It behaved as it should
China did whatever it could to deny and delay the liberalisation of international nuclear trade with India. It did so in characteristic fashion, using indirect means until the very end. (But it was a diplomatic failure for China, because despite coming out directly, it didn’t manage to block the consensus).
Those who expected China to behave otherwise had deluded themselves into believing their own statements that “there is room for both India and China to rise in Asia” and that India doesn’t believe in balance-of-power politics and suchlike. As C Raja Mohan said in his interview with Pragati this month, “the problem, however, is that China’s rise is taking place a lot faster than that of India. As we look to the future, it is inevitable that India will constantly rub against China in different parts of Asia and beyond. There will be many elements of competition and some opportunities for cooperation with China. Managing this immensely dynamic relationship with China will be the single most important challenge for India’s security policy in the coming years.”
It’s not only about delivering diplomatic snubs. While those are useful in their own way, India must be prepared to drive it in at times and places where it hurts, while simultaneously engaging in mutually beneficial co-operation in other areas. [See one China policy—there isn’t one.] Stability in bilateral relations is a worthy policy objective, but the lesson from Vienna is that it can’t be achieved by pusillanimity, good intentions and unilateral diffidence alone.