India cannot afford to lose China’s support by joining the US in patrolling the disputed South China Sea as it needs Chinese help for economic growth and for success of BRICS, a state-run daily said on Tuesday.
In the second commentary within a week on the joint patrol issue, an article in the Global Times said: “The New Delhi government pursues pragmatic diplomacy and strives to reach a balance between the US and China. Some interpret New Delhi’s refusal (to jointly patrol the SCS) as retaliation against Washington’s approval of weapon sales to Islamabad last year.”
“This may be true. Yet, the fundamental reason is that New Delhi understands the significance of a sound China-India relationship to the nation’s development. India cannot afford to lose China’s support, which serves as an economic engine for the nation’s growth. “In addition, New Delhi has officially taken over the presidency of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) from Moscow last month and will host the eighth summit in a few months’ time. A friendly atmosphere is significant for the upcoming summit,” the article said.
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It said conducting joint patrols in an attempt to court the US in this backdrop is inappropriate. “By refusing the US proposal, India is taking a stand and showing goodwill to China.” The commentary is the second such article in the daily. On February 26, it said “any move by India to join the US navy for jointly patrolling the disputed South China sea will be against its national interest and it would divide Asian countries and further escalate regional tensions.”
Chinese media’s reactions came after it was reported that the US and India talked about launching joint naval patrols in the South China sea to safeguard freedom of navigation. But soon India clarified there would be no such patrols and the US also subsequently denied having any such plans.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, where several other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei have overlapping claims. Today’s article also accused the US of attempting to drive a wedge between India and Pakistan.
“Wary of India’s rise, US is attempting to instigate conflicts between New Delhi and Islamabad by approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. New Delhi is wise to say no to Washington. “The White House is just manoeuvring India for its own interests, and will not stop supporting Pakistan as a repay to India. The US administration is following a ‘divide and rule’ policy,” it said.
From US perspective, China, Russia and India are all threatening its status as a superpower. The US does not want to see a stronger India, it said. “In fact, the likelihood for India to station its naval forces in the South China Sea remains quite low. Yet, it may strengthen its military presence in the Indian Ocean. For instance, there is Indian Navy’s ambitious Project Seabird, which pursues the construction of facilities to berth the nation’s aircraft carriers,” the article said.
“In addition, it may also cooperate with Vietnam by selling equipment to Hanoi, conducting military drills, regularly visiting Hanoi’s ports, inspecting ships and so forth. Maintaining a close military bond with Vietnam conforms to India’s Act East strategy,” it said.
“Strengthening its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region is the ultimate purpose for the US to propose US-India joint naval patrols. Washington believes that Beijing, which has already broken through the first island chain, is challenging its maritime hegemony,” it said.
“Freedom of navigation is never an issue in the region. The White House is just finding excuses to enter the waters and even attempting to station its forces in Philippine naval bases,” it said. “Apart from drawing countries outside the region, such as India, Japan, South Korea and Australia, the US is also inciting South China Sea claimants to stir up trouble in the region. Over time, these countries will realise that it is the US, rather than China, that is militarising the South China Sea and destroying the peaceful and stable environment there,” it said.