Indian Decade

Shut Up! Diplomacy

China’s ambassador to India causes a minor incident after telling an Indian journalist to “Shut up.”

Two related incidents in New Delhi risk putting a dampener on India-China relations, even as the two sides are set to engage each other in key bilateral meetings later this month – talks that are poised to include discussions over the two countries’ disputed border.

First, Chinese officials distributed leaflets at a business function in New Delhi that included maps showing parts of India as being located in China and Pakistan. The meeting was attended by Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yan and India’s top China diplomat, Gautam Bambawale. But what was supposed to be a forward looking function covering Chinese investment in India became heated after Zhang told an Indian journalist to “Shut up!” for pointing out the mistake with the map.

The journalist responded: ‘This is not China. This is India. We have full freedom here. How can you ask a journalist to shut up if he is asking you a question?’

The map was produced by a Chinese firm that was signing an investment deal for the Indian state of Gujarat. Bambawale had reportedly already pointed out the Chinese mistake to Zhang before the event began. Asked about the incident, the BBC reported Zhang as saying that the Indian journalist had “pushed, pushed, pushed” despite having been told that the problem with the map was “a technical issue” that would be amended.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

“We are working for friendlier ties with India…this will not help,” he reportedly said.

External Affairs Ministry sources say India’s political brass has taken a very serious view of the incidents, and the government has sent a strongly worded demarche through diplomatic channels. The Chinese company’s brochure contained a map of India showing Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, and Pakistan occupied Kashmir as part of Pakistan.

Zhang for his part said that he had raised the issue with the Chinese company in question, Tebian Electric Apparatus (TBEA), which manufactures high-voltage transformers. The firm has reportedly signed an accord with the government of Gujarat government with a view to setting up a manufacturing facility there, with an initial investment worth $100 million.But Zhang was keen to point out that the brochure containing the map was distributed by TBEA and that it had no connection with the Chinese government.

Still, the unusual spat is an unwelcome distraction as China’s special representative Dai Bingguo prepares to visit India for the 15th round of discussions on the disputed border with India.