IT IS MORE PREOCCUPIED WITH THE GROWING CHALLENGE THE US
CHINA’S OVERRIDING STRATEGIC CONCERN IS NOT INDIA, AND ITS PARTNERS POSE ON ITS PERIPHERY
deepen economic ties both with Pakistan and India. CPEC is not just a project for China and Pakistan, but in the future may be extended to India, Iran and Afghanistan and benefit the region if related countries could settle their disputes and differences. China doesn’t have a vicious intention towards India through CPEC.”
For China, the pull of India’s market is another increasingly prominent factor in its calculus, emerging as potential leverage for Delhi and a further complication in its Pakistan dilemma. Beijing is more than aware that India’s market is the biggest in its western periphery. China’s e-commerce and real estate billionaires like Jack Ma and Wang Jianlin are making thrice-a-year trips to India, not Pakistan. As much as both countries insist that economic ties may run on a parallel track, increasingly adverse public opinion in India, evinced in recent viral social media calls to boycott Chinese goods that even helpfully showed consumers how to identify ‘Made in China’ barcodes, underline this may not always be the case.
This presents a challenge for both countries, says former ambassador Kantha, to manage an increasingly complex relationship. The problem is, this task has become all the more difficult with the reintroduction of Pakistan as a prominent factor. “China also has a desire to strike a balance,” says Kantha. “India is not expecting China to downgrade relations with Pakistan as a prerequisite for enhancing relations. But what we really expect is that when we look at aspects of China’s engagement with Pakistan that have a negative implication for us, they must understand our concerns.” “The narrative about India-China relations,” he adds, “is getting a little vitiated. This isn’t desirable for either country.” Changing this narrative, for Modi and Xi, will perhaps be the most pressing task when they meet in Goa.
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