When Media Propagates a China-India War

Is a war between China and India inevitable-this is a question that hundreds of thousands Indians are making whenever they glue themselves to the news channels or read newspapers over the last few days. In fact, everyone in the country is talking about a forthcoming battle, if not a war, against China, as most of the mainstream media, both print and visual, is full of news narrating the possibility of a frontline clash between India and China.

Some newspapers and television channels are actually playing the role of a catalyst for another war between the two populous countries. For record, India has the burning boundary issues with China to get resolved. It was sole reason that tempted Chinese army to intrude to Assam in Northeast India during 1962. Beijing even today believes that around 90,000 square kilometers of Arunachal Pradesh is a part of south Tibet and hence it belongs to China. The communist republic expresses its unhappiness on the visit of Indian President and Prime Minister to Arunachal every time.

Compare to India, China has more neighbouring nations and amazingly the country has maintained cordial relationship with all the countries including Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Burma (except India). The tension with India started in 1958 and finally culminated in a full scale war in 1962.

The post war relationship between China and India continued with some mistrust, even though the Indian Union government heads including Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, A.B. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh continued peace initiatives (which might have narrowed the differences to some extend) during their respective reigns.

New headache for Beijing came with the news that the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama is visiting Tawang of Arunachal Pradesh in the coming November. Dalai Lama, who is running an exile Tibet government at Dharamshala in north India, since the days he fled from his homeland in 1959, is scheduled to visit the Arunachal State capital Itanagar and also Tawang. The spiritual leader considers Tawang, which houses the centuries old Tibetan Buddhist monastery, belongs to India. But of course, China is not happy with the schedule visit of Dalai Lama to Tawang.

“We firmly oppose Dalai Lama visiting the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’,” said Jiang Yu, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. Quoting the Chinese spokesperson, the government controlled news agency Xinhua reported that Beijing was also annoyed with a section of Indian media’s reporting with ‘inaccurate information’ on Indo-China border areas. Jiang Yu even appealed the media ‘to be conducive toward promoting mutual understanding between the two neighbouring countries’.

Meanwhile, the excessive Indian media debate compelled New Delhi to make clarifications on border disturbances. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh disclosed that ‘there was no major change in the border situation’ and hence ‘no reasons for concern’. He even criticized the media for reporting with exaggerated facts and blowing it out of proportion. India’s foreign secretary Nirupama Rao also claimed that ‘there was no significant increase in the number of incursions by China across all the sectors’. Ms Rao, a former ambassador to China, clarified that leaderships of both the countries were in regular touch over important bilateral issues and both New Delhi and Beijing were keen to maintain peace and tranquility along the border.

Similarly, India’s national security adviser M.K. Narayanan denied anything happening on the India-China border. He even exclaimed about the reason behind so much of reporting on the issue, and finally expressed concern that the media hype could lead only to unwarranted incident that might create problems with the neighbouring country. It is understandable that China remains worried over the Tibet issue as its capital Lhasa witnessed almost an uprising in 2008 just before the Beijing Olympics. The recent unrest in Xinjiang province created by the Islamic Uighurs, which claimed hundreds lives, added more anxieties to Beijing. The growing strategic partnership between New Delhi and Washington also lingered as a matter of concern for the Chinese authority.

But even then, today China and India are maintaining a cordial, stable and a robust trading relationship. In fact, India is one of China’s largest trading partners, where the bilateral trade between the two fastest growing economies increased to the volume of over USD 50 billion in the last fiscal year (expected to reach over USD 60 billion by 2010).

Amazingly, a group of Indian armed forces joined the celebrations of 60th National Day (of China) at Bumla (near Tawang) in India-China border locality on October 1 last. The Indian delegation led by Brigadier CP Mohanty included the family members and relatives of the armed personnel, who witnessed a multicolored cultural show depicting the cultural heritage of China. Earlier a delegation of Chinese army joined the celebration of India’s 63rd Independence Day (on August 15 lat) at the same locality.

More significantly, India and China have resolved to go together in the forthcoming Copenhagen climate summit. Both the countries have also to resolve many environmental (more precisely water) issues bilaterally. India’s environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh, who visited China during August, disclosed that both the countries had decided to work out a common strategy on climate change issues. The minister, at least for the time being, stated, “India considers China an important ally in the Copenhagen negotiations.” Both New Delhi and Beijing have reportedly decided to oppose any legally-binding emissions reduction targets during the UN summit to be held in the Denmark capital.

The summit under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where the government heads, environment ministers and other responsible officials representing 192 countries are participating, is expected to adopt a climate treaty, which will replace the Kyoto protocol. Signed in 1997 by the nations with an aim to curb emissions, the Kyoto treaty is going to expire in 2012. “The objective of the summit in Copenhagen will be to formulate a new and striving global agreement on climate change that includes all countries of the world and also the ambitious target for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Einar Hebogaard Jensen, the Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh.

Environmental scientists reveal that it would be essential to cut 80 % emissions by the developed (industrialized) countries by 2050 for the safety of the planet. The 9 billion people, who would live in 2050 on Earth must not produce more than 2 tonnes of greenhouse gases per head per year. If the rise of global average temperature to be restricted within 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), the human race has to reach the goal of reducing emissions to 20 gigatonnes greenhouse gases by this period.

At this moment, an American citizen in average produces almost 24 tonnes greenhouse gases per year. The statistics is equal to 10-12 tonnes for those living in European countries. Similarly a Chinese in average emits around 6 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. China heavily depends on coal for its major electricity needs that paves for generating huge carbon in the air. The Chinese President Hu Jintao had of course committed to cut the emission by a notable margin within 2020. Moreover, Beijing declared that it was increasing the country’s forest cover (as to work as the carbon absorber) and also working affectively for the use of renewable power.

India is however recognized as a low per capita carbon emitter in the globe. An Indian in average emits less than 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per annum. Even India’s per capita emission in the next 20 years is estimated to be within 4 tonnes.

At the same time, India has been promoting tree planting, increasing its forest cover by millions of hectares in the last few decades. New Delhi has also planned to generate clean electricity from the sunlight and wind power.

Even though, India has joined hands with China to call for greater commitments from the western (industrialized) countries on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Both New Delhi and Beijing also raise voices for the interest of the developing countries such that they can demand the clean technologies to be borne by the developed nations. In fact, the two rapidly growing Asian economies can emerge as key negotiators in the Copenhagen conference.

“We expect a fair and equitable agreement at Copenhagen,” the Indian environment minister Ramesh argued, adding that for India the climate change is not just an environmental topic, but a development issue too. What is significant, the young and articulate minister declared during a recent media briefing in New Delhi that both India and China had ‘agreed to snub attempts by the western nations to play one against the other’.

The question now a conscious reader (audience) can raise, whether certain elements in a section of Indian media had tried their best to play the same notorious role that of those western countries targeting the growing liaison between New Delhi and Beijing just before the Copenhagen summit!

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based journalist, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world.