India and China expel each other’s journalists as rivalry escalates

By Pratap Chakravarty - RFI

India and China have effectively booted out each other's journalists amid reports of the cancellation of a regular summit that would have brought China's president to Delhi for face-to-face talks.

Beijing threatened to use “appropriate countermeasures” after Delhi last month refused to renew visas of two remaining Chinese state media journalists in India.

They were the last of the official Chinese media in India.

“For a long time Chinese media reporters have suffered unfair and discriminatory treatment in India,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said. 

Mao claimed India shortened visa validity of Chinese reporters “without reason” in 2017 and three years later it rejected applications of media personnel seeking to be based permanently in India.

She alleged Chinese media professionals faced similar discrimination in 2021, a year after ties between China and India plummeted since a deadly border clash in the Himalayas in 2020. 

“Faced with this long-term unreasonable suppression by the Indian side, China has no choice but to take appropriate countermeasures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media,” Mao said.

Tit for tat

Indian journalists in China fared no better as two have not been granted visas to return to Beijing and a third reportedly told his accreditation has been revoked, but he is still in China.

Ananth Krishnan, a reporter for The Hindu newspaper, tweeted just one Indian journalist remained in China.

Mao said the status of Indian journalists would depend on Delhi's next move as Arindam Bagchi, Indian foreign ministry spokesman, denied the Chinese allegations.

“There are Chinese journalists who have Indian visas for pursuing journalistic activities here (and) so, from that perspective, we don't see any limitations or difficulties in reporting or doing media coverage,” Bagchi said.

“As regards to Indian journalists working in China, we hope that Chinese authorities would facilitate their continued presence and reporting from China,” he added.

China in 2020 kicked out 13 US journalists at the peak of diplomatic skirmishes between the two superpowers at the start of the pandemic.

Online summit

And as the “media war” played out, Delhi announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi would chair the 22nd summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Delhi on Sunday but in a “virtual format.”

Newspapers said the step came as a surprise as SCO heads of states were set to attend the summit physically just like a meeting of their foreign ministers in the Indian state of Goa last month.

A physical summit would have brought Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping together with Modi amid expectations it would have offered some relief in war-stricken Ukraine.

India has drawn flak for importing Russian oil despite US-led war sanctions on Moscow.

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi was also expected in Delhi, which has prickly ties with both Beijing and Islamabad over festering border hostilities.

“The leaders of China and Russia are anyway expected to visit India for the G20 summit in Delhi in September," an official said in Delhi.

Military thaw

However, China and India on Wednesday discussed troop pullout from flashpoints in the Himalayas in a “frank and open manner” and agreed to meet again.

The two militaries agreed to hold fresh talks for “the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” India said.

“Restoration of peace and tranquillity will create conditions for normalising bilateral relations,” it added.

In 1962, China and India fought a brief but a bloody border war. Beijing still claims the entirety of India's Arunachal Pradesh state as its territory.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024