The unbalanced Indo-China equation

Prasanth Aby Thomas
Published: September 2014

Ever since the beginning of the millennium, a much talked topic at least in the global financial circles, is how India and China are going to be the dominant force in Asia in the coming years. The years since the beginning of the century have seen this prediction taking a hit, as multiple global recession and some security issues weaken growth in both the countries in question. India especially, was seen as the slow elephant in the race for economic prosperity.

Nevertheless, with the arrival of the new BJP government, there is renewed talk of India changing gears in the economic scene, with much hope pinned on Narendra Modi, who has proved himself to be a shrewd politician and task master. In this article, we shall have a look at the current scenario in which the two countries stand.

Xi Jinping’s India Visit
With much noise that included a news reader getting fired, the Chinese President Xi Jinping recently concluded his visit to india. While the matter got highlighted internationally as two emerging asian giants trying to squeeze through the global economic scenario, to many people this seemed more farcical in nature than anything else.

For instance, just as Xi was holding diplomatic dialogue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese and Indian army were at a standoff at the border. That the border issue has brought the two nations at loggerheads every once in a while is a well known issue, but what was significant here was that after Modi’s talks with Xi, the Chinese troops withdrew from the conflict region, at least temporarily. This shows what the Chinese government wanted to convey to India.

There is another issue that is being reiterated by the Indian media. China had initially pledged to provide India with about hundred billion dollars worth investment, but after the president’s visit, only deals amounting to about thirty billion were announced. This was slightly lower than what China’s archival Japan offered to invest in the country. We shall come to this in the second half.

Now India is burdened with the task of drawing a fine line between China and Japan. This is a diplomatic challenge, since we need to make sure that we reap maximum benefits from the recharged global interest in our economy, but also make sure that we do not end up forgetting our military alliances and security threats.

A fundamental difference between India and China that have remained a stumbling block in our relationship is that of the government format. The democratic government of India fears and doubts the Communist regime of China, and the opposite can be said if we look from the Chinese perspective. However, the Chinese go a step ahead, trying to demonstrate that their form of government is superior to India’s, citing the rapid development they have managed to achieve in the recent years.

After the conflict suffering regions of Africa and the middle east, Asia can be considered the region with most serious border disputes. If you take a quick look at the international scenario, border disputes remain a serious threat to development. Only in a peaceful atmosphere can the country and its people strive for progress. Hence it is inevitable that India and China reach an agreement to put their disputes to rest once and for all.

You might have noticed that I have not referred to India’s border disputes with Pakistan, despite the fact that this remains the foremost concern of our country. My omission of the matter is precisely because it is the most talked about issue of our country. I do not think we need further discussion on the matter, because it is clear that the Indo-Pak problem will largely remain political, with politicians using it as a tool to diver the public’s opinion whenever they want.

So where do we stand now in terms of foreign relations? From a purely security or border peace point of view, it is not possible to come out with a satisfying answer. Although Chinese president has reiterated his commitment to settling the issue, it cannot be seen as anything more than the same old wine in new bottles. The mutual suspicion, mistrust and fear remain strong, blocking any effort to come to a mutually agreeable solution.

Investments and other cooperation

The other point we referred to earlier was the investment and cooperation interests that China has offered to our nation. With regard to this, it is noted that Chinese and Indian scientists are planning to work together on a number of space projects, similar to the sort of cooperation between the United States and the USSR, after the end of the cold war period. We do not need to think much about the reasons for this interest from China, as Indian scientists have proven their skills and talent across the globe. China would only be happy to take help from our side, since it would help their ambitious and heavily funded outer space projects.

These are the best conclusions we can draw from the Indo-Chinese situation at the moment. The other offers that Beijing has offered India, especially in terms of infrastructure seem highly guarded at best. There would be much debate about these in the coming days but it would only be later, on further developments on border issues that we will be able to set the matter to a permanent rest. Till then, lets recall the old saying, ‘India China bhai bhai