India’s review of China relations overdue

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/17 20:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

According to The Indian Express, India's Standing Committee on External Affairs will "examine the whole gamut of Sino-Indian relations," including "the issue of 'cooperation' between India and China in international organizations," "India's bid for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council and entry to the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group)," "Pakistan-based terrorists" and other disputes between Beijing and New Delhi in recent years.

However, these enquiries are far from enough when it comes to correctly understanding and defining the Sino-Indian relationship. New Delhi must evaluate whether Beijing is a friend, a competitor, or an enemy strategically, which determines how India sees China and China's actions, so as to formulate its China policy.

For a long time, India has treated China as a major threat to its national security. However, as the world's second-largest economy, China is a major partner of New Delhi and plays a crucial role in the latter's economic development. With China's support, India's pursuit of major-power status can proceed more smoothly; otherwise, it will be very difficult to realize. Therefore, a proper policy toward Beijing is related not only to India's security and development, but also to its great power dream.

The recent decision of an overall evaluation of Sino-Indian relations is obviously relevant to the recent Doklam standoff, the worst row between the two in 55 years, which brought them to the brink of war. India sent its army to Doklam citing concerns over the Siliguri Corridor's security. Apparently, the move was made by treating Beijing as New Delhi's enemy.

As the Chinese navy increases its activities and presence in the Indian Ocean, many small countries of the Indian Ocean rim such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the Seychelles do not see it as a threat. Yet India, more powerful than the others, deems it as a menace while trying to get closer to the US and Japan to take precautions against it. While Nepal and Bhutan treat China's infrastructure construction in the border areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region as an opportunity, New Delhi felt it was threatened.

Most of India's neighbors in South Asia also share borders with China. Those nations need not only friendly cooperation with New Delhi but also collaboration with Beijing and other countries.

Nevertheless, since India regards China as a threat, the latter's mutually beneficial cooperation with South Asian nations is considered as a move to encircle and contain the former, which leads to more countermeasures from India.

How India sees China will determine the former's attitude over economic cooperation with the latter. China's well-made goods with competitive prices are quite attractive to Indian consumers. Chinese investment helps create more employment opportunities in India and promote the development of India's industrialization. Thanks to its advantages in infrastructure sector, China can help India improve its own infrastructure at a lower cost but with high efficiency. Yet if New Delhi sees China as a threat, it will be bound to place restrictions on Beijing's investment and infrastructure construction. In the end, it won't be able to take advantage of all the opportunities provided by China.

Turning its back against China, India will have to maintain a large army and purchase expensive and advanced weapons instead of cutting military spending in order to invest limited resources in economic development as China did in the early stages of its reform and opening-up.

Paradoxically, New Delhi has been seeking Beijing's support for its goal to assume permanent membership of the UN Security Council, and is requesting China's help in a number of other major issues, such as its bid to join the NSG, and in anti-terrorism. It is hard to imagine that China will back a country, which considers it as an enemy, to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Some Chinese scholars suggested after the Doklam incident a need for strategic assessments of India and Beijing-New Delhi relations too, in order to adjust China's policy toward India. Some believe China should support Indian separatist forces as tit for tat against India's support toward Tibet independence forces. Some also say that if ties between Beijing and New Delhi become hostile, investments by Chinese enterprises and participation in Indian infrastructure construction should be restricted. Yet more people believe that China should turn the crisis into an opportunity, enhance bilateral strategic communication, rational analysis and assessment.

It is hoped that India can make a comprehensive review of China-India relations, draw a professional, rational and responsible conclusion, properly guide its media and the public's attitude toward China, as well as reduce misleading reports from unqualified media news outlets and experts, so as to promote a correct understanding of Beijing and provide an authoritative reference for the Indian government.

The author is a senior research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center of India Studies at China West Normal University.


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