“The letter of Chinese embassy reminding India media that “there is just one China” reflects how an authoritarian system misunderstands the functioning of a democracy,” say experts.
As far as Taiwan is concerned, the official position of India is very clear. It has not recognised Taiwan as an independent nation and follows the policy of non-interference in the internal matters of a sovereign state. “The letter of Chinese embassy reminding India media that “there is just one China” reflects how an authoritarian system misunderstands the functioning of a democracy,” say experts.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, says, “A democracy works on the basic principle of the freedom of expression as a fundamental right to the citizens of India. It is guaranteed by the Constitution of India, and no government can take it away from the people or the press. There is no way a government can control the media outlets and regulate the press.”
“China should understand that the same media reported favourably to Xi Jinping’s visit to Gujarat and Mamallapuram. India-China relations were in upswing before the Galwan clashes. A majority of mainstream media outlets always reported positively about the value of better economic and cultural ties between the two nations. The present government did its best to improve ties with China.
But somehow misperceptions kept growing, and they have reached a point from where it would take years before normalcy is restored. The clash at Galwan was totally avoidable had Beijing understood Indian motives and shown some restraint. A small clash has made the years of joint work appear redundant. The narrative in India about China has changed drastically after the Galwan clash and the subsequent standoff,” Prof Rajan observes.
“India has been extra-cautious in engaging with Taiwan. Bilateral ties have been confined to economic, educational and cultural exchanges. It has not violated any international law on the issue of Taiwan,” he adds.
“But the media in India is not controlled by the government as in authoritarian states. In most of the cases, a few media houses may follow the government line by choice, but many would be critical of the government positions at any point of time. And such dissent is celebrated in a democracy. The issues of human rights, freedom of expression, cultural rights of minorities and multiparty democracy will always be supported by the liberal media. To even suggest that the media should follow the government line would amount to supporting censorship- something resented by people of India. It may even be treated as an external interference in the functioning of domestic institutions of India,” Prof Rajan Kumar concludes.
According to Prof Rajesh Rajagopalan, School of International Studies, JNU, “ Chinese diplomats clearly don’t understand how democracies work, nor the basics of a free press. A dictator from the Chinese Embassy to the media will actually do more harm than good for China. Either Chinese diplomats are clueless– which doesn’t speak well of their professionalism– or else their audience is back home. The latter is probably more likely. So much of their display and performance over the last several months, the wolf warrior part may be designed to win them rewards with their establishment, or at the least avoid being targeted because they are not sufficiently enthusiastic. This might be more important to them professionally or even personally, even if it comes at the cost of damage to China’s reputation and more so, national interest.”
Story so far
Soon after the Chinese mission in New Delhi urged the Indian media to follow `one China’ policy, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry tweeted their reaction. “India is the largest democracy on earth with a vibrant press and freedom-loving people,” the tweet said.
What had happened?
The Taiwan National Day is on October 10. And Taiwan Mission in India has put out full-page advertisements in the national dailies in New Delhi. This has irked the Chinese who immediately wrote to the India media and called on them not to refer to Taiwan as a nation.
According to the note to the media, it calls Taiwan as an integral part of China. And states, “All the countries having diplomatic relations with China should honour their commitment to the one-China policy.”