ISLAMABAD: Sino-India relations further strained as media reports claimed India is deliberately creating a hostile environment to hinder the normalization of bilateral ties.
Moreover, an official rebuke by Chinese foreign ministry against Indian maltreatment of Chinese journalists further exposed the Indian harsh treatment of Chinese journalists working in India.
It may be noted that Indian authorities have already been called out by international media, human rights organisations and media organisations for curbing media freedom. India has been already blamed for crackdown against domestic and foreign media. Journalists from BBC, Al-Jazeera and other media organisations have been targeted by Indian government authorities.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Wednesday slammed the Indian government for giving unfair and discriminatory treatment to Chinese media workers based in India, warning that the renewal of visas for Indian journalists in China will depend on whether India will work in the same direction with China.
“Chinese journalists have suffered unfair and discriminatory treatment in India for a long time. In 2017, the Indian side shortened the period of validity of visas held by Chinese journalists in India to three months or even one month without any valid reason. Since 2020, the Indian side has refused to review and approve Chinese journalists’ applications for stationing in India,” said Mao Ning, the foreign ministry spokesperson of China.
“As a result, the number of Chinese journalists stationed in India has plummeted from 14 at the normal time to just one. As we speak, the Indian side still has not renewed the visa of the last Chinese journalist in the country. The number of Chinese journalists stationed in India is about to drop to zero. Considering this, the Chinese side has no choice but to take appropriate counter-measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media organizations,” she added.
“However, I would like to stress that China is still willing to maintain communication with India under the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. We hope that India will work in the same direction with China, seriously respond to China’s legitimate concerns, and take concrete steps as soon as possible to create favorable conditions for restoring normal exchange between the media organizations of the two countries,” she maintained.
The comments came after a Wall Street Journal on Tuesday claimed that “China and India have ejected each other’s journalists” and deepened the rift between the world’s two most populous nations.
The Wall Street Journal report said that China and India have “virtually wiped out mutual media access,” because New Delhi has recently denied visa renewals to the last two remaining Chinese journalists in the country, from the Xinhua News Agency and the China Central Television.
There were four Indian journalists based in China at the beginning of the year, two of whom have not been granted visas to return to China, the WSJ report said, citing a Chinese official. A third was told this month that his accreditation had been revoked but he remains in the country.
The ill treatment received by Chinese media reporters in India dates back to 2017 when the Indian side unreasonably shortened the validity period of visas for Chinese journalists stationed in India to three months or even one month.
Since 2020, India has refused to approve long-term stay applications for Chinese journalists to its country. In December 2021, Chinese journalists stationed there were forced to leave the country within 10 days, despite having two months left on their visas, for which the Indian side had failed to give an explanation.
Recently, India refused to extend the visa of the only Chinese journalist in the country and forced him to leave.
India’s policy toward China is becoming increasingly tough, deliberately creating a hostile atmosphere to hinder the recovery of China-India relations, experts warned, noting that the key to the issue is that India still holds a Cold War mentality and regards China as its “biggest threat.”
“This is evident in India’s hosting of the G20 tourism ministerial meeting in the disputed area of Kashmir in an attempt to assert its sovereignty, which drew a fierce boycott from China. India also holds the chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this year, and it intends to use these opportunities to achieve its goals such as increasing its influence and flexing its muscles to the world,” Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
“What’s more, with the presidential election coming up, Modi wants to show off his power to his people,” Zhao noted.
The relationship between China and India has been deteriorating recently, despite China’s efforts to improve it, the expert said, warning this is a dangerous trend, as India seems to be determined to confront China and align with the US.
However, it is still too early to draw conclusions, as Modi is soon to visit the US and may be trying to use the strained relationship with China as leverage to reap benefits from the US. And if India does not receive any concrete benefits, it may change its stance again, Zhao said.
Observers noted that Western media is also trying to use the friction to create deeper conflicts between China and India, as they fear the joining hands of the two most populous countries in the world.
This trick is not new, experts said, as seen previously when the US Senate passed a bill recognizing the McMahon Line as the Indian boundary. India showed rare restraint in response to this matter, saying that the US has rarely taken a clear stance on the China-India border dispute before, and its current move will certainly anger China.