China Seeks to Counter Improved Indo-US Relations

July 7, 2008 - 8:08 PM

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - India's president plans to visit China later this month, a trip that Beijing views as an opportunity to balance the improving ties between India and the United States, Indian analysts believe.

President Kocheril Raman Narayanan will pay a state visit to China from May 28 to June 4 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Indian diplomatic relations.

The proposed trip comes two months after President Clinton's historic visit to India, during which he pushed for stronger ties between Washington and New Delhi.

China, like Russia, is understood to be concerned about the growing influence of the U.S. in the South Asia region.

"China and Russia are focusing more attention on India to balance off [the strategic] ... equation between India and the U.S.," foreign policy analyst J.N. Dixit told CNSNews.com.

He said Beijing's official response to the Clinton visit was that it welcomed improvement in Indo-U.S. relations and firmly believed that good relations with one country preclude developing equally good relations with other countries.

Publications of the People's Liberation Army of China had commented critically on the visit of the American president, Dixit added, implying that the Indo-U.S. ties could come at China's expense.

For the past year, Beijing has been seeking to improve ties with New Delhi, which were scarred by a brief but bloody border conflict in 1962 and India's nuclear tests in May 1998, which were strongly condemned by Beijing.

The first Indian state visit to China in eight years is not expected to result in breakthroughs on thorny issues affecting India-China relations, such as Chinese support for Pakistan's military buildup, and longstanding border disputes.

Nonetheless, Beijing is playing up the Narayanan visit. "The Chinese government attaches great importance and is looking forward to the upcoming state visit by the Indian President," said Dai Bingguo, Minister for the International Department and Communist Party central committee member.

"We hope and are confident that Narayanan's upcoming visit will make great contributions to the improvement and development of state-to-state relations between our two countries," he was quoted as saying.

"The reason why Indo-U.S. rapprochement upsets China is because it feels that the concert of democracies could well serve Washington's plans to contain China's growing economic and military strength in Asia," Rahul Arun, an analyst at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told CNSNews.com.

China, while hypercritical of U.S. hegemony in world affairs on the one hand, advises Washington to be firm with India on nuclear issues the other hand, Arun said, accusing Beijing of "diplomatic duplicity."

The more the strategic balance favors China, the more advantageous it becomes for it to adopt offensive coercive strategies, he said.

The less favorable the balance, the more advantageous it is for China to adopt defensive or accommodating strategies to buy time until balance shifts again, he added.

China-India differences remain

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes Monday tabled an annual report in Parliament, which drew attention to "Pakistan's direct and clandestine defense co-operation" with China and North Korea in the transfer of nuclear technology.

On Sino-Indian relations, the report said the "ongoing mutual dialogue" would contribute to the resolution of outstanding issues.

India says China still holds 40,000 square kilometers of its territory in Kashmir, while Beijing lays claim to a wide swathe of territory in the far-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Sino-Indian ties improved following Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh's visit to Beijing last June, which helped clear the air after the row triggered by India's nuclear tests.

Last month, the two countries held an unprecedented meeting on security issues, aimed at breaking down decades of mistrust.

Narayanan was India's ambassador to China from 1976 to 1978 and also visited China in 1994, while vice-president.

The last visit to China by an Indian president was in 1992. Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited India in 1996.