India and China must mend ties for the greater good

Amna Mirza
Amna MirzaJul 12, 2017 | 09:56

India and China must mend ties for the greater good

Relations with neighbours are always essential to comprehend a nation’s standing in international relations. There are times when bordering states have differences but they iron them out using common ties and move towards a thaw.

Schools of thought give us profound wisdom to comprehend events as and when issues arise. These schools are always contesting in perspective and attempting to win over the other. Realism opined that conflict should be the norm in international relations, whereas regime theorists say there is cooperation despite anarchy. When it comes to debate on India-China disputes, it seems realism has primacy over all.


India and China’s relations are becoming a topic of debate with increasing risk of aggression on the border. In several instances that define the terms between the two nations, one common highlight is primacy to secure one’s national interest, irrespective of common history, civilization and trade ties that connect the two nations.

As the US is vacating world leadership willingly, it is China that is moving unopposed to take its place. World media has also acknowledged that the Donald Trump-Narendra Modi bonhomie at the White House was also partly aimed at China.

To say this camaraderie rattled China would be wrong, looking at how the US has a declining graph in international affairs. Looking at the diversity of structure and the informal nature of the organisation of G20, India must factor in the autocratic style of the US - acts to reject that positive correction the G20 wants to bring in world economic governance.

G20 works on consensus, not majority rule, which India must in the time to come use for its benefit to rectify financial risks and complex technologies, which stem from Chinese operations.

Further, lack of diplomatic oversight can be seen from the fact that after ignoring the One Belt One Road initiative, India put in a meek voice during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)and G20 meeting at a time when its borders are in jostle.


At the two-day G20 summit, India did voice its concern over terrorism and efforts to boost global trade. The ministry of external affairs highlighted that heads from both sides - Modi and Xi Jinping of China - discussed a range of concerns. Unfortunately, China played down the meeting by harping on withdrawal of Indian troops before any dialogue.

What India missed out at the G20 was that instead of highlighting the attempt of bonhomie, it should have told the Chinese authorities that conducive atmosphere for a productive bilateral meeting has been usurped because of Chinese incursions.

On the other hand, focusing less on the paparazzi, China at G20 gained more by focusing on its role in the international arena - pledging assurance to the Paris climate deal and recasting its image by supporting global trade.

India and China are strong economies yet politically weak allies. Economics is always a shining arena for any bilateral interface within a multilateral set-up. Sadly, both at G20 and SCO, India could not wipe out the distrust and unease that was needed for a thaw in ties.

Both nations are attempting to expand, yet their terms remain edgy. Both nations did talk of free trade, not understanding that regional distrust contains the opportunities and instincts driving free trade and investment.


India should have attempted to signal the larger message that one must decide in what ways one should take terms forward - as collaborators and competitors with dynamics of managing a high growth economy and populous polity in world diplomacy and international markets. 

Even on issues of convergence, disagreements arose within these two Asian giants which are doomed to conflict. What came forward was a contrasting vision that they may speak for security cooperation but less has been done to manage tensions. 

Also, not to forget that India-China terms are a barometer for Asia’s stability because this is also the input for US and Japan’s policy formulation. Glimpses of G20 and BRICS showed the same - accord with the others and discord with each other over unresolved issues, irrespective of adding layers of engagement with each other.

China constrains India’s diplomatic manoeuvres. India must keep track that having good relations with its neighbours is done in a manner to make sure they don't go into the clutches of China, which will work against all the effort it puts. As the terms are moving in tough waters, it seems China is testing the relations.

If and when India falters, China may take Bhutan into its fold. With incursions across the border rising, and with a record of disrespect towards human rights and international laws, as seen in the instances of Tibet and Sikkim, China has cleverly put the onus on India and cited diktats of international law to secure peace on the borders.

India opposed China’s OBOR initiative because of its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) moving through Gilgit and Baltistan, which India claims as part of its terrain. China is attempting to generate investment in infrastructure across Asia, Africa and Europe. Moving away from this maximalist opposition, India, along with Pakistan, became a member of the China-dominated SCO. India must not let this deep divide with neighbours hinder any platform for mutual communication and negotiation. It also helps to give a new push to fight terrorism, understand the power tactics of China and Russia and take benefits of the prospects the SCO might present in intensifying rendezvous with Central Asian states also.

One must realise that there is enough space in the world for the development of both India and China. The two nations are always in transition. India should tap forums like SCO that co-existence in multipolar world is possible for both, but it will be selective and partial in range.

Instead of false imagery of one-upmanship, India should let pragmatism prevail over any façade of skirmishes and supports. National interests far outweigh differences and India must keep exploring such platform for interaction.

India-China bilateral ties are always important for global geopolitics. They should never be permitted to be held captive at the benchmark of discrepancies, no matter how intractable and challenging these may appear.

Last updated: July 12, 2017 | 09:56
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