India readies to counter Xi Jinping’s UN address aimed at China’s image makeover

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese President Xi Jinping may have said that Beijing has no intention to fight either a “Cold War” or a “hot war” with any country, but India looks askance at his observations. New Delhi believes that Xi’s statement in his UN address is only an “image makeover” exercise.

 Indian diplomats say that Beijing is facing widespread criticism across the world for its aggression and expansionist behaviour. Therefore, China’s leadership is using the UN forum to try to impress upon the global community that he believes in adopting the path of peaceful negotiations, diplomats add. “This is not what China actually thinks and does. There is a sharp contrast in what Beijing says and does,” say officials. 

Sources told The Daily Guardian that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has been given a full transcript of Xi Jinping’s speech in which he sought to sound like a peace-loving and honest leader. Sources also said that the MEA is not buying what Xi has said, and has, therefore, decided to pursue the strategy of stalling China’s diplomatic moves aimed at “image makeover”. According to sources, Indian embassies have been given a briefing about how to go about this. “Ambassadors and High Commissioners have been asked to counter China’s image-makeover exercise,” said an official. 

Indian diplomats got a boost when US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus came down heavily on China just a day after Xi Jinping’s speech at the UN. “While China continues to use bullying tactics to meet its goals, it has called for international cooperation and win-win solutions during the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session,” said Morgan. The US spokesperson said, “Beijing called for cooperation and win-win solutions at UN75. But in practice, Beijing uses bullying tactics to advance its goals, including illegal claims in the South China Sea, border disputes with India, and manipulating water flow in the Mekong River.”

 This is how the US official took a potshot at Chinese President Xi Jinping’s statement in which he had said, “We have no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country. We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will now seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game.” 

With China’s ties with both India and US getting strained, Xi’s statement was taken by both Washington and New Delhi with a pinch of salt. It augurs well for India’s diplomatic mission that Washington has stepped up its attack on Beijing over a host of issues including handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, trade war and so on. What is more significant is that Morgan also referred to China’s misdeed along the LAC. 

“When Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China and the Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese military, said his country will not pursue development behind closed doors and will not pursue an expansionist agenda, it should reflect on the ground. But nothing is there in reality,” diplomats argue.