Is the prospect of a Trump-Modi partnership making China nervous?

India is of one few major countries in good books of Donald Trump. As he castigated traditional US allies and tore down China in his campaign speeches, the flamboyant New Yorker’s rhetoric on India was friendly and encouraging of stronger US-India cooperation under his presidency.

Trump has made no secret of his admiration for  Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his campaign speeches calling him a ‘great man’, and the Indian strongman reciprocated the kind word saying that Trump would be ‘more inclined to India’.

(Source: Youtube)

The growing bonhomie didn’t go unnoticed in Beijing, which seems to be reading the writing on the wall.

The Trump Factor

America would develop stronger partnership with India under Trump, a recent editorial in a Chinese government backed newspaper, The Global Times, read.

It however predicted that India wouldn’t enter into an anti-China alliance with Washington, an idea that’s often mooted in security circles in both the countries in order to combat growing Chinese influence in the region.

“The US attempts of establishing a quasi-alliance with India to restrict China may not be accepted by India as the country owns an independent diplomatic tradition,” the article said.

In India, China’s favorable prediction about US-India alliance is being viewed as ‘wishful thinking’ and indication of Chinese anxiety over India’s burgeoning ties with the US. The Asian giant has territorial disputes with India as well maritime ones with US allies in the South China Sea, that makes it a potential rival to both the US and India.

“They are nervous,” a former diplomat at India’s foreign ministry, Kanwal Sibal, said during a recent interview to Catch News. “China has to learn that they can’t keep on opposing India on the international stage, at the UN Security Council, in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and in PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir),” he said.

“They can’t have it both ways.”

American support to Modi’s Act East Policy

Prime Minster Modi’s engagement with countries bordering China, as part of his Act East policy, has made Beijing wary, more so because of Washington’s support to the initiative. The US views India’s Act East Policy as complementing America’s efforts to limit China’s hegemony in East Asia, home to numerous US military bases in Japan and South Korea.

A recent trip by Richard Verma, the US’ Ambassador to India, to Arunachal Pradesh sparked diplomatic protest from Beijing which lays claim on the Indian Himalayan state, lying along the eastern edge of the long and disputed India-China border.

“We urge the United States to stop getting involved in the China-India territorial dispute and do more to benefit this region’s peace and tranquility,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reportedly reacted to the ambassador’s visit.

Also, Modi last year became the first Indian leader to ever visit Mongolia and offered a $1 billion credit line to China’s northern neighbor.

The Indian loan offer drew sharp reactions in China, with the state media terming the prospect of a Mongolia-India partnership as a ‘harebrained idea’. China considers Mongolia its own backyard and wields considerable clout over the landlocked country due to being its biggest trading partner.

The predominantly Buddhist country  was in November hit by Chinese sanctions as payback for playing host to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in November, a move that angered China that considers him as separatist.

Aggressive Chinese reaction

There were shrill calls in Chinese media last week for China to ramp up its nuclear stockpile in order to better deal with a Trump presidency, after it was revealed that Donald Trump had had a telephonic conversation with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

The highly aggressive push for nuclear weapons in the official media made light of the fact that the country is a signatory to the NPT, an international treaty that prohibits member countries from acquiring new nuclear weapons.

Trump made China see red  after he questioned US’ four decade old commitment to ‘One-China policy’, under which Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and sees its unification with mainland China as the ultimate goal.

Trump’s latest statements are expected to further rattle the Communist Party leadership, which views US’ support for Taiwan as meddling in China’s internal matters.

All the evolving geopolitics seems to be getting under the skin of authorities in Beijing for now, as it deploys aggressive rhetoric to mask its underlying fears.