Ele­phant and dragon hug mu­tual in­ter­ests

China Daily (Canada) - - ONE WEEK FREE SMART EDITION -

The spe­cific ref­er­ence to the South China Sea dis­putes, along with the for­ward move­ment on theUS-In­dia nu­clear deal, in the joint state­ment is­sued byUS Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and In­dian PrimeMin­is­ter Naren­draModi on Jan 25, is seen by an­a­lysts and some In­dian me­dia out­lets as a sig­nif­i­cant out­come of Obama’s re­cent visit to In­dia. TheUS-In­dia joint state­ment is­sued in Septem­ber 2014 dur­ingModi’s visit to theUS too had men­tioned the mar­itime dis­putes in the South China Sea.

WhileWash­ing­ton and­New Delhi have seen a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in their re­la­tions over the past decade, the pres­ence of Obama as the chief guest at In­dia’s Repub­lic Day cel­e­bra­tions on Jan 26 was a sym­bolic move sig­ni­fy­ing that In­dia would not let the bag­gage of the past in­flu­ence its ties with theUS.

But de­spite the progress in Indo-US ties, In­dian prime min­is­ters over the past two decades have sought to build a strong re­la­tion­ship with China.

The cur­rent geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is in stark con­trast to the 1970s when In­dia’s re­la­tions with theUS and China both were strained. While a “non-aligned” In­dia’s close ties with the Soviet Union dur­ing the ColdWar pre­vented it from hav­ing the best of re­la­tions with theUS, and the 1962 bor­der war strained its ties with China.

In the in­ter­ven­ing years, how­ever, In­dian and Chi­nese lead­er­ships’ ef­forts to im­prove ties have yielded div­i­dends: the two coun­tries have been work­ing closely in the BRICS bloc and mak­ing ef­forts to make the Bangladesh-China-In­dia-Myan­mar Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor a re­al­ity. The two coun­tries have also found com­mon ground on cli­mate change at global fo­rums.

The links be­tween the two coun­tries to­day go deeper than eco­nomics and trade. Dur­ing Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s visit to In­dia an agree­ment was signed to es­tab­lish sis­terly re­la­tions be­tween Guangzhou prov­ince and In­dia’s Gu­jarat state. New Delhi and Bei­jing, Kolkata and Kun­ming, Ben­galuru and Chengdu, and Ahmed­abad and Guang­dong are al­ready sis­ter cities. Thus it would not be wrong to say that diplo­macy be­tween China and In­dia has be­come multi-lay­ered and multi-di­men­sional.

Of course, there re­main ir­ri­tants in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, with the most sig­nif­i­cant be­ing the bor­der dis­pute, China’s in­creas­ing in­flu­ence in South Asia and the skewed bal­ance of trade.

But that the cur­rent In­dian gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous about its re­la­tion­ship with China has been demon­strated by Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj’s just con­cluded visit to China and the an­nounce­ment ofModi’s visit in May 2015.

Also, dur­ing his visit to In­dia in Septem­ber 2014, Xi andModi dis­cussed all the im­por­tant is­sues, in­clud­ing ter­ri­to­rial and wa­ter dis­putes, and theChi­nese pres­i­dent promised an in­vest­ment of $20 bil­lion in In­dia over a pe­riod of five years.

What the naysay­ers in both coun­tries need to re­al­ize is that in a chang­ing world and with

its grow­ing eco­nomic clout, In­dia can­not re­main a non­aligned or be ex­ces­sively de­pen­dent on any one coun­try. It is for this rea­son that In­dia has been fol­low­ing a pol­icy of “multi-align­ment” over the past two decades. This does not im­ply any com­pro­mise with its core strate­gic and eco­nomic in­ter­ests, rather it means keep­ing na­tional in­ter­ests at the fore­front. Modi seems to be fol­low­ing this pol­icy by em­pha­siz­ing thatNewDelhi is open to en­gage­ment with all coun­tries.

So while In­di­aandtheUS­may con­ver­geoneco­nom­i­can­d­strate­gic is­sues, Chi­naandIn­dia can beon­the samepa­geonother is­sues vis-à-vis theWest, whicha­mon­gother things in­clude cli­mate change. The in­creas­ing eco­nom­i­can­d­strate­gic clout of the two coun­tries al­someansthat af­ter the with­drawal ofUS­com­bat forces from Afghanistan, they need to jointly fight ter­ror­is­mandfind ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion to help the battle-rav­aged coun­try’s eco­nomic re­con­struc­tion.

Re­la­tions be­tweenChi­naand In­di­a­havenu­mer­ous­lay­ers yet one thing is for cer­tain that they are likely to be dic­tated by real­is­mand ra­tio­nal­ity rather than ide­al­is­mand emo­tion. The au­thor is a se­nior re­search as­so­ciate with the Jin­dal School of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, Sonepat. In­dia.

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