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China wants media wall

New Delhi, Dec. 13: China today gently prodded India to rein in its media, whom Beijing distrusts so much that it wants Premier Wen Jiabao not to face journalists during his three-day state visit from Wednesday.

In talks with Indians, Chinese officials have repeatedly blamed the Indian media’s “exaggerated” reports for the recent tensions in bilateral relations, which Chinese envoy Zhang Yan went so far as to term “very fragile” today.

Beijing doesn’t want Wen and Manmohan Singh to address the customary joint news conference during the visit. If the Chinese have their way, which seems likely, there may not even be a joint declaration after the delegation-level talks between the two Prime Ministers.

“China-India relations are very fragile and very easy to be damaged and very difficult to repair. Therefore, they need special care in the information age,” envoy Zhang today told a seminar on India-China relations.

Zhang said both sides should try to create an objective and friendly environment. “To achieve this, the government should provide guidance to the public,” Zhang said.

South Block sources say the Chinese routinely ask the Indians to learn from the way they control their own media — a thorny subject, especially considering the way Beijing even blocked the international media from beaming the Peace Nobel ceremony to China.

Beijing has long felt upset at the way sections of the Indian media project China as India’s biggest enemy. Even Indian ministers and officials had accused the media of exaggeration during the recent controversy over Beijing’s “incursions” into Arunachal Pradesh.

Indians have tried explaining to the Chinese that the media’s views may not necessarily be those of the government. Today, this job fell on foreign secretary Nirupama Rao.

She told the seminar: “Our Chinese friends are increasingly exposed to the vibrant, I would say noisy, nature of our democracy. The fact is that many schools of thought contend.... But I would urge them to understand that there is a certain very commonsensical, very rational approach that we in India have to China.”

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