Despite strained ties, no chance of ‘new Cold War’ between China and India

By Lin Minwang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/8 21:38:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Some Western scholars hold that China-India ties have been locked into a state of "new Cold War" because of Indian media outlets hyping up "China-India rivalry" after the political crisis in Maldives and some latest moves by New Delhi.

India is holding the mega naval exercise "Milan 2018" from March 6 to 13 with the participation of at least 16 countries including Australia and Malaysia. Indian media outlets believe the exercise aims to show China India's "strong influence" in the Indian Ocean, a backyard of India. Besides, India's high-ranking officials, including Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, visited China-India border areas recently, aiming to underscore that New Delhi attaches great importance to the disputed areas along the border.

In this context, foreign media outlets and some scholars are not optimistic about the prospects of China-India ties. Alyssa Ayres, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who served in the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department, said in early February that the countries have a "Cold War-like" relationship in the making.

Sino-Indian relations have undergone a severe test in 2017 because of the 72-day Doklam faceoff. As a result, Chinese nationalism against India has been on the rise while India has upped its input in the border areas. Not only did India increase its procurement of border defense equipment, but also purchased many new excavators to improve the infrastructure in border areas. It's reported that India is deploying drones for border surveillance these days, which reveals its rising anxiety over the situation.

Though Sino-Indian ties are becoming increasingly complicated, it is impossible for them to become "cold war-like" as it goes against the interests of both countries. Top leaders of the countries have a consistent assessment of ties. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed during the BRICS Summit in Xiamen that China and India should see each other as development opportunities rather than threats. In December, China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi traveled to India to attend the 20th Special Representatives' Meeting on China-India Boundary Questions and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the 15th meeting of Foreign Ministers of China, Russia and India in New Delhi, All these show that bilateral relations are stabilizing and on the upswing.

Some Indian media outlets claimed that India hasn't received due attention from China. In fact, Beijing has attached great importance to diplomacy with New Delhi. Xi and Modi have met on varied occasions. Modi repeatedly said that India has always paid attention to its relations with China and is willing to strengthen cooperation with Beijing to promote sound and stable development. Frequent Sino-Indian high-level summits and the consensus reached at them can be regarded as cornerstones of the future stability of relations.

More importantly, both countries face the common task of economic development despite geopolitical competition. The report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China pointed out that China should pursue open, innovative, and inclusive development that benefits everyone. For India, economic development and reform have been the goals for a long time. India's diplomacy is required to serve the goal of promoting economic growth.

There are unavoidable bumps between neighbors, but no fundamental contradictions exist between China and India. Almost all problems and disputes between the two sides in recent years are technical problems rather than fundamental strategic differences. For instance, India pursues "hegemonism" in its diplomatic ties with neighboring countries, and it pays more attention to short-term interests rather than mutual benefits. This has led to hurdles in development of China-India relations.

Another reason for strained ties is the perceptual difference in the social system. India media outlets have played a negative role. Privately-owned Indian media outlets, on the one hand, provide space for freedom of expression. On the other hand, they hype up a "hostile" China to draw public attention.

The lack of consideration to appreciate another's behavior is also responsible for the negative perception. Both countries understand each other in their own ways. For example, Chinese people are firm in principles and flexible in concrete operations. However, India is firm in stance and lacks flexibility.

The author is a professor at Fudan University's Center for South Asian Studies.

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