“When there is some trouble in the South China Sea, obviously India gets worried, and when Indian ships participate in maritime exercises in the South China Sea, of course, China will show concern,” a Chinese diplomat said.
India has brushed off concerns that naval exercises in the South China Sea and trilateral exercises with Japan and the U.S. would affect the upcoming visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to China from May 24-27.
“Indian ship visits have been happening often, it’s quite a normal thing, it isn’t only happening this time,” said Joint Secretary Pradeep Kumar Rawat when asked about the issue. On Wednesday, four warships of the Indian Navy’s eastern fleet set sail for a series of port calls and exercises in East Asia that will last nearly three months. The ships will conduct exercises in the contentious South China Sea, much of which is claimed by China, as well as ‘Exercise Malabar’ off Okinawa, held with the U.S., and including Japan as a permanent member for the first time.
“When there is some trouble in the South China Sea, obviously India gets worried, and when Indian ships participate in maritime exercises in the South China Sea, of course, China will show concern,” a Chinese diplomat told reporters in Delhi on Thursday, indicating Beijing’s unhappiness over them.
Tensions in the South China sea are among a slew of tricky issues between India and China expected to be discussed when President Pranab Mukherjee visits Beijing next week, that will include India’s request for Nuclear Suppliers Group membership. While Presidential visits are seen as largely ceremonial, the issues will be on the agenda when President Mukherjee, who has travelled to China several times, and has engaged with the top leadership in Beijing as former Finance and Foreign minister, visits.
“This is the most significant bilateral visit of the past year,” said Pradeep Kumar Rawat, joint secretary for East Asia in the Ministry of External Affairs. “This is an important relationship and its an important visit. As it happens, in such visits we discuss all issues of interest,” he added, when asked specifically if the President would also take up India’s case for NSG membership with President Xi Jinping, as the visit comes just weeks ahead of the NSG’s annual plenary.
China has traditionally opposed the inclusion of India in the elite nuclear export body on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Speaking in Delhi on Thursday the senior Chinese diplomat said that while China can “never, never block India’s entry to any world body”, it must as a member of the UN Security Council, “ensure the rules”. “It is not China who made this rule, it is western powers who made the rules. So it is a choice for India whether or not you accept the mechanism. We need to keep discussing the issue (of NSG membership),” the official said, adding that the claim of other non-NPT countries, indicating Pakistan and Israel, would also have to be discussed when India’s application is considered next month.
Officials in Delhi and Beijing also confirmed that they remain in “close communication” with each other over India’s demand for the banning of Jaish e Mohammad chief Masood Azhar by the UN’s Taliban sanctions committee, a move that China had blocked in March this year.