China's expanding influence is a threat to India, claims Singh


CHINA IS looking to expand its influence in south Asia at India’s expense, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh warned in rare public criticism of his country’s nuclear rival for regional resources and geopolitical clout.

Mr Singh’s comments to newspaper editors in New Delhi on Monday have followed repeated diplomatic sparring between the neighbours over the past two years – especially over defence and military matters, even though bilateral trade between them has multiplied to more than $60 billion (€47 billion).

“China would like to have a foothold in south Asia, and we have to reflect on this reality,” Mr Singh said. India had to be aware of this, and also of a “new assertiveness among the Chinese – and it was difficult to tell which way it will go”.

India fought a war with China in 1962 over a border dispute that remains unresolved. That wrangle – one of the world’s longest-running international disputes – has Beijing claiming an area of more than 120,600sq km, including Arunachal Pradesh province in northeastern India. Delhi disputes this.

Amid rising tension between the two sides, India last week conveyed its concerns to China over the presence of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. This came after Indian army intelligence confirmed the presence of a PLA infantry battalion at the 15,397ft-high Khunjerab pass in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s Gilgit-Baltistan region, there to provide security for Chinese workers building a road and high-speed railway in the area.

The infrastructure is expected eventually to link China’s Xinjiang province to Gwadar and adjoining Pasni and Omara ports along Pakistan’s western Makran coast in Balochistan province, which China has been developing for over eight years to gain access to the Persian Gulf – from where it imports over 60 per cent of its oil supplies.

It currently takes up to six weeks for Chinese oil tankers to ferry oil home from west Asia. The surface links via Gilgit and Baltistan will allow far faster transport, Indian army officers said.

India is deeply concerned over these developments, as Kashmir is divided between it and Pakistan, but claimed in totality by both. Pakistan has been a close Chinese military and nuclear ally since Pakistan’s independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

India is augmenting its military preparedness along its northeastern border with China by making preparations to deploy its missiles and long-range fighters in the region.