India is taking advantage of China's desire to open a new diplomatic outpost in the strategically important port city of Chennai in South India. The Delhi government for its part wants the Chinese government to reopen the Indian consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, the Hindustan Times reported May 28. That consulate was forced to close in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian border war.
China, however, is not happy with the Indian request because of the volcanic tension in the Tibetan capital between the Chinese and the Tibetans.
China is India's largest trading partner in goods, according to the paper. Nearly the entire border between China and India runs along Tibetan territory, a de facto independent state until taken over by China in 1950.
India wants to reopen the Lhasa consulate to deal with the volume of consular affairs related to the large numbers of exiled Tibetans in India and their close cultural and religious ties with their homeland.
China has dramatically increased border controls, making it extremely dangerous to cross the border from or to China for many Tibetans. Paradoxically, as China's border control tightens, so does the desire for many Tibetans in exile to make the pilgrimage to sacred Buddhist sites inside Tibet, something that has greatly increased the Indian government's need to handle many Tibetan-related affairs in Lhasa.
The Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed rebellion against Chinese occupation. He has been staying in India as New Delhi's "honored guest," according to the Hindustan Times.
China has told Delhi that it prefers the Indians to go somewhere else in China to set up its fourth consulate in addition to the current ones in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Chennai is located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It is India's second largest port, and is strategically located in the Bay of Bengal between Myanmar, a country China has been courting to build an oil and gas pipeline, and Sri Lanka, an important maritime "choke point" along one of the most important sea lines of communications in the world.
China already has consulates in Mumbai and Calcutta. Unless China agrees to the Indian demand to reopen the Lhasa consulate, it's unlikely China will get its wish fulfilled in India.
PEOPLE'S DAILY: ASIA IS FOR ASIANS, NOT U.S.
The United States has the right to speak about and take part in Asian affairs, but it does not have the right to decide and dominate Asian affairs. Asian issues must be handled by Asian countries, and Asia's future security cannot depend upon a hegemonist nation, i.e., the United States.
That was the essence of a strongly worded article published June 1 in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party on the day the 27-nation Asia security summit opened in Singapore.
China has territorial disputes with nearly every one of its neighbors, making China's rise one of the most dangerous ascendances in recent history. In settling these territorial issues, China views the U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific as the biggest obstacle to China's rise as the regional dominant power.
"[America's strategic pivot to Asia-Pacific] is not in accordance with major trends of events in Asia, and will necessarily lead to the containment of an emerging China. The U.S. is forcing Asian countries to take sides," the article stated.
But the concluding paragraph of the article contains this thinly veiled threat to the United States:
"Therefore, it is necessary to draw a clear line for the United States on matters related to the South China Sea to remind the Americans of what they can do, and what they cannot do, to caution them to be mindful of their hegemonic inertia. Drawing such a line is not only necessary, but also beneficial to the United States."
• Miles Yu's columns appear Thursdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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