India – China Bilateral Relationship Demands a Minimalist Approach

SynopsisIndia and China should adopt a minimalist approach in their future negotiations. This would give better and realistic results rather than an idealist and unfulfilled expectation.

  • A track 2 dialogue held recently between India and China Relationship In dialogue, a consensus was aimed at the adoption of a minimalist approach.
    • This approach focuses on low-hanging fruits that are easier to grab, rather than aiming for a full-scale solution.
  • This approach is emphasized because high expectations have failed to deliver credible results in the past. 
High Expectations and Unwanted Results:
  • In the 1950s, both countries idealized the restoration of pan-Asian civilizational partnership. However, this notion didn’t exist in reality and the two sides were confronting each other in the 1962 war.
  • Two informal summits took place in 2018 (Wuhan) and 2019 (Mamallapuram) aimed at everlasting peace between the countries. However, barely after two years, a grave border confrontation took place in eastern Ladakh. 

Therefore, the countries must focus on modest goals to improve the relations. The 3 areas that deserve priority in this regard are 1) border dispute, 2)trade, and 3) the role of other countries and multilateral platforms in bilateral relations. 

Current Situation of Border Dispute:
  • The border clash at Galwan Valley, Eastern Ladakh is going on for ten months.
  • It is the worst violence since 1967 and the de-escalation effort has reached an apparent stalemate.
  • There is no clarity over the withdrawal of armies along the north and south bank of Pangong lake, Eastern Ladakh. Further, there was no release of the joint statement post 11th round of talks between Corps Commanders on April 9.
  • Thus, it appears that China is in no mood for a final settlement of the boundary question.
Equation on the trade front:
  • There were talks of decoupling Chinese trade post the Galwan valley stand-off. However, the latest trade data shows a different picture.
  • The figure stood at $87.6 billion where Chinese exports amounted to $66.7, making it India’s largest trading partner. Similarly, Chinese company Vivo sponsored India’s biggest cricket tournament.
  • The reliance is so high that complete decoupling is not possible in the near future.

Role of other countries and multilateral platforms in bilateral relations:

  • The track 2 dialogue made it clear that India and China’s Relationship through its relations with the U.S. The country criticized the creation of small circles like QUAD group to undermine its national interest.
  • India too has shown discontent over its exclusion from China-led small circles in South Asia and multilateral efforts on Afghanistan.
Way Forward:
  • The countries must curtail the mistrust between them. On boundary questions, they can at least bring clarity on most sensitive hotspots and do coordinate patrolling over them.
  • They should cooperate in areas that don’t have security implications. This includes infrastructure development, clean energy, etc.
  • A robust policy framework should be drawn for security-sensitive areas like 5G operations. This would protect India from every other malicious country, not solely from China.
  • The countries must leverage shared platforms to discuss their respective concerns pertaining to 3rd countries or any multilateral platform. These platforms are also useful for reviving and strengthening bilateral relations.
    • For instance, BRICS can be used for reviving bilateral cooperation in Afghanistan or developing vaccine initiatives as done by Quad.

Thus, both countries should focus on modest goals that may be more rewarding than misplaced expectations.

Source: The Hindu 

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