indian companies a better access to its market. China and India can be powerful force to counter American influence in Asia.”
Economic Times (September 20) took another view of border troubles. It said “disputes about India-China border are fundamentally meaningless”. Those borders, said the paper were drawn up in a hurry when the British left India. And to that it added: “Today both India and China are sovereign states with ambitions of becoming super powers in their own right.”
The DNA (September 19) also was thinking out of the box. Recounting all the positive elements exhibited in signing several agreements, the paper said Xi brings in the quiet efficiency of a CEO while Modi plays the role of a charismatic and popular leader. “Despite the differences in their profile” said the paper “both Modi and Xi are propelling the two countries towards greater economic activity and cooperation. It would be wrong, then, to see the Modi-Xi encounter through political lens and count the brownie points that Modi scored in raising the border issue. China is viewing India more seriously than ever. And it would be naïve to believe that China is keen to wean India away from either Japan or the US.”
The Times of India (September 19) took a positive approach too, noting that “both sides didn’t allow irritants to dampen enhanced economic cooperation” and signed “a plethora of bilateral agreements” which will serve to build mutual confidence.
The paper said: “While it (India) must make all-out efforts to settle the border dispute, it must also be prepared to resist any Chinese blandishments that are intended to muscle it out of south-east Asia.”
In a separate editorial (September 22) the paper said that on the border issue “it is clear that Beijing wishes to keep New Delhi unsettled”.
Deccan Herald (September 18) noted that President Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam has “ruffled feathers in China” and could cast a shadow on President Xi’s trip to India.
The Hindustan Times (September 19) spoke about how foreign investments will materialise only if State governments overhaul regulatory practices. Mr Modi, said the paper, “has to ensure that State governments, including those ruled by Opposition parties buy into his vision of investment-led growth.” It said: “Vested interests of all hues who will stand to lose control over their fields – including local satraps, environmentalists, social activists and trade unions – will find reasons to thwart his plans of making India an easier place to do business in. But the Prime Minister must take the bull by the horns and push hard to sell his vision to the states. Only then can promised investments generate jobs, prosperity and attract even more investments.”
The Asian Age (September 20) felt it would be wise on India’s part to be more accommodative on the boundary issue. India, it said “could also politically gear itself for a give-and-take of territory to straighten out the Line of Actual Control to mutual satisfaction. If other neighbours of China have sorted out demarcation difficulties ‘that were left over from history’ with China, why, asked the paper “should India be a separate category?”
The official pledge of USD four billion a year for five years for infrastructure and manufacturing in India may not be a huge sum, but, said the paper India “should go for it”, even while making sure that India is not denied investments in China and its trade imbalance with the northern neighbour “is righted”.
(The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)