Apparently uneasy about commenting on the Chinese policy for Taiwan, India has spoken up finally. A day after US experts said it was China that should be wary of a two-front attack by India, New Delhi has for the first time referred to what it called "the militarization of the Taiwan Strait". While India does not spare China in diplomatese in the cases of incursion by the latter into Indian territories, it avoids speaking about the annexed Tibet, the Xinjiang province where Uyghur Muslims are denied human rights, the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong and Beijing's expansionist threat that looms on Taiwan.
The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka referred to Taiwan in a statement yesterday, marking a pronounced expression of New Delhi’s opinion about the situation in the Taiwan Strait than its previous response on 12 August to China’s military drills, conducted in the wake of the visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Earlier in August, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stayed clear of any talk on the "militarisation" of the strait, saying India was "concerned at recent developments" and urged an "exercise of restraint, avoidance of unilateral actions to change status quo, de-escalation of tensions and efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region". When asked during the MEA briefing that day whether India would reiterate its commitment to a "One China policy", as Beijing had requested, the foreign ministry had said, "India’s relevant policies are well-known and consistent" and "do not require reiteration".
These days, India's latest problem with China is the Chinese military tracking vessel Yuan Wang 5 docking at the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka to spy on Indian activities on the Bay of Bengal. To aggravate the tension, China's ambassador in Sri Lanka referred to some "aggression" faced by Sri Lanka from its "northern neighbour". The Indian High Commission said his comments were "a violation of basic diplomatic etiquette", saying they "may be a personal trait or reflecting a larger national attitude".
The high commission said the statement was "in response to queries concerning the article by Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong which, inter alia, drew a connection between militarisation of Taiwan Straits and visit of China’s Yuan Wang 5 ship to Hambantota."
Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of the G7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US — had expressed concerns about China’s military activity in the Strait. They referred to "threatening actions" by China, saying there was "no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait".
The Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka rejected the allegation in a recent article that read: "China has every reason to respond unhesitantly to the severe impacts caused by the Taiwan visit of Speaker Pelosi". He drew a link between the Taiwan situation and the visit of the Yuan Wang 5, which India had opposed.
"Those two matters may seem irrelevant and thousands of miles apart, but both share the same great significance between China and Sri Lanka, that is to jointly safeguard each other’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity," the Chinese ambassador said. Sri Lanka was among the countries that supported China by reiterating the "One China policy" amid the Taiwan strife.
India has on paper not budged from its "One China" policy since it recognised the PRC in 1949, New Delhi maintains only trade and cultural relations with Taipei. India routinely reiterated this policy until 2008, after which it stopped mentioning it in official statements, a demand that China usually asks of most countries in official declarations.
Officials at the time said there was no need for India to reiterate publicly a policy it was following, particularly after Chinese statements claiming Arunachal Pradesh and moving to issue "stapled visas" to Indian citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal.