Going by the gracious and good-natured exchanges at the Nathu La border post with China, one would have found it difficult to guess that the Indian and the Chinese armies were engaged in a bitter standoff in nearby Dokala till just a month and a half back.
But it was soft diplomacy at its best when defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman greeted Chinese military officials with an Indian customary ‘namaste’ at the Nathu La border during her official visit to the place.
Greeting them with a customary ‘namaste’, she asked the PLA officials if they knew what it meant. Cutting short an Indian Army official who tried to explain to the Chinese what it meant, she told him, “Let them explain, they know what it is.”
The bemused Chinese soldiers hit it right when they burst out it was a ‘Ni Hao’ or a Chinese ‘hello, how are you’.
And after that, it was ‘namaste’ all the way as the PLA officers smartly folded their palms and blurted ‘namaste’.
The Chinese PLA Captain who was doing the translation introduced himself as someone with royal antecedents to which the minister promptly said, “So we have a king to do the translation” which brought good cheer among the men from both sides.
The defence minister—India’s first full-time lady defence minister—also waved at Chinese soldiers posted across the border at Nathu La and even tweeted a photo where she was seen smiling and waving at, what she said was, “a row of Chinese soldiers from across the fence who were taking pictures [of Sitharaman] reaching Nathu La.” Ms Sitharaman’s scheduled aerial survey of Doklam and other forward posts along the Indo-Sino border in Sikkim was cancelled due to inclement weather.
“However, she made her aerial survey of Gangtok and surrounding areas from the new Greenfield Pakyong Airport in Sikkim,” read statement after her return from the Nathu-la Border during the afternoon,” said a statement issued by the Department of Information and Public Relations, Government of Sikkim.