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Indians living along the border with China are eyeing their neighbor with envy, admiring the fast-paced development in China's southwest region, according to a Financial Times report published Sunday.
Mani Shankar Aiyar, a former Indian diplomat and cabinet minister with responsibility for the country's volatile northeast region, described China's development as "simply spectacular," the report said.
"What is the mistake we have made by being Indians?" the newspaper quoted him as asking, adding that impoverished local people in India's northeast, bordering China, envy the progress taking place on the Chinese side.
Indian visitors to Tibet are struck by the modernization that has taken place in Lhasa, the region's capital, road building projects and a high-altitude railway link to Beijing, according to the report.
Over the past six decades, northeastern India has been "transformed from the second-richest part of British India to the laggard region it is today," Aiyar criticized.
The newspaper quoted a member of parliament from India's northeastern state of Meghalaya as saying that China made itself felt across the border not with its physical infrastructure or military might, but by a flood of highly competitive consumer goods.
He added that cheap Chinese goods were freely available, and imported telephone accessories were being sold at a tenth of their Indian equivalents.
However, India does not see China in "antagonistic terms," as it believes that there is enough space for both to develop in a "mutually supportive manner while remaining sensitive to each other's concerns and aspirations," the Indian Express quoted External Affairs Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna as saying.
In a year-end review of foreign policy and India's relations with its neighbors, Krishna said, "India lives in a difficult neighborhood" and national security and terrorism originating from "across our borders" would remain a major challenge in 2010.
He expressed India's unhappiness at China's assistance to Pakistan and called Beijing-supported projects on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control in the Kashmir region "illegal."
The mistrust with which India views China has also shown in business.
As the Times of India reported Sunday, India's fear of China's infiltration has taken a toll on Mumbai's weather prediction mechanism.
The administration's hand was forced after the defense ministry vetoed a proposal to allow a team of Chinese officials to visit the high-security Navy Nagar to install a radar system.
Officially, the reason was given as a "technical problem.''
"It was not the first time that Chinese technology met mistrust in India," Sun Shihai, an expert on Asia Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. "The security excuse that blocked the normal bilat-eral trade does no good to each side."
Meanwhile, Indian defense scientists are readying a weapon system to neutralize enemy satellites operating in low-earth orbit, a top defense scientist said in the city of Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, according to The Hindu newspaper.