Hardly the India- China century Deng envisioned

Synopsis: As China becomes increasingly assertive, the options with New Delhi are limited.

Introduction

This article is highlighting the changing trajectory of India-China relations. As China grows economically and militarily, it seems to be adopting a hardened posture towards its neighbours, including India.

How both the countries talked earlier tensions in India – China relations?

There have been political tensions between India and China ever since both countries gained independence. Border disputes have been the major cause. Then there is the issue of Chinese support to its “all-weather ally” Pakistan. Chinese have been sensitive about India’s stand on Dalai Lama and granting him asylum.

However, neither country had allowed these tensions to derail the bilateral relations. China had declared that the border dispute could be left to “future generations” to resolve, and India endorsed the “One China” policy, refusing to support Tibetan secessionism.

Read more: Taiwan-China conflict and India’s stand on it

Thus we can see that both countries have adopted a stance to keep the relations deteriorating beyond limits.

What are the recent developments in India China relations?

India’s stand on the border has been to manage the border and not provoke China. This has allowed the bilateral trade between the two nations to flourish to $100 BN. Further, India has made it clear that it will not join USA led policy of containing China.

In fact, in 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations both countries announced they would conduct 70 joint activities, improving their trade and supporting scholarly research into their ancient civilizational links.

India also lifted restrictions on bilateral Chinese investment in strategic sectors of the Indian economy (ports, airports, power generation and telecoms technology. By 2020, Chinese investment stood at about $26 billion with infrastructure projects accounting for about half the total.

How do India and China engage in Multilateral partnerships? 

India engages with China on multiple international forums like BRICS, RIC etc. India is also a partner in the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the  New Development Bank (NDB)

However, it has become clear that the strategy of sidestepping the controversial issues is not working in the Indian favour.

How Chinese policy is detrimental to India?

China has adopted a policy of mounting minor military incursions into India’s northern border. Their strategy is to control vital points along the LAC so that, when in future there is a discussion on the border, the Chinese will have a default claim on it.

Read more: China’s plans for new dams on Brahmaputra River

What has been India’s response and strategy?

India mounted a strong military response in Ladakh (Galwan clash) and halted the Chinese advancement. India also was able to reclaim finger areas. India also presented an economic response. While acts like banning Chinese apps were largely symbolic, India’s moves to keep the Chinese companies out of 5G could hurt Chinese interests. India has also placed limits on Chinese investment into critical areas like Railways, Airports etc.

Read more: Disengagement agreement at Pangong Tso Lake

How Indian response to the Chinese has been measured?

China is India’s major trade partner, with a bilateral trade of $100 Bn. The nature of imports is such that India is dependent on cheaper Chinese inputs for its exports products. Moreover, Indian trade constitutes only 3% of Chinese trade volume. Even critical inputs for medicines and vaccines like API come from China.

This leaves India with an option of either playing a second fiddle to China or forging a multilateral alliance with like-minded countries.

Source: This post is based on: “Hardly the India-China century Deng envisioned” published in The Hindu on 16th September 2021.

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