Communication key to China-India trust
Published: Sep 10, 2019 10:08 PM

Photo: IC

According to Indian media reports, an informal meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be held in the historic coastal town of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, a South India state, from October 11 to 13. 

It will be the second informal summit between the two leaders since they met in Wuhan, China, in April, 2018, to discuss strategic and long-term bilateral issues. The Wuhan meeting quickly normalized bilateral relations after the 73-day severe military confrontation between the Chinese and Indian armed forces in the summer of 2017 which almost triggered a military clash. 

The coming second informal meeting between the two leaders indicates that it has become a mechanism of high-level strategic communication between China and India, which will play an important role in enhancing strategic mutual trust between China and India and unleashing the potential of cooperation.

India and China have long had territorial disputes, which even led to armed conflicts between the two in 1962. Although the two countries have signed an agreement to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas, and both sides have pledged to settle territorial disputes by peaceful means, India still fears that China will resort to military approaches and has intense distrust on China in terms of security. Yet with development as the top priority, China seeks to maintain a good-neighborly relationship and peaceful peripheral environment, and has no intention of engaging in war with any neighboring countries, including India.

Separatist forces advocating Tibetan independence have long been sheltered in India, which, in the eyes of China, reflects India's intention to split Chinese territory. 

New Delhi believes that China's friendly attitude and strong support for Pakistan are directed against India. In fact, China is neutral on the India-Pakistan dispute. 

In recent years, China's relations with South Asian countries have developed significantly, and remarkable achievements have been made in economic cooperation. India considers China's expanding presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean a provocation, and suspects the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

These old contradictions and new problems interwoven result in a serious lack of strategic mutual trust between China and India. Therefore, India has long taken a precautionary attitude toward China, and issued many restrictive measures on economic cooperation and personnel exchanges with China, which has hindered China-India cooperation and harmed New Delhi's interests.

Since the 1990s, India's economy has seen rapid growth. Modi has deepened economic reforms after he came to power, especially the vigorous implementation of "Make in India" initiative. But to develop manufacturing industry, India must on the one hand attract a large amount of foreign investment and promote industrial transfer, and improve infrastructure on the other. As the world's largest manufacturing powerhouse, China is India's best partner to improve infrastructure with high efficiency and low costs. If India holds an open and friendly attitude toward Chinese investment, China's manufacturing capability can inject an impetus into the "Make in India" initiative. 

India is highly vigilant against the entry of Chinese personnel into India. With the increase of trade and economic exchanges, India has a huge demand for Chinese talent, but the Indian government has so far tended to look at the Confucius Institutes in a negative way. On the other hand, India has welcomed teachers from Taiwan to teach Chinese language in India. 

There were more than 1.4 million Indians entering China in 2018 and 250,000 in the other direction, almost negligible among the 140 million Chinese traveling abroad every year. The number of Chinese tourists to Nepal and Sri Lanka is together more than that to India. Those facts indicate that India not only has a large deficit in commodity trade with China, but also has a huge deficit in tourism.

Fortunately, these negative situations are gradually being reversed. Communication and mutual trust between leaders and governments of the two countries directly lead and promote mutual trust between the two societies.

Mutual trust between China and India can not only promote cooperation between the two countries, but also avoid the dilemma of neighboring countries sandwiched between China and India, which is conducive to the harmonious development of regional international relations, and will create better conditions for China-India cooperation in global affairs.

The author is director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University and research fellow at the Charhar Institute. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn