China is seeking to expand its influence in South Asia at India’s expense, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned in rare public criticism of his country’s rival for regional resources and geopolitical clout.
Singh’s comments follow repeated diplomatic sparring between the two Asian powers in the last two years, reflecting growing friction over their disputed borders and roles as emerging global powers despite bilateral trade that has grown 30-fold since 2000.
“China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality,” Singh was quoted as saying by The Times of India on Tuesday. “We have to be aware of this.”
“There is a new assertiveness among the Chinese. It is difficult to tell which way it will go. So it’s important to be prepared.”
The newspaper also quoted Singh as saying that China could use India’s “soft underbelly” of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) to keep India in low level equilibrium.”
But it also quoted Singh as saying he believed the world was large enough for India and China to “cooperate and compete”.
An official at the prime minister’s office, on condition of anonymity, said the newspaper quotes were correct. The Chinese foreign ministry had no immediate comment.