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China and India: The Best of Friends?

Countries with serious disagreements often have their diplomats maintain a friendly facade, but China and India have raised this practice to a new level. Dai Bingguo, the Chinese state councillor, is currently in India for diplomatic talks with Shivshankar Menon, the country’s national security adviser. According to The Hindu, everything is fine, just fine between the two countries:

Mr. Dai began Monday’s meeting by describing India as “a big and friendly neighbour of China”. “I would like to emphasise here,” he told Mr. Menon, “that it was made very clear at the eighteenth party congress that China would continue to be committed to path of peaceful development and work for the noble cause of peace and development for all mankind.”

“It was also solemnly declared at the party congress that China will continue to make friends with and forge partnerships with our neighbours,” he said. “We will consolidate our good relations with our neighbours and expand mutually beneficial cooperation. We will do our best to make sure that China’s development will bring more benefits to our surrounding countries and will always be a friend to other members of the developing world.”

Mr. Menon said Monday’s meeting came “at a time of significant developments, in China, with the party congress, and in the world as well”. “It also a time when India China relations are proceeding smoothly and developing well,” he said, describing the relationship as “one of our most important relationships”.

Chinese-Indian relations are not this rosy, of course. The two countries are currently engaged in territorial disputes over the areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. China recently issued revised passports that contain maps putting this disputed territory firmly within its borders. Salman Khurshi, the country’s external affairs minister, called the new passport maps “unacceptable,” and India responded by printing its own maps. No doubt these disputes are a key topic of conversation in the current talks.

We’ve noted before that China’s diplomacy and foreign policy have been causing it unnecessary trouble. Flexing muscle to extend influence over Asia has spooked other regional powers, driving them into stronger alliances with each other and with America. Empty diplomatic cliches, even effusively expressed, aren’t likely to turn this tide around.

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