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RSTV- The Big Picture : Should India Recalibrate its China Policy?

  • August 8, 2017
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The Big Picture- RSTV
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Should India Recalibrate its China Policy?

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TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Defence Minister of India’s recent retort on Chinese bullying on Doklam standoff and response from China reflects the new reality in India-China relations. The minister said that India was no longer the nation of 1962 to which China replied that it was also not the China of 1962.

Bilateral and global context has completely changed from 1962 for both countries. China may be a bigger economic and military power than India but it can hardly afford a military conflict today. During the past few years, Chinese president has initiated a grand propaganda for an image makeover. China doesn’t want to be perceived as bigger, richer and more powerful North Korea.

Building up of stress

In 1988, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visited China where it was decided that whatever difficult issues were there, it wouldn’t stop the development of relationship where cooperation is possible. That’s how China became India’s largest trading partner and there were common interest too like WTO and climate change.

The 1988 arrangement is no longer an ‘effective tool’ with the changed situation between India and China. The stress is visible on the issues such as Masood Azhar designation as terrorists, the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) entry, Doklam dispute. The balance of power in the Asia Pacific is changing and with China’s ever increasing economic supremacy ambitions, India has to recalibrate its policy with China.

Present situation

The rhetoric has been high where the tensions at border of Sikkim is concerned. The level of confrontation is at the media level from the Chinese side. On the other side, India has not that much articulated its response. The Indian response has been matured and measured. This shows that Chinese are raising the ante. However, the troops mobilization on both sides has been fairly high than what was seen in 2013 and 2015.

The area where the scuffle has happened has seen such kind of an incident for the first time. This place is tactically important as it virtually leads to the Indian Territory. From India’s point of view, yielding an upper hand to Chinese in that area could be catastrophic.

The time has come where diplomatic maneuvers and high level talks should be held otherwise such incidents can often spiral out of control. One wrong step anywhere can lead to aggravation of situation.

Earlier, all the incidents were directly related to India and China- depsang, chumban. This is the first time that there is an involvement of third party- Bhutan. The Chinese are questioning that how India is in a territory which Bhutan says is disputed and Chinese claims it as theirs. All of a sudden, Bhutan is never mentioned in the issue despite its complaint against China for building roads in disputed region and the entire issue has been made India-China issue.

India wants the status quo which existed before 16th june needs to be restored where Chinese are not constructing their roads and Indian troops are not there. However the Chinese has said that India should withdraw unilaterally as it is their territory to which India has taken no action.

It is all about economic supremacy

Further escalation of problems or tension between two countries is the last thing both nations need from an economic point of view. Why is China escalating it? It doesn’t want its presence in Bhutan but it is trying to establish the supremacy of their economic power.

China is deep into OBOR and India having said no to it has been a bruising development. So China is going upto India’s neighbours- Nepal, Bhutan and telling them to abandon India and come into their area of influence. So China is looking at who is going to hold the right of economic hegemony in Asia and correspondingly across the world.

Simultaneously, India’s reaction to what is happening with China’s developments should be with what subsequent steps they are going to take. None of these developments are provocation and then quick response but a thought out one. So India has to see to what level China is willing to escalate such issue.

Though China is a greater economy, India’s essentials are not dependent on it as the imports are not of critical nature. This means that if India stops its imports from China, only the price of imports may increase but not affect the Indian economy much. However, China’s economy is fully globalized. So if it loses out a big market, it can hurts its economy the most.

Recalibrating China policy

China wants to be a big player in South Asia along with other regions of Asia. On sovereignty, energy and economic issues, they would like to have more say in it. With regards to this, India would have to recalibrate its foreign policy by actively engaging with all the regions of Asia-Central Asia, South East Asia, West Asia and East Asia.

China never wanted India to be a part of multi-lateral alliance which is perceived to be anti-China. Today, India has good relations with USA, Japan and Australia to which China sees them as a future threat in terms of establishing its global hegemony. To counter India’s relations with these countries, China has increased its presence in IOR by deploying a submarine in SL and also battleships in IOR in order to increase their influence against India. However, apart from Pakistan, no other country in the region would like to take side if tensions increase. The diktats of geography is that for Nepal, China can never be substitute of India and nor for Bhutan or Bangladesh or SL.

Conclusion

Rapport between two Asian leaders is very important. During times of tensions, it is important to have strategic consensus evolved between two leaders for stability of bilateral relations. China sees India as the biggest rising developing power that in the longer run could pose challenges. In the near term, China worries most about India’s cooperation with other countries, forging coalitions with other countries like Japan, Australia, and the US. There is a whole new set of issues on the trade side, world economy side in terms of RCEP and other trade agreements. Dealing with energy security and climate change together requires more creative solutions to work in future because these are the challenges for the government as these have major repercussions.

Connecting the dots:

  • India and China have observed a volatility in relations in past few years. Examine the areas of concern for India with a brief background the countries share.

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