DELHI (Agencies) China is seeking to expand its influence in South Asia at Indias expense, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned in rare public criticism of his countrys main rival for regional resources and geopolitical clout. Singhs comments follow repeated diplomatic sparring between the two Asian powers over the last two years, reflecting growing friction over their disputed borders and roles as emerging global powers despite bilateral trade that has grown 30-fold since 2000. China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality, Singh was quoted as saying by The Times of India on Tuesday. We have to be aware of this.
There is a new assertiveness among the Chinese. It is difficult to tell which way it will go. So its important to be prepared.
Singh said China could use Indias 'soft underbelly of Kashmir, a region disputed with Pakistan, to keep India in low level equilibrium.
But the newspaper also quoted Singh as saying he believed the world was large enough for India and China to 'cooperate and compete.
An official at the Indian prime ministers office, on condition of anonymity, said the newspaper quotes were correct.
China defeated India in a 1962 war, but they still spar over their disputed 3,500 km border and the presence of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in India. Chinas support for Indias arch-enemy Pakistan has not helped defuse tensions.
India holds 45 percent of the disputed Himalayan region while Pakistan controls a third. China holds the remainder of Kashmir, while India and Pakistan, have fought two wars over the territory.
His (Singhs) understanding is China has crossed the red lines that affect Indias core sovereignty concerns, said Srikanth Kondapalli, chairman of the Centre for East Asian Studies at New Delhis Jawaharlal Nehru University.
There are green lines such as trade but there are concerns there as well, such as the (trade) imbalance and anti-dumping concerns. There is also a realisation in India that you have to make your displeasure more explicit to be taken seriously.