Even as expectations are high over the maiden visit of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister to China next week (14-16 May), he had reached out to Chinese netizens by opening an account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Modi is keen to further boost the commercial and trade relations between the two Asian giants, though the still unresolved and festering border dispute has been a veritable thorn in the flesh.
However, his good intention to greet Chinese ahead of his visit to China on May 14, has evoked a mixed response. While some messages have welcomed his visit, others criticised India’s stand on Arunachal Pradesh and its relations with Pakistan, all-weather ally of China.
Modi’s inaugural post in Weibo: “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo,” had received a swift response. Within five hours, Modi had attracted more than 20,000 followers to his account.
Further, the Prime Minister pointed out the common factors that bind India and China – Buddhism and Asian solidarity. “I wish everyone happiness on Buddha’s birthday. Today we remember Buddha’s ideals and commands, he preached the ideals of harmony and brotherhood and had a vision of a peaceful world. Buddhism is a unifying force across Asian countries. It can be one form of strong cohesion as the world enters the Asian era,” he noted.
Though the Communist Party of China is officially atheist, President Xi Jinping sp0ke on the impact of Buddhism in China during a speech at Unesco headquarters in Paris last March even as only 18 per cent of Chinese people are Buddhist.
Modi’s debut show on Chinese social media attracted 8,000 likes. But the likes are marred by two issues affecting bilateral ties – the status of Arunachal Pradesh and the issue of dealing with Pakistan. Some of them pointed out that Zangnan or South Tibet, the Chinese nomenclature for Arunachal Pradesh, should be given to China.
“Zangnan belongs to China,” and “Welcome, welcome! By the way, Zangnan is ours,” said one of the responses. Another one noted caustically: “The southern part of Tibet belongs to China, and Kashmir belongs to Pakistan.”