Nirmala Sitharaman’s Namaste to Chinese Soldiers is Hailed Across Border

Video showing Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s camaraderie with Chinese soldiers goes viral in both countries.


A little over a month after the Doklam stand-off ended, a video of Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s interaction with Chinese soldiers at Nathu La has gone viral — both in India and China. Her unscripted camaraderie with the soldiers, who greeted her with a “Ni hao”, has made experts as well as common netizens appreciate her “goodwill gesture”.

Sitharaman, India’s first woman defence minister, visited the forward post to meet Indian troops on Oct.7. Chinese media outlets too shared the video, in which Sitharaman is seen teaching the meaning of the word “namaste” to the neighboring country’s soldiers. Her gesture received largely positive comments on Weibo, the Chinese social media equivalent of Twitter.

“The Indian woman defence minister directly faced the tough border problem. Such a brave woman,” wrote Tu Yueyue on Weibo. However, some Chinese social media users felt their army’s interpreter was “too humble”.

Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, believed that the greeting “sent a goodwill signal towards mending bilateral ties and putting relations back on track toward normality”, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

“Though leaders of the two countries are exploring more cooperation, the focus and priority of the two countries is to avoid friction and conflict,” another expert, Hu Shisheng, said to the publication.

In a separate editorial, the newspaper said that the Indian defence minister’s “friendly interactions with Chinese soldiers” had “diluted” her “aggressive gesture” of inspecting the airport near border area, which will be put to use in November, during her visit to Sikkim.

“New Delhi needs to exercise restraint,” it said. “It can only strengthen military infrastructure on its own soil when and where international law permits. It should consider deepening strategic security communication with China, which can enhance mutual trust between China and India.

“China advocates good-neighborliness and exercises enormous restraint and patience during the Doklam crisis.”

The Doklam stand-off, which began in June this year, ended in August, a few days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Beijing. The conflict was over the construction of a road by China at Doklam plateau, which Bhutan also claims as part of its territory. Tensions escalated when India deployed soldiers to stop the Chinese construction activities in the area. The two countries announced the withdrawal of their troops in August-end. China is said to have started constructing another road on the Doklam plateau, with 500 soldiers protecting construction crew, NDTV reported last week.

Watch the video here:

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