India has expelled three journalists of the Chinese official news agency, Xinhua, by refusing to renew their visas to work in the country, a move that could worsen the already strained relations between the two countries, the new Delhi-based Hindustan Times reported on July 24.
On July 14, all three were informed that they had to leave India by July 31 as their visas will not be renewed.
Journalists Wu Qiang and Lu Tang head Xinhua’s bureau in New Delhi and Mumbai respectively. The third, She Yonggang, is a reporter based in Mumbai.
Lu Tang has an India connect as she studied in Universities at New Delhi and Gujarat. She graduated in International Relations from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. In India she took the name Laxmi and often appeared in a sari and other Indian dresses. Fond of Hindi films, she would often comment on them in her Facebook page.
Wu Qiang has been working in India for seven years while the other two were posted in Mumbai last year. Xinhua works directly under the jurisdiction of the State Council, or the Chinese Cabinet, headed by Premier Li Keqiang.
“No official reason was given for the Indian government’s decision, but sources said the three had come under the “adverse attention of security agencies” for allegedly indulging in activities beyond their journalistic brief,” the paper said.
The sources, however, said the action did not imply that Xinhua journalists are not welcome in India.
“The agency can replace them with others. There is nothing here to construe that Xinhua has to wind up its news operations in India,” a source said.
Hindustan Times reached out to Xinhua in Beijing but an official said nobody could be immediately contacted for a comment.
Commenting on the expulsion, Mohan Guruswamy, chairman of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, said that not extending visas of journalists is a needless aggravation.
“Lu Tang, whom many of you FB users might recognise and who has done so much to provide China’s opinion makers with a better understanding of India is among the three Chinese journalists not to get their work visas extended,” Guruswamy wrote on the Chinese correspondent’s Facebook wall.
“We can now expect some tit for tat for no rhyme or reason. If Indian scribes are turned out of China we too will lose our eyes and ears in that country. Not extending visas of journalists is a needless aggravation. I am sure the [Ministry of External Affairs] would be clueless about this as this is now under the exclusive purview of the largely clueless Ministry of Home Affairs.”
Ranjit Kalha, a former secretary in the MEA said that the move seems to have been “done without thinking through [the] outcome,” reported Thewire.in.
The decision comes at a time when relations between New Delhi and Beijing have been under strain following China’s refusal last month to back India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Chinese anger about India sending tanks to the international border. Beijing has been wary of New Delhi’s growing bonhomie with Washington.
The Hindustan Times noted that many Indian journalists work out of Beijing at present. Additionally, a number of Indians work for China’s English state media like China Central Television, China Daily and China Radio International. Two more New Delhi-based Indian journalists are currently on a fellowship to China at the invitation of the communist government.
Beijing’s Harsh Words Against India
While the Indian media has been restrained in its comments on China, the Chinese media has been using intemperate language on issues dividing the two countries.
“India is spoilt, smug and self-righteous, and China was morally right to oppose its bid to join the club of nations controlling access to nuclear technology,” the Chinese media said last Tuesday even as the Chinese foreign office insisted bilateral ties were in a “generally good state”.
India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was dictated not by international principles but national interest, said a scathing editorial in the influential tabloid, The Global Times said.
Though “Indian nationalists” think their country is a major power, they are not aware of how to play the power game in international diplomacy, the editorial said in a stinging critique.
But the Chinese Foreign Office Spokesperson Hong Lei told a news briefing: “China-India relationship is in a generally good state. Common interests between the two countries far outweigh their differences.”
“China will work with India to steer the bilateral relations and deepen cooperation in different fields. As for problems in the bilateral relations, the Chinese side will stay in communication and dialogue with the Indian side to find a fair, sensible and mutually acceptable solution,” Hong added.
Referring to India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) he said: “We have noted that some of the multilateral export control regimes have changed in one way or another. With that in mind, China is assessing the effectiveness of the MTCR in safeguarding the international non-proliferation regime.”
China played a key role in blocking India’s bid to join the NSG at the group’s plenary meeting in Seoul last week. Experts believed it was largely acting at the behest of its “all-weather ally” Pakistan when it yoked the application to the NPT. Both India and Pakistan haven’t signed the NPT.
An upset India, without naming China, had said there was only one country which persistently raised procedural hurdles at the Seoul meeting.
The Global Times editorial said signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is mandatory for joining the NSG but India is not willing to play by the rules.
“India is not a signatory to the NPT, but is the most active applicant to join the NSG. Before the Seoul meeting, the Indian media played up the prospects of its bid. Some even claim that among the 48 members of the NSG, 47 have given it a green light, except China,” the editorial said.
“US backing adds the biggest impetus to India’s ambition. By cozying up to India, Washington’s India policy actually serves the purpose of containing China. The US is not the whole world. Its endorsement does not mean India has won the backing of the world. This basic fact, however, has been ignored by India,” the paper said.
“Since its foundation in 1975, all NSG members shall be NPT signatories. This has become the primary principle of the organization. Now India wants to be the first exception to join the NSG without signing the NPT. It is morally legitimate for China and other members to upset India’s proposal in defence of principles,” the editorial argued.
India Has No Ground To Entertain Ambitions
The Global Times reminded India that its GDP is merely 20% that of China’s.
“Although the South Asian country’s GDP accounts for only 20% of that of China, it is still a golden boy in the eyes of the West, having a competitive edge and more potential compared to China. The international ‘adulation’ of India makes the country a bit smug in international affairs.”
Indians do not know how to behave on the world stage, the paper said.
“On Monday, the Missile Technology Control Regime absorbed India as a new member, and denied China’s access. The news didn’t even make a ripple among the Chinese public. The Chinese have become more mature in dealing with these setbacks caused by international relations. India’s nationalists should learn how to behave themselves. Now that they wish their country could be a major power, they should know how major powers play their games.”