The Australian’s interest in Contemporary India. Part 1.

On 10 December 2011, Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of The Australian and a prominent reporter on Asian affairs of many years standing, gave an account of his latest visit to India where he has attended a conference in Kolkata on ‘The Asian Century’, sponsored by the University of Melbourne’s Australia India Institute.

In a blunt 1500 word article titled, ‘India’s rise as a superpower has China on edge’, Sheridan revisits several troubled aspects of China-India relations, as seen by four prominent spokesmen on Indian strategic matters.

Firstly, Sheridan comments on the two themes of the opening speech by M. K. Narayanan, the Governor of Kolkata (and once India’s national security adviser). “One was that Australia had nothing to be concerned about from India’s rise. […] The second notable theme was more blunt. China, he said, was a nation that did not observe international norms. This statement was neither controversial nor emotive. It was matter-of-fact.”

The second reference comes from his interview with Professor Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy, a former Indian ambassador to Australia and to Pakistan and current advisor to the Indian government on security matters. Sheridan reports that Parthasarathy told him that China is “today the greatest proliferator of nuclear weapons technology and missiles” by supplying Pakistan for forty years with “nuclear weapons designs and equipment for enriching uranium”.

Sheridan then visited two more Indian security experts, Ajai Sahni, editor of the South Asian Intelligence Review and director of the Institute for Conflict Management, and Praveen Swami, a strategic analyst for The Hindu newspaper. He relates the anecdotal responses of both experts to the question of possible Chinese involvement with the Maoist groups active in nine states of eastern India.

Sheridan’s final, and perhaps most important source of evidence of “China’s activities to contain or encircle India” is to be found in a recent book, China and India. Great Power Rivals, by the Hawaiian-based think tank scholar, Mohan Malik, whose thesis, according to Sheridan, is that “China is trying to stymie India’s rise”, not only by the nuclear proliferation but by selling arms to five of India’s largest neighbours and by racheting up its decades-long provocative behaviour on the China-India borders, and beyond.

The article ends with some further brief considerations on the relations between USA, India and Australia.

(Part 2 will examine other aspects of The Australian’s (and Sheridan’s) candid pro-India stance in recent years.)

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