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Is China now looking to meddle into domestic politics of India?

Chinese state media has been continuing its wild rhetoric against India. Though these are not considered the “official view” of China, by virtue of being controlled by the Communist Party of China, they are supposed to toe lines that could well be adopted by the state later.

Amid the ongoing standoff between Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at India-China-Bhutan tri-junction over Chinese activities at Doklam plateau, an Op-Ed article in state-run Chinese newspaper Global Times has said that rising “Hindu nationalism” has hijacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China policy.

“In diplomacy, New Delhi is demanded to act tougher in foreign relations, especially toward countries like Pakistan and China. The border row this time is an action targeted at China that caters to the demand of India’s religious nationalists,” the article authored by Yu Ning said.

“Nationalist fervour that demands revenge against China has taken root in India since the border war. The election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fuelled the country’s nationalist sentiments,” the Op-ed observed.

“Modi took advantage of rising Hindu nationalism to come to power. This, on one hand, has enhanced his prestige and ability to control the country, but on the other, has made India more subject to the influence of conservatives, thus hampering reform,” it said.

The article has given flawed logic. The “Hindu nationalism” blabber by the Chinese author sounds force fitted as far as India-China border impasse is concerned. The border impasse has nothing to with the so called “Hindu nationalism.” It is nothing but a fantasy of Chinese commentator Yu Ning about India. Maybe he has been reading too may leftist propaganda websites of India that can link even a pothole in roads to Hinduism.

When India and China went to war in 1962, was it due to some Hindu nationalism? Truth is that China has been acting aggressively with almost all its neighbours and has border disputes with them. Even during the tenure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India and China witnessed many border standoffs.

What has led to the current standoff between the two countries is China’s attempt to build a motorable road in the Doklam plateau. Doklam is Bhutanese territory. But a desperate China claims it as its own territory. Not just it threatens Bhutan’s sovereignty, if China is allowed its way, next it will eye India’s North-Eastern region.

China has accused Indian soldiers of trespassing to its territory in Doklam and preventing Chinese soldiers from building the roads. But it is well within the rights of India to defend its sovereignty and oppose China’s creeping territorial aggression. There is nothing wrong with that. But to argue that the current standoff was planned and executed to cater to Hindu nationalistic sentiments is laughable.

Further, the article argued that the Narendra Modi government in India has failed to curb “Hindu nationalistic violence” against Muslims since it took the reins of India in 2014. “The Modi government can do nothing if religious nationalism becomes extreme, as shown in its failure to curb violent incidents against Muslims since he came to power in 2014,” the article said.

First of all this is rich coming from a Chinese media when China stops its own Muslims from following Islam as mandated by their religious beliefs. China has forced Muslims to not choose ‘religious’ names and have long beards. It also tried to stop Muslims from observing the holy month of Ramzan early this year.

Even if we are to ignore the hypocrisy, that paragraph almost reads as if the Chinese media got someone from India to write for them. Certainly, the Global Times author has got carried away by that hate-Modi campaign in Indian media. Interestingly, the hate-Modi campaign, which ultimately aims at defaming India, is now getting Chinese audience.

Or could the article be a precursor to China meddling in domestic affairs of India? Until now, only some communist groups were those who had links with China, but is China now looking at the “liberal-secular” establishment in India as an ally, which never ceases to talk about dangers of “Hindu nationalism” and “Hindutva”?

Has China also decided to follow the official Pakistan doctrine about exploiting fault-lines in the Indian society, about using media, and about reaching out to Modi-haters?

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Saswat Panigrahi
Political writer, policy observer.

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