Indian Missile Launch and US Meeting Elicits Chinese Rebuke

December 19, 2011  

The Indian press fussed about an editorial in the Chinese Communist Party organ, the People’s Daily, that expressed concern over the forthcoming February launch of India’s new Agni-V missile. This missile with a 6000 km range has MIRV capability, meaning that it can carry multiple warheads. According to the Chinese daily, the launch reflected India’s engagement in balance of power politics as well as Indian aspiration to strengthen its military and acquire a military clout commensurate with its status as a great power.

This would be tolerable, argued the Chinese, if India had not joined the American scheme of “encircling China” by drawing closer to Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan. This is exacerbated by their cooperation over the issue of exploring for resources in the South China Sea over which Beijing claims sovereignty as historical waters.

China feels that India would be better served in her aspirations for greater role on the world stage if she abandoned faith in the new US policy for the Pacific and stopped pursuing China, the imaginary enemy.

China obviously does not buy the American protestations that the trilateral meeting in Washington between the US, India and Japan that started today is not meant to contain China.

The Times of India agreed on this point with China: “China will be very much on the mind when senior officials from India, Japan and US meet in Washington on Monday in the first trilateral dialogue that is expect to focus on maritime security and humanitarian assistance for disasters.”

Maritime security has become shorthand for the Chinese assertion of control over the South China Sea.

From the Indian perspective, it is China that is practicing encirclement. China has just announced plans to open up a supply station for Chinese ships in the Seychelles islands. For the Chinese, it is a supply base;  the Indians, however, regard it as a full-fledged naval military base in the Indian Ocean. India recently stepped in to block massive Chinese investments in Nepal, the country that serves as a buffer state between the two Asian giants.

While trade between the countries has increased, the Chinese run a large surplus, a factor that irks New Delhi.

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