India and China are kicking out each others’ journalists in latest strain on ties

Hong Kong

India and China are on track to have few or no accredited journalists in each other’s countries – the latest sign that relations between the world’s two most populous nations are strained.

New Delhi on Friday urged Chinese authorities to facilitate “the continued presence” of Indian journalists working and reporting in the country, saying the two sides are “keeping in touch” on the issue.

Three of the four journalists from major Indian publishing houses based in China have been withdrawn from Beijing since April this year, a person in the Indian media with first-hand experience told CNN.

Meanwhile, Beijing said last week that due to the country’s “unfair and discriminatory treatment” of its reporters, there is only one Chinese reporter left in India and that the reporter’s visa is not yet to be extended.

“The Chinese side has no choice but to take appropriate countermeasures,” Mao Ning, spokesman for the foreign ministry, said at a regular briefing when asked about a Wall Street Journal report that first detailed the recent expulsions of journalists both sides reported.

The situation is the latest flashpoint in the strained relationship between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which has deteriorated in recent years amid rising nationalism in both countries and unrest on the disputed border.

The decline in the number of journalists — which includes those from both China’s state media and India’s major media outlets — is likely to further sour those ties and insight into each other’s political and social circumstances, at a time when little is being done about it There is room for misunderstandings.

Tensions between the two continued to escalate after a longstanding territorial dispute erupted in a deadly clash in Aksai Chin-Ladakh in 2020. India’s defense minister accused China in April of violating existing border agreements and undermining “the entire basis” of bilateral relations.

Nor is it the first time in recent years that journalists have been caught in a geopolitical crosshairs.

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China accused the US of “political action” in 2020 after Washington cut the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work at Chinese state media offices in the US, citing “surveillance, harassment and intimidation” of foreign reporters in China and the need to do ‘level the playing field.

Beijing hit back by barring journalists from several major US newspapers. Both sides also imposed visa restrictions on each other’s media organizations.

The number of foreign reporters in China has declined in recent years due to the expulsion of American newspapers, Beijing’s intimidation of reporters with Australian affiliates, and lengthy visa approval delays in an increasingly restrictive and hostile media environment for foreign reporters.

On Sunday, Xinhua published a first-person report by Hu Xiaoming, the bureau chief of the state agency in New Delhi since 2017, in which he described the “agony” of Chinese reporters’ “visa dispute” in India.

“The Indian government’s brutal treatment has put enormous psychological pressure on Chinese journalists in India,” wrote Hu, who said the Indian government rejected his visa extension in March on the grounds that he had stayed in the country too long.

Due to India’s visa policy, “only one journalist with a valid visa now works at Xinhua’s New Delhi branch,” the article said.

When asked at a regular briefing on Friday, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the number of Chinese journalists in the country.

“All foreign journalists, including Chinese journalists, have been engaged in journalistic activities in India without restrictions or difficulties in reporting,” spokesman Arindam Bagchi said.

Bagchi did not confirm that Indian reporters had lost their accreditation in China, but said such reporters have had difficulties doing their jobs there.

In April, the Hindu newspaper published an article saying the Chinese Foreign Ministry had decided to “freeze” the visas of its Beijing correspondent, Ananth Krishnan, and a second journalist, Anshuman Mishra of Indian public broadcaster Prasar Barahti.

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When asked about the measures taken at the time, an official at China’s foreign ministry said Beijing was responding to the “unfair” treatment of its reporters in recent years, including demands that the Xinhua reporter leave in March. That situation was followed by another in 2021, when a reporter from the state’s CGTN with a valid visa was told to leave the country, the official said.

Beijing has not said if there are currently other Chinese reporters with valid India visas outside of India

China exercises tight control over its state media, which it sees as a means of spreading its propaganda messages abroad.

A Western correspondent, who is among many awaiting visas to China, said the situation of Indian reporters “fits a pattern we’ve seen in recent years, linking the approval of journalist visas in China to the issuance of visas to China became state media reporters in other countries and on bilateral relations more broadly.”

India, on the other hand, is under increasing scrutiny because of what some observers believe is limited press freedom and censorship.

Earlier this year, Indian authorities raided BBC newsrooms in New Delhi and Mumbai, citing allegations of tax evasion. Weeks after the country banned a British broadcaster documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in deadly riots more than 20 years ago.

The recent situation with reporters from both countries “amounts to a total loss of trust between both governments,” said Manoj Kewalramani, a fellow in China Studies at Takshashila Institution in Bengaluru.

Since Chinese reporters work for state media companies, Kewalramani says New Delhi likely considers them “state actors” as well.

If New Delhi doesn’t approve its reporter visas, as Beijing claims, it could be an example of India’s strategy of imposing “costs” on China that don’t involve military escalation but can still put pressure on Beijing to return to the status quo on the border, he said he.

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Since the conflict there in 2020, India has taken several steps to crack down on China, including banning social media platform TikTok and other well-known Chinese apps on the grounds that they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity,” and At the same time, steps were taken to block Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE are no longer allowed to deploy their 5G network.

Amid concerns in New Delhi that China could become an increasingly powerful regional force, the Indian government has also strengthened its ties with the United States, including through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad – a grouping of Japan, the US, India and Australia, which is widely viewed as a counterbalance to an increasingly assertive China.

China boycotted an India-hosted Group of 20 (G20) tourism meeting in the Himalayan territory of Jammu and Kashmir last month, saying it opposes “holding any type of G20 meeting in disputed areas.” India and Pakistan both claim the entire disputed Kashmir region.

A regional bloc that has provided China and India with a forum for meetings — the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — will meet this summer, but virtually ruled out what would have been the next expected opportunity for a meeting in person, according to an announcement by this year’s host India Face to face between Modi and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

When it comes to journalists’ presence on the ground, fewer Indian reporters in China would hamper a more nuanced understanding of the country in India — and could also have a negative impact on Beijing, Kewalramani said.

“Beijing has long urged the Indian government and people to have an independent view of China (separate from it) and to look through the western prism,” he said.

“If you deny our reporters access to the country, how do we develop this independent perspective?”


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