As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Japan on Thursday night for a three-day visit, China asked India and Japan to “respect its legitimate concerns”.

A couple of days back, Beijing expressed serious concern over New Delhi’s plan to import US-2 Shinmaywa amphibious aircraft fromTokyo. On Friday, senior spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Lu Kang warned both New Delhi and Tokyo against issuing statements on the South China Sea (SCS) dispute. Speaking at a media conference in the Chinese capital, the spokesperson said: “We have no problem with our neighbours developing normal relations. We hope that when they develop their relationships they can respect legitimate concerns of their neighbours and contribute to regional peace and stability.”

Earlier, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said that Prime Minister Modi would try hard to strengthen economic and security ties withJapan. The Indian ministry also hinted that the visiting PM might request Japan to help the South Asian country counter China’s growing influence in the region. In response, Chinese daily ‘Global Times’ said in an article that “India would not benefit much by balancing China through Japan”, instead “it would lead to more mistrust between New Delhi and Beijing”.

The Chinese official media warned India might suffer great losses, in terms of trade, from China, if it joins Japan to ask Beijing to abide by the international tribunal’s ruling quashing China’s claim over the SCS. The daily also described India as a non-claimant to the SCS and an outsider, saying that India has no legitimate right to any neighbour’s “legitimate” matter. According to Global Times, India will make a mistake if it plans to join hands with China’s major rivals (read Japan and the US).

Meanwhile, the top Chinese political leadership has appreciated Singapore’s decision to ignore India’s request to mention the SCS in a joint statement following PM Modi’s recent visit to the country. Liu stressed: “India should realise that the SCS disputes have passed the pinnacle of tensions. The rejection shows India lacks legitimacy and leadership in making new waves in the SCS. India should beware of the possibility that by becoming embroiled in the disputes, it might end up being a pawn of the US.” The spokesperson further advised India to “put more efforts into resolving problems, like the imbalance of their trade ties” jointly with China.

Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said that India and Japan would sign a civil nuclear deal during Modi’s stay in Tokyo. Issuing a statement on the PM’s visit, he also said that Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe would discuss ways to strengthen bilateral co-operation in trade, investment and security.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]