Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman waved at Chinese soldiers and taught them how to say “Namaste” during a recent visit to the India-China border amid tensions between the two rival nations.
“Acknowledged a row of Chinese soldiers from across the fence who were taking pictures on my reaching Nathu La,” tweeted Sitharaman, the Indian Express reports:
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) October 7, 2017
— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) October 8, 2017
China appeared to welcome the Indian minister’s gestures at the border.
Citing Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, China’s state-controlled Global Times reports, “The greeting sent a goodwill signal towards mending bilateral ties and putting relations back on track toward normality.”
The defense minister’s trip to India’s Nathu La border post in the state of Sikkim comes after a 73-day standoff that occurred nearby this year between the two neighboring countries — in the Doklam Plateau region, about 20 miles from Nathu La.
Nathu La is a Himalayan mountain pass that separates the Indian state of Sikkim from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Doklam also borders Sikkim and China’s Tibet region.
Although the confrontation between the two nuclear-armed countries reportedly wound down near the end of August, Beijing recently ordered 500 of its soldiers to deploy to Doklam, according to India’s NDTV.
Citing a video of Sitharaman’s “interaction” with Chinese soldiers at the border posted online by India’s defense minister’s official Twitter account, the Hindu reports that the Indian official greeted the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel with a “namaste.”
The video shows her explaining what “namaste” means to a Chinese soldier, who “appeared confused.”
When the Chinese soldiers figured out that “Namaste” is a greeting, Sitharaman asks, “What would you say in Chinese?”
“Ni hao,” the PLC soldiers reportedly replies, triggering laughter on both sides.
The Indian Express reveals that the Indian defense chief also “waved” at Chinese soldiers across the border.
China is stronger than India militarily and economically, but Bejing considers New Delhi to be a rival.
“India’s army has a deep-rooted perception that China is a security rival for India and the army is taking a chance by bargaining for more support in the national defense budget,” Qian tells Global Times.
Despite the recent stand-off between India and China, the Global Times argues, “Sino-Indian relations are entering a new era of crisis management where Indian leadership should seek to fix stagnated ties.”
India should “consider deepening strategic security communication with China, which can enhance mutual trust between China and India,” urges the Global Times in a separate article, an editorial.
“Maintaining Sino-Indian friendship is a strategic instinct and a rational choice for China,” it adds.
Flexing its muscle, the newspaper called on India to “overcome its [security] paranoia and China has no obligation to indulge India’s capriciousness.”
“China advocates good-neighborliness and exercises enormous restraint and patience during the Doklam crisis,” notes the Global Times. “India should try to keep its security concerns at a reasonable level, but it would be hysterical if New Delhi risked peace and development for security worries.”