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India's quiet move to outsmart China

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by August 19, 2017 General

India has launched a high-level, quiet diplomatic campaign to put pressure on China through its neighbours to end a seven-week military stand-off at Doklam near Sikkim.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a telephone call to his Nepali counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba on Friday. While the call was meant to convey condolences at the loss of life in Nepal due to recent widespread floods, the timing was significant as Deuba is beginning a five-day visit to India on August 23, his first foreign trip after his election two months ago. China has been making concerted efforts to woo Nepal, and its Vice Premier Wang Yang was in Kathmandu on August 14.

India is also preparing to host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in late September. As part of preparations, both countries held a cybersecurity dialogue on Friday. The dialogue which involved top security agencies of both countries is significant in the wake of increasing cyberattacks originating from China. In a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), both sides reaffirmed their commitment to an open, free, secure, stable, peaceful, and accessible cyberspace, enabling economic growth and innovation.

In particular, both sides reaffirmed that existing international law is generally applicable in cyberspace, and that no country should conduct or support information and communication technology-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to its companies or commercial sectors.

“Areas of discussion included domestic cyber policy landscape, cyber threats and mitigation, mechanism on bilateral cooperation, and possible cooperation at various international fora and regional fora,” the statement said.

India also recently hosted the Deputy Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers (DPM) & Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov, during August 13-15. The Central Asian country is the largest supplier of natural gas to China. Among the Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan has the largest natural gas reserves and the world’s sixth largest reserves — 13.7 trillion cubic metres. Government sources here said besides trade and commerce, issues related to security of the region were also discussed.

Earlier Japanese Ambassador in India, Kenji Hiramatsu, was quoted in media as saying that no country should use unilateral forces to alter the status of Doklam. Although India refused to react to the comments that came as the first clear show of backing from a major foreign power, China was riled, asking the Japanese envoy not to randomly make comments without clarifying facts. “I have seen the Japanese Ambassador in India really wants to support India. I want to remind him not to randomly make comments before clarifying the facts,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in Beijing.

Replying to a volley of questions, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar here said that India was consistently engaging with China to find a mutually acceptable solution to the stand-off, asserting that peace and tranquillity on the border is an important pre-requisite for smooth bilateral relationship.

Confirming that an untoward incident had happened between the Chinese troops and the Indian border guards in Ladakh on August 15, the MEA spokesperson said, “Such incidents are not in the interest of either side.” He said two border personnel meetings (BPMs) had taken place between Indian border guards and Chinese troops recently. He said one BPM had taken place at Chushul on August 16 and another one at Nathu La a week before.

In another move to outwit China, India has also invited the heads of state or government of all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — all bordering China. It is also significant that Singapore and Vietnam have been exhorting India to increase its profile in the region. The move also becomes significant in the wake of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. Hanoi has also granted the Indian Navy basing rights at the Nha Trang port, providing a foothold in the South China Sea.

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