A reminder for China: India is free | HT Editorial

Last week, the Chinese embassy in India issued an advisory to the Indian media — asking it to follow the Government of India’s position on the Taiwan question and not violate the one-China policy. The advisory came in the run up to Taiwan’s National Day on Saturday. This, legitimately, sparked outrage among Indian journalists. It also prompted the ministry of external affairs to say that the Indian media is free and reports on issues as it sees fit. This was then, followed, with the appearance of posters greeting Taiwan in Delhi’s key diplomatic enclave, put up by a local Delhi leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With the embassy complaining, they were taken down, but only because they weren’t authorised.

The episode reflects the undemocratic orientation of the Chinese embassy — much in line with the nature of the one-party regime in China. India is a proud democracy. It has a free and vibrant media. There is a healthy foreign policy debate conducted out in the open. Beijing’s actions in recent years, and its military aggression in Ladakh, have antagonised the Indian street. There is today a strong view that India must speak up against Chinese efforts to institute its hegemony.

The media will, as it must, give space to these views. The government will, as it must, respect diplomatic norms. In fact, many would suggest that it has too cautious in its approach to Chinese sensitivities. But the media is within its right to flag issues, and expand the foreign policy discourse. China should not think it can do in India what it does in its own country, and suppress the media. If it wants goodwill among Indians, it should instead reform its behaviour.

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