21/10/2019 – The Hindu Editorials Notes- Mains Sure Shot


Question – Explain the present India-China relations and the way ahead’? (250 words)

Context – the visit of the Chinese President.

India-China relations Since 2003:

  • In 2003, the Indian PM and the Chinese President met and it had a very significant outcome. It set a political settlement to the boundary issue. China acknowledged Sikkim to be a part of the Indian Union.
  • In 2005, another meeting was held between the Indian PM and the Chinese President. In this meeting they were able to conclude the Political Parameters and Guiding principles for the settlement of the India-China Boundary Question. It was significant in two aspects. First, it accepted that prominent geographical features would be the basis for determining the border. For India this means the Himalayan watershed. Second, there was an acknowledgement that interests of the “settled population” must be taken into account while arriving at a border settlement.
  • They also arrived at a consensus on four key points which would in future guide India-China relations. First, India is not a threat to China and China is not a threat to India, second, there is enough room in Asia and the World for both a resurgent India and China. Three, India-China relations have now acquired strategic and global dimension and their cooperation is critical to tackling a host of global challenges such as Climate Change, and fourth, India and China should seek an early settlement of the border issue within this larger perspective so as to better together on strategic dimensions of their relations.
  • Further in April 2005, China shared a map which showed Sikkim as a part of India.
  • All these led to positive turn in relations.

A different turn:

  • But gradually with the deepening relations between India and the United States and the signs that these would be further cemented by the proposed India-U.S. civil nuclear deal took the India-China relationship in a different setting.
  • India was also emerging as a rapidly growing emerging economy registering a growth rate of 8-9% per annum and globalising its economy further through many trade agreements.
  • It was seen as the next China in terms of commercial and investment opportunities. It was anticipated that India would continue to narrow the gap in GDP terms with China given its faster rate of growth.
  • Also the term Chindia became famous and China recognised India’s convening power and leadership role among developing countries, whether on global trade, public health or climate change

The recent visit:

  • However the informal summit at Mallapuram, off Chennai, is a continuation of the positive picture.
  • Even though India’s $3 trillion economy looks modest against China’s $ 14 trillion and India’s economy has been slowing, China does have an interest in the Indian market where its companies have already emerged as major players in the mobile and smartphone market and in the fast expanding digital space – in particular digital payment and social media. India is the largest market for TikTok, the Chinese owned  video sharing platform. India is critical to the global success of 5G, where China’s Huawei is the leader.
  • So this is one leverage India has and its appeared to have persuaded the Chinese to address India’s concerns over access to the Chinese market and to reduce its trade deficit.
  • This movement played the role of what Wuhan had played during the Doklam stand-off. It helped to resolve differences over Jammu and Kashmir issue.
  • Neither of these visits actually helped in resolving any of these disputes but it conveyed the message that leaders on both sides were willing to maintain cordial relations and project the world that they are mature enough to manage their differences.

China’s present strategy towards India:

  • China’s present strategy towards India can be categorised as a strategy of “neutralisation” i.e. to prevent India from undertaking policies that harm China’s interests even though China itself takes policies that undermine India’s interests or are intrusive to India’s security concerns.
  • So these visits are calculated portrayal of cordiality by China which prevent India from undertaking strong counter arrangements against China from other major powers which could constrain China. Even though China shows no such constrains and continues its policies and acts that can upset India. Eg. with Pakistan and Nepal.
  • This shows the current power asymmetry between the two countries.
  • So the Mamallapuram summit, even though a useful and positive development should not be over-interpreted.

What can be done to bridge this asymmetry?

  • In the medium to long term India can tackle this asymmetry through sustained and accelerated economic growth which alone can generate resources comparable to China.
  • Also this is important if India wants to maintain its image of being seen in the region as a power that can countervail China. This was visible between 2003-2007 when India was growing at a faster rate. During this time China was more sensitive towards India’s concerns.

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