After Wuhan, new vistas for Sino-Indian ties

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/2 20:23:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

With the aim to better understand China-India relations after the Wuhan meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Center of India Studies of China West Normal University (CWNU) organized an academic symposium on prospects of China-India relations. Below are excerpts of speeches given by four experts at the symposium on June 29.

Lu Yang, research fellow at Institute of the Belt and Road Initiative, Tsinghua University

With growing economic power and the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), China's influence in South Asia has expanded rapidly, which puts India under lot of strategic pressure. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of the BRI, makes India uneasy over security and territorial concerns. India refused to attend the BRI Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, even though most of India's neighbors attended the meeting and signed a number of infrastructure deals with China.

India also believes the BRI is a strategy by China to encircle India and show its dominance in Asia. India has a zero-sum view on security embedded in its South Asian strategy, believing that its strategic primacy in the region should not be undermined by other powers.

After the Doklam standoff, India and China have drawn the attention of the world. The Wuhan informal summit has instilled some positivity into China-India relations and has helped the two countries manage differences. However, people-to-people contacts still need to be increased.

It is dangerous for India to portray China as a hostile threat to regional order. South Asia needs a far more constructive regional approach grounded in a stable balance of power. China and India should foster regional cooperation in policy, infrastructure, trade and economy.

Hu Xiaowen, research fellow at Yunnan Academy of Social Science

Indian experts and scholars believe that the purpose of the Xi-Modi meeting in Wuhan is to turn a corner after ties got strained in the Doklam standoff and to stabilize China-India relations. Besides, there are voices which are skeptical about using the term "resetting relations," saying that there hasn't been any Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) after the Wuhan meeting and the two countries were simply going over what they earlier said.

Economic development, diplomatic leverage and the US are the three major motivations for improving bilateral relations between China and India. In 2014, Modi won general elections with a resounding victory. His campaign emphasized economic development. With China's support for the "Make in India" initiative, economic development has become the most important factor in mending fences. The Modi government also wants to score high in the diplomatic sphere during his term. Besides, China and India are both facing the US threat of protectionism, and share a consensus on global trade being open and free.

To build a new type of relationship, China and India should be sensitive to each other's interests, concerns and aspirations, such as the Tibet issue. The two countries' main target should be setting a tone for the development of bilateral relations over the next 15 years. India is keen to set up a new type of world order, and only by cooperating with China can India play a bigger role. China-Nepal-India Economic Corridor and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are suitable areas for the cooperation between China and India.

China-India relations are resilient, and the countries want to keep them under control. They should first stabilize ties and then seek possible cooperation in economy, culture and education.

Prashant Kumar Singh, associate fellow at Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses

Former Indian foreign secretary S.Jaishankar rightly argued that the concept of balance of power is a hindrance in promoting international cooperation at a meeting of think-tanks in 2016. However, it is regrettable that bilateral relations could never free themselves from the Cold War mindset or concepts like balance of power, realism and security dilemma. The message from Wuhan meeting was an acknowledgement that China and India are not just ordinary neighbors. As they share deep historical links and command around 25 percent of total global GDP, stagnation and deadlocks can't be the future of their relations. It is true that questions of territory, influence and sovereignty are too complex to be resolved overnight, and they need new governing frameworks.

India's recent foreign policy pronouncements have emphasized strategic autonomy, envisaging a global order with a pluralistic world. This isn't an exclusive Indian vision but is also shared by China. The two countries have pushed the cultural framework in terms of Asia's cultural connectivity for improving bilateral relations in recent decades. However, notwithstanding rhetorical bonhomie, the large number of MoUs signed for people-to-people cooperation have not been effectively implemented.

The two countries should underpin their relations with robust collaboration that is immune to any political upheavals, and the promise of cooperation should not be used as a tactical pressure point. China and India need to create new frameworks for enhancing strategic cooperation and resolve difficult issues after the Wuhan meeting. Sorting out the Line of Actual Control dispute could be a minimum possible achievement.

China and India - two great nations - are capable of setting an example with relations that are free of a Cold War mindset. The history of their mistrust is short and doesn't come from any historical baggage.

Stuti Banerjee, research fellow at Indian Council for World Affairs

India has identified its vision for the Indo-Pacific. It stands for a free, open and inclusive region, which embraces us all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. It includes all nations geographically as also others beyond who have a stake in it. India regards equal access as a right under international law to the use of common spaces in sea and in the air, standing for an open and stable international trade regime.

New Delhi also believes that although competition is normal, contest must not turn into conflict. India engages with multilateral organizations of the region continuing to engage bilaterally with countries such as China, Russia and nations of Africa to ensure that the region is stable and secure. The Indo-Pacific is also facing challenges, such as piracy at sea, terrorism, cyber security and environmental degradation, hence the need for cooperation in the region.

India is doing its part and would like to create capacity through human resource development and steps to address the challenges that arise in the region. New Delhi feels that there is a case for maritime cooperation and policy coordination to address the threats in the region. It is aware of the vastness of this region and the diversity it offers, also realizing the convergences that provide the path to collaboration and cooperation here.


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