Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 15:23 UK

'China bashing' in the Indian media

Indian and Chinese traders cross the China-India border at the Nathu La Pass in India's state of Sikkim on 06 July 2006
China is India's largest trading partner

By Amit Baruah
Editor, BBC Hindi

It's the silly season in India-China relations. If you've tuned into one of the more hawkish Indian television channels or are reading the views of the many experts on India and China, it might seem like the two countries are at each other's throats.

There has been a spate of denials from the Indian foreign ministry, the border guards and even the Indian air force. All insist that there have been no clashes and no violations of Indian air space.

"A media report about two ITBP [Indo-Tibetan Border Police] jawans [soldiers] having been injured due to firing from across the Line of Actual Control has come to notice. It is factually incorrect," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

And here is what the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman had to say about the same incident: "I have not heard of the scenario you mentioned... I have noticed, however, that Indian media has been releasing some groundless information recently. I wonder what their intention is."

'Without pause'

But China's concerns about accuracy do not seem to bother a large chunk of the Indian media, which is engaged in a rather serious bout of "China-bashing" these days.

Such China "stories" continue without pause.

Facts do not seem to matter as some Indian media organisations believe that this is the best way to grab a larger market share.

"Nothing has changed on the ground between the two countries," a senior Indian official, who preferred anonymity, told the BBC.

Chinese soldiers at a drill ahead of a military parade in Beijing, China, on 19 Sept 2009
The Indian media has been reporting alleged incursions by Chinese soldiers

"I just can't understand the reasons for this hysteria," the official said.

China is India's largest trading partner, with two-way trade volumes crossing $50bn in 2008.

The two countries have been trying to negotiate a solution to their decades-old boundary dispute, a process which shows few signs of reaching fruition anytime soon.

There hasn't been a single fatality in skirmishes along the undefined India-China boundary since 1967, but the memories of the crushing defeat inflicted by the Chinese on India in the 1962 war have not faded from the minds of some Indians.

In a sense, the ghost of 1962 also has not been exorcised from the memories of a certain narrow, but influential, category of retired generals and diplomats, who still harbour ambitions of "giving it back to the Chinese".

Media war

In the last two decades - ever since a path-breaking visit by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in 1988 - there has been a visible effort on the part of the two governments to try to narrow their differences.

A code was agreed on how patrol parties were to act in case they encountered each other.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited China in 2006

These encounters do take place and the two sides have a specified drill in such cases, which appears to have worked well over the years.

But now, the threat to a stable India-China relationship is coming not from the governments, but from sections within the media.

If the largely private Indian media is belligerent about China, a response is beginning to emerge from the Chinese side as well.

"India likes to brag about its sustainable development, but worries that it is being left behind by China. China is seen in India as both a potential threat and a competitor to surpass," the state-run Global Times wrote in June this year.

In essence, a media war, initiated by a few Indian television channels and newspapers, has now been joined from the Chinese side as the Global Times opinion piece indicates.

Briefing editors of national dailies, a senior Indian official suggested that there was no point in the press showing any "hysteria".

Not many journalists, it would appear, want to listen to such suggestions.

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