Chinese fans of India’s Bollywood stars spotlight peace despite growing military tensions
Chinese and Indian soldiers are staring one another down across the barrels of missile launchers, mortars and high velocity guns in the frozen wastes of the western Himalayas and leech-infested rain forests of the eastern Himalayas.
Currently, the Indian, American and Japanese navies, including submarines and aircraft and helicopter carriers, are also conducting exercises to counter potential intrusions by China’s increasingly powerful navy into the Indian Ocean.
Beijing is heaping rebukes on India and some Chinese media commentators are repeatedly pointing out that China’s armed forces are far larger than those of India.
But many ordinary people in China are mad about Bollywood, the eternal font of Indian movies packed with action, emotional-roller coasters of unrequited love and grown men crying buckets of remorse because they pained their mothers.
Even as the potentially lethal military posturing continues, hope grows that the budding love of Chinese fans for Bollywood will keep the lid on their government’s ire until new agreements are signed to settle border and naval disputes.
The current naval war games are focusing on the Malacca Straits that link the South Asian subcontinent to South East Asia and the South China Sea. The narrow Straits are uniquely strategic because they carry over 70 percent of merchandise trade to and from the Far East.
The exercises are important because of the Chinese navy’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea to push back the US Navy’s dominance in the region since World War II.
Delhi and Washington are wary of China’s growing fleet of high speed and stealthy submarines that regularly enter waters around India, which has a 4,700-mile southern coastline. Much of its security and energy infrastructure is located nearby.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration decided to sell India some $2 billion worth of its most powerful ocean surveillance drones to keep tabs on Chinese naval activity in the area.
China’s Xi Jinping and India’s Narendra Modi may be hypocrites as they smilingly pump hands for the cameras at the recent G20 Summit or bear-hug to profess friendship between their two ancient nations.
But the real friendship that is building is the one among fans of Indian muscle-man stars like Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan.
According to Indian media reports, five movies grossed almost one billion dollars in China during the first six months of 2017 despite featuring Indian actors in Indian settings. That was one quarter percent of all Chinese ticket sales.
An Aamir Khan story released in December 2016 earned some $200 million in China this year. It is a true story about Indian wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat who would have preferred a champion wrestler son but ended up with four daughters.
In true “can do” spirit he trained two of them to become wrestlers. Geeta Phogat won a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and sister Babita Kumari won silver. Chinese fans loved it.
Chinese superstar Jackie Chan shot Kung Fu Yoga mostly in India and co-starred Indian actors. Reportedly, it was China’s sixth largest grosser ever in January at $250 million.
The people of China and India seem to have a lot in common despite long-standing Himalayan border disputes from west to east and sharp scolds by Beijing about Delhi’s reverence for the Dalai Lama.
Many ordinary people have similar outlooks on life derived from Buddhism, including filial love for parents and family, almost religion-like veneration of education and reliance on self-help to move forward in life.
Most Indian movies carry messages about social uplift like tolerance of other religions, respect and empowerment of women and fighting corruption.
They are suspicious of government and officialdom and often spotlight rural and small-town poverty, migration from villages to cities, life in slums and mistreatment of daughters-in-law.
Families in movies dote on children. They also triumph over tough odds through determination, courage, ruse and working together. Chinese people seem to love such values and happy-endings.
Meanwhile, Indian and Chinese soldiers are literally pushing and shoving at one another over a sliver of territory in a remote east Himalayan mountain pass.
China is trying to build a road across that sliver in Bhutan that serves as a trijunction among the three countries. Chinese troops and road construction crews moved into the Bhutanese Dokalam area on June 16, prompting that peaceful nation’s King to call Delhi for help.
Ever vigilant, the Indians dispatched unarmed soldiers who bumped chests with their Chinese visitors “without punching or kicking” to force them backwards.
Indian media trumpeted their success but Chinese media warned of war, some claiming that Chinese troops could be in Delhi within two hours of an invasion. That sent Indian nationalists into spasms on WhatsApp.
The Delhi government tried to play down the standoff, which continues, but in blunt remarks China’s Ambassador in Delhi laid all the blame on India.
Asked about the possibility of war, he told Indian reporters, “There has been talk about this option, that option. It is up to your government policy (whether to exercise military option).”
India has a 3,488km Himalayan border with China. Indians call the disputed bit in Bhutan “Doka La”, while Bhutanese call it Dokalam and Beijing sees it as part of China’s Donglang region.
Indian analysts said the intrusion at Dokalam is sensitive because it brings China’s army close to a narrow bit of Indian territory called *chicken’s neck”, which acts as a corridor linking northeast India to the rest of the country.
The northeast includes the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as part of Chinese Tibet. So, military analysts think defending Bhutan’s Dokalam is necessary for the defense of India.
The core of all Himalayan China-India border disputes from west to east are unclear frontiers allegedly agreed by the colonial British in India and China’s imperial government in previous centuries. Those deciders no longer exist.