India cannot “impede its neighbouring countries from cooperating with China in infrastructure development”, a column in the Chinese state-run Global Times said on Monday, referring to New Delhi’s opposition to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. “It is strange that the onlooker is more anxious than the players,” the article read. “While India cares about its neighbours’ debt burden, the neighbours appear willing to take on more.”

Although the report – titled “India’s refusal to join B&R will not hamper cooperation among other countries” – was published on the English-language website, it was carried in the newspaper or in the more widely-read edition in the local language, indicating that it was aimed at drawing a response from Indian readers.

The editorial came in response to New Delhi’s statement on Saturday, in which it said the project, which includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, does not respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The 3,000-km-long CPEC is aimed at connecting the two countries through a network of railway tracks, roads, pipelines and optical cable fibres. India has been critical of the CPEC as it runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“If India does not want to take a part on the stage, then it should just be a good member of the audience. The role is still available if India changes its mind, but it may only be a small role if it is left too late,” the article said. “...It is regrettable but not a problem that India still maintains its strong opposition to the B&R, even though China has repeatedly said its position on the Kashmir dispute would not change because of the CPEC.”

India’s ties with China soured after the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh was followed by the neighbouring nation renaming parts of the state to “standardised” Chinese names. China has also maintained its cordial ties with Pakistan, even giving Pakistan two patrol ships to help monitor their economic corridor and the Gwadar Port.