In Sino-Indian relations, a simple Namaste can apparently make a big difference. The video of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s friendly interaction with a Chinese PLA commander and a captain at Nathu La, the border outpost in Sikkim Saturday, is making waves on both Indian and Chinese social media. The videos were posted in two parts on the Indian defence ministry’s official website.
The first part shows her explain what the Indian greeting really means, with the Chinese officers responding with a folded hands and “Ni Hao”, the Chinese hello. When the interpreter says that his first name stands for King in Mandarin, Sitharaman quips she is honoured to have a monarch translate for her. In the second video, the Chinese side declares that India and China are two “great nations” and wish each other and their countrymen well.
The videos were apparently well received by China social media sites like Sina Weibo and other platforms, though some users felt the Chinese interpreter was “too humble”. Sitharaman, who was on her maiden visit to the region as defence minister, was in Nathu La for a day, and was expected to conduct an aerial survey of the region which had recently witnessed an over two-month long standoff between the two nations at Doka La, a few hours southeast of Nathu La. However, reports said the survey of the forward bases had to be called off due to bad weather.
The next day she was in Tezpur Air Force Station in Assam, where she interacted with senior officers and reviewed its operational readiness. As for her Nathu La Namaste, the Chinese state-run Global Times, which had launched a virulent anti-India crusade during the Doka La standoff, declared that her “friendly interactions with Chinese soldiers” had “diluted” her “aggressive gesture” of inspecting border areas during her visit. However, it added, “Indian nationalists over-estimate India’s strength and rights, assuming New Delhi can bark orders across the border at Beijing.” So much for a simple Namaste.