From ignoring to getting concerned
The initial reaction of the Chinese media to India’s launching of 104 satellites at one go on February 15, was to downplay the achievement. The Global Times, organ of the Chinese Communist Party, tried to pooh-pooh the whole thing, as if it were nothing to take serious note of. Within days, however, Beijing’s patronizing tone has completely changed. Now it is one of concern that India was outdoing China in space research and space technology at an unbelievably low cost. The same Global Times now says India’s feat is a ‘wake-up call’ for China’s space scientists. It admits that India’s achievements in space research, driven by its low cost advantage, are ‘a weak point for China’s commercial space sector.’
China is also evidently concerned at India’s rapidly rising military strength. China is particularly worried at Indian Navy’s ambitious expansion plan. By 2025, the Navy’s fleet strength is expected to go up to 200 ships, including one more aircraft carrier, destroyers and six more nuclear submarines, in addition to the Arihant. It will pose a serious challenge to China’s ambition of increasing its footprints in the Indian Ocean. The building of a number of high altitude Advance Landing Grounds for handling aircraft of all types in Arunachal, the raising of a mountain strike corps, long-range nuclear capable ballistic missiles and putting in place an anti-missile shield – all these are forcing China to make a fresh assessment of India’s strength in the geo-political context. India’s intention to put an end to the huge disparity in India-China trade balance will also be a matter of concern for the Chinese authorities. India’s decision to sell Aakash and Brahmos supersonic missiles to Vietnam has already caused great unease in Beijing.
If the cumulative effect of all these that forces China to revise its policy of hostility to India and adopt a conciliatory attitude, it will be welcome. China is also expected to keep a watchful eye on India’s relationship with Donald Trump’s USA. Trump’s foreign policy may upset many existing power equations across the globe to China’s disadvantage. The possibility of China provoking a limited armed conflict with India in the Himalayas will diminish. Any armed conflict with India will endanger the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The India of 2017 has come a very long way from the India of 1962. If China accepts this reality, it will be good for all concerned.