Manmohan Singh says China wants foothold in South Asia

Reuters | Tue Sep 7, 2010 | 10:19am IST

India China relationsIndia must be prepared for a newly-assertive China that wants a foothold in South Asia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, in a rare open criticism of the Asia giant competing for regional resources and geopolitical clout. "China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality," Singh was quoted as saying by The Times of India on Tuesday. "We have to be aware of this. There is a new assertiveness among the Chinese. It is difficult to tell which way it will go. So it’s important to be prepared."

The newspaper also quoted Singh as saying that China could use India’s "soft underbelly" of Kashmir and Pakistan "to keep India in low level equilibrium." An official at the prime minister’s office, on condition of anonymity, said the newspaper quotes were correct. The comments follow repeated diplomatic sparring between the two Asian powers over the last two years. This tension has heightened in the last month.

While trade has grown 30-fold since 2000, the tension highlights how economic ties alone may not be enough to resolve the two countries growing friction over their disputed borders and role as emerging global powers. Last month, India criticised China’s denial of a visa to an Indian army general who had operated in Kashmir and then New Delhi later said it was worried by China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

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